Social studies elective shift

The 2016-2017 school year began the phasing in of a new social studies curriculum, in which ninth graders take Global History One rather than World Civilizations.

The 2018-2019 school year will be the first time Global History Two is required for juniors who would like to take social studies classes.

And for the first time in decades, only seniors will be able to choose a social studies elective, and from a smaller list than in years past.

“The decision was made in two parts,” said social studies department head Simon Leutz.

“We are a smaller school. And with declining enrollment and shrinking budgets, our teaching staff has also become significantly smaller over the last five years.”

Having more streamlined curricular offerings means teachers have fewer “preps,” or different classes to plan lessons for each day, which is a relief when they are teaching up to five class periods per day.

“We offered a lot of Modern history classes in the past,” added Mr. Leutz, but “only about 10-15 percent of students chose to take them.”

This means that “most students had no experience in history after the year 1500,” said Mr. Leutz.

The new curriculum, he said, aims to give students a more complete understanding of world history.

“Not only do we believe that this is critical material for all high school students to learn, but it also brings us more fully aligned with the Massachusetts History and Social Studies Frameworks,” said Mr. Leutz in a letter to parents who had protested the shift.

The new social studies curriculum does come with some downsides. The department will have to cut several previously offered elective choices.

“For a long time teachers and students have really valued the elective choices,” said Mr. Leutz.

“In some ways it’s a loss. With [a much smaller number of students] in our electives program, we’ve had to nearly cut in half the number of electives we’re offering to seniors,” said he said.

In terms of electives being lost, “we don’t have a firm list yet,” he said.

However, Psychology is one class that has been confirmed as a long-term cut.

While Psychology was the most popular senior elective, it was deemed “not a core social science discipline,” said Mr. Leutz. Also, Ms. Camera and Mr. Gould will be teaching the new Global History 2 class.

Therefore, they would not be able to fit Psychology into their schedules as they had done in the past.

For the future of social studies at ARHS, students can expect freshman year to cover 500-1800, US History to be a required course for sophomores, junior year to cover 1800 to present, and senior year to offer electives.

Many of the ancient civilizations covered in world civilizations, like the Greeks, will be studied in sixth grade.

In the end, the new social studies curriculum “allows us to integrate more diverse voices into our curriculum,” said Mr. Leutz.