We, in Western society, are indebted to Renaissance teachers for our modern concept of what constitutes an education.  They reinstated the ancient notion that history was a crucial aspect of a liberal education – one of the humanities.  Similarly, Catholics at Vatican II endorsed the importance of history when they affirmed the belief that history is the standard medium through which “God… uninterruptedly converses” with humanity.  Furthermore, in our efforts as Church to fulfill the mandate to “advance the peace and salvation of all the world” (Third Eucharistic Prayer of the Roman Rite Sacramentary), it follows that we must know and understand the culture and history of the people of the world.  To this end, the social studies curriculum occupies an essential position in the academic program at Pope John Paul II High School.

Through the study of social sciences students gain an appreciation for their personal experience against the backdrop of both past and present social and political institutions, cultures and events.  Establishing reference points with other historical periods and cultures or within economic systems allows students to understand and appreciate their own experience in ways that promote responsibility and encourage commitment to the service of others both in their local communities and in the larger world.

“Like our very persons, what we know and how we know is profoundly influenced by our context – by where we are and whom we are with.  For wisdom’s-sake, social analysis means becoming aware of how our culture and history, race and ethnic background, sex and social gender roles, religious tradition, economic conditions, and political structures all have profound influence on our knowledge.  Instead of simply relativizing everything we know, however, social analysis should enable us to embrace and cherish the gift and truth of our own perspectives.  Then, beyond affirmation, social analysis should encourage us to question our cultural context and worldview… to be open to perspectives other than our own.”

Thomas Groome, Educating for Life


The Social Studies sequence at Pope John Paul II commences in the freshman year with a broad survey of ancient global legacies and proceeds in the sophomore year with a study of the modern (post Renaissance) traditions that characterize world cultures today.  The emphasis for junior year is United States History, a study more central to our own experience.  Reserved for junior or senior year is the study of Economics and American Government and Politics, which promote a deeper understanding of the role of the individual in the economic and political structures of American society.  Students who follow this sequence will receive a broad and comprehensive understanding of the various components of the social studies curriculum while encountering several opportunities to pursue advanced placement study.

The Social Studies curriculum requires the completion of three credits for graduation.  The first credit required is in Ancient World History; the second in Modern World History; and one credit must be earned in United States History. Considering state standards and most university requirements, JPII highly recommends that students pursue some level of government and/or economics as a fourth Social Studies credit.





What developments, achievements and traditions have characterized the nature of world cultures from their origins? This course, designed for freshmen, introduces students not only to the history of man, beginning with earliest evidence from prehistory and extending to the Early Modern Period (16th C.), but also to the cultural developments, which have accompanied these events. Cultures included in the study are the following: Ancient Middle East (Sumer, Babylonia, Israel, Persia), the dynasties of China and Japan, India (Indus Valley and Aryan/Hindu origins), Greece (Minoan, Mycenaean, Golden Age) and Rome (Republic to Empire), Byzantine and Islamic empires, Africa (Nubia, Meroe, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Mali), the Americas (Indians of North America, Aztecs, Mayas, lncas) and Medieval Europe. Designed to promote appreciation for the varied legacies of our modern world, this important study examines the earliest roots of our multi-cultural society. The investigation of each culture will focus on the development of arts, belief systems and religion as well as the social, political and economic order. An inter-disciplinary approach to this study will integrate the freshman Literature and composition course content with the historical era or culture presented in the history class. Other disciplines (the arts, math, science, and foreign language) will be involved with the curriculum where appropriate. Historical habits of mind or skills (constructing and evaluating arguments, using primary source documents and data, assessing change and continuity over time, and handling diversity of interpretations), introduced in this course, will be reinforced in later history courses.


MODERN WORLD HISTORY (Open to Sophomores)

To what extent has our twenty-first century worldview been shaped by forces which developed in the post-Medieval era?  How have the events and cultural developments of modern nation states over the past five hundred years set the stage for events of the twenty-first century?  Designed as the core curriculum course for sophomores, this course in Post-Medieval World History will analyze the distinctive features of modern multi-cultural society in light of the problems and conflicts, which challenge it.  Such political, economic, social and environmental problems as the Arab-Israeli Conflict, destruction of the rain forests, political instability of the Balkans, legacy of colonial empires, plight of human rights in Tibet, cultural/religious hostilities in India and ethnic and economic discrimination resulting from the breakup of the USSR will provide a jumping off point from which the modern (i.e. 1500 C.E. to present) historical and ideological roots of these problems can be explored.  Where appropriate, a multi-disciplinary approach shall be employed to broaden the appreciation for and understanding of the developments of the age or culture.  As in all history classes, development of critical, analytical thought through writing is central.


AP COMPARATIVE POLITICS (Open to Seniors with approval)

Why are some countries stable democracies and not others? This course introduces students to fundamental concepts used by political scientists to study the processes and outcomes of politics in a variety of country settings. The course aims to illustrate the rich diversity of political life, to show available institutional alternatives, to explain differences in processes and policy outcomes, and to communicate to students the importance of global political and economic changes. In addition to covering the major concepts that are used to organize and interpret what we know about political phenomena and relationships, the course will apply these concepts to six specific countries and their governments: China, Great Britain, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia and Iran. *Note: This class is not offered every year.


AP EUROPEAN HISTORY (Open primarily to sophomores with approval)

Recommended for the highly motivated sophomore (or junior or senior), this elective course focuses on developing the student as a historian.  The scope of AP Modern European History covers the time period between the Renaissance (@1450 A.D.) and continues to the present (@1995).  Seen in broad perspective and utilizing such strategies as primary source research, class simulation, essay response and individual presentation the course identifies six strands of historical analysis: social-economic, intellectual-cultural, and political-diplomatic.  Because the course reflects the college curriculum in terms of subject matter and approach, students must be able to master the extensive content in both objective and essay form.  Students learn to analyze the point of view of primary source documents while honing skills of the historian. Students who complete the course must take the National AP exam in May and will receive Advanced Placement credit.


United States History (Open to Juniors)

This junior year course is a requirement for graduation.  The scope of this course in American history begins with the first European explorations in the New World and proceeds chronologically and thematically to the 21st century.  A focus on the particular traditions of both native and immigrant populations will heighten appreciation for the cultural diversity that characterizes American culture today.  Students will approach the curriculum through a variety of strategies including presentation, project, cooperative learning, use of audio-visual media and simulation.  The content will be viewed through a focus on themes of cultural development: social, political, economic, cultural, intellectual, and diplomatic.


AP UNITED STATES HISTORY (Open to Juniors with approval)

How did our nation emerge?  Which contacts and traditions have shaped its history and culture?  While AP US History satisfies the junior year social studies requirement for graduation, it probes more deeply into the events and patterns that have shaped our nation.  The scope covers the first European explorations to the present day. Focus centers around political institutions and behavior, public policy, social and economic change, diplomacy and international relations and cultural and intellectual developments.  Students are expected to manage college level pacing and reading outside the text, to develop the skill of analyzing primary source documents from a historical perspective and to produce a research project.  Students who complete the course must take the National AP exam in May and will receive Advanced Placement credit.



ECONOMICS Every student must understand the basic principles of the economic systems under which both the United States and other world nations operate. A requirement for graduation and sequenced in the junior or senior year, economics explores the ways that individual households, business firms, and government employ their talents and material resources to satisfy their wants and needs. While issues related to consumer economics are presented, the course focuses on principles of the market system (presented in comparison to command and traditional systems). Principles of the free enterprise system (supply and demand), serve as the base for exposure to topics in microeconomics such as entrepreneurship, the mechanics of business organization, production and productivity, the labor force and market structures. Also explored are macroeconomic issues including the role of government, money and financial institutions, stabilization tools, monetary and fiscal policy, and international trade. Students will not only understand basic concepts relating to starting and running a business but will also appreciate the ways in which political decisions are tied to economic philosophy. UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: Participation in the governance of the community, state and nation is a right that many take for granted or ignore. In the interest of encouraging meaningful involvement in the governing practices and traditions students will study United States Government and Politics. Primarily a senior year course, U.S. Government and Politics is a requirement for graduation. As in other social studies classes, a variety of strategies will be used to teach content and build critical thinking skills. Class discussion and debate over contemporary, controversial issues will characterize the approach to many topics. Major topics include the constitution and United States governmental structure, political parties, interest groups and the influence of the media, the federal court system, public policy and civil liberties and rights.



Students interested in pursuing majors in government or Pre-law tracks in college will benefit from a deeper examination of the system of governance in the United States. A junior or senior course, AP United States Government and Politics fulfills the government requirement for graduation. The major content areas covered by the course include: constitutional underpinnings of United States government; political beliefs and behaviors; political parties, interest groups and mass media; institutions of national government: The congress, the presidency, the bureaucracy, and the federal courts; public policy; and civil rights and civil liberties. Students who complete the course must take the National AP exam in May and will receive Advanced Placement credit.


AP MACROECONOMICS (Open to Juniors and Seniors with approval)

Designed for the junior or senior student who plans to study economics, business or pre-law in college, Macroeconomics focuses first on the most important tool in economics, supply and demand analysis. The bulk of the course deals with the aggregate demand / aggregate supply model, and explains how fiscal policy influences the changes in national output, employment and price level in the economy. Students also explore the money supply and learn how monetary policy affects the economy. International issues occupy the last part of the course with such topics as comparative and absolute advantage, balance of trade and the effects of currency exchange.


AP MICROECONOMICS (Open to Juniors and Seniors with approval)

The study of microeconomics requires students to understand that, in any economy, the existence of limited resources along with unlimited wants results in the need to make choices. This section of the AP Economics course includes the nature and functions of product markets, concepts of supply and demand, market factors such as labor, capital, and land, and the analysis of derived demand. Students will also consider arguments for and against government intervention in an otherwise competitive market. Students who complete the course must take two National AP exams in May and are eligible to receive Advanced Placement credit in college equivalent to two semester courses.


PSYCHOLOGY (Open to Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors)

How did the field of psychology develop and who were some of the major thinkers in this field? How did their work in the field shape past and present theories concerning the development of the human mind and its perceptions of reality? How does this reality change over the course of the lifespan from birth to death? What factors affect and influence the mind and how it functions and perceives reality through such factors as memory, intelligence, cognition and learning. How are personality, sexuality, attitudes and social behavior constructed by the mind in healthy and unhealthy ways? These are some of the major concepts that this course will consider as it helps students to grasp major concepts, develop a broad understanding of psychology’s diversity and place within the social sciences and see for themselves how psychology relates to the challenges of everyday life.


AP PSYCHOLOGY (Open to Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors with approval)

How did the field of psychology develop and who were some of the major thinkers in this field? How did their work in the field shape past and present theories concerning the development of the human mind and its perceptions of reality? Utilizing methods, approaches and history of psychology as a springboard, the course will consider the following topics in preparation for the Advanced Placement exam: biological bases of behavior; sensation and perception; states of consciousness; learning cognition; motivation and emotion; developmental psychology; personality; testing and individual differences; abnormal psychology; treatment of psychological disorders; and social psychology. Students are expected to manage college level pacing and reading outside the text, to develop the skill of analyzing primary source documents from a psychosocial perspective and to produce a research project. Students who complete this course must take the national AP exam in May and will receive Advanced Placement credit.



Please note: Elective offerings vary from year to year.  Electives shown may not be available each year.

THE CHANGING ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE MODERN ERA (Open to Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors)

This course will focus on women and gender issues through a critical examination of feminine history, issues, and practices. Topics covered will include but not be limited to the following: women’s entrance into profession, women’s health, connections between fashion and stereotypes, women’s role in the military and politics, the Barbie doll culture, and the image of women in magazines. This course will be taught through the use of media, a textbook, and novels dealing with a women’s role within society.


COLD/20TH CENTURY WAR (Open to Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors)

This first part of course deals with the changing nature of power in world politics since the end of World War II. Significant attention will be given to international security, nuclear proliferation, human rights, terrorism, and the patterns of world trade that create developed versus developing nations. Further study will be devoted to the emergency of national identities in former Colonial states and the ideological trends promoted by the “superpowers” in the post World War II era. The second part of this course will focus on the authoritarian systems of government and ideology that managed the subordination of entire societies in Europe and Asia. An emphasis will also be placed on the three essential factors of fascism: irrationalism, totalitarianism, and nationalistic militarism. Students will study how new military technology restored mobility to armies and how guerrilla warfare became the standard tactics for resistance movements. The course will end with in-depth investigations of the Nazi Holocaust and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan’s mainland.


CURRENT EVENTS (Open to Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors)

Students will have the opportunity using current media (Newspaper, Magazine, Web, Broadcast) to have an open discussion of current event effecting society today. The course will utilize current news and challenge students to tie what is happening to historical precedent. A notebook/journal showing students research and process throughout the year will be a major part of the grade. A primary component of the class will be each student coming in to class prepared to discuss some aspect of current events. Students will subscribe to a newspaper and/or other daily journal and will be expected to use other sources including those written from different political biases.


EXCEPTIONAL LEARNER (Open to Juniors and Seniors with approval)

This course is designed for students who are interested in assisting individuals with disabilities to maximize their potential in the academic classroom and the school-wide community. Students will be paired with students enrolled the Hand in Hand Program and will tutor their peers in subjects such as reading and math. In addition, students will complete an independent study, which will include reading assignments, journal reflections, and other written assignments. Students will learn about people with disabilities, instructional techniques, and careers in the special education field through daily interactions with their peers and through the independent study. Students will serve as role models, tutors, and, most importantly, peers. Interested students must complete an application and interview with the Hand in Hand Program Coordinator.


INTELLECTUAL THOUGHT (Open to Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors)

This course is designed to integrate the discipline of philosophy and political ideology by creating a synthesis of thought in students that is based on critical inquiry. Each subject area will be taught in separate semesters but linked by a unity and discipline centered on core principles that enhance deductive and inductive reasoning. History of Philosophy (semester one) While Ancient Greeks may interpret philosophy as the “love of wisdom,” this class will endeavor to create an intellectual stirring on a wide-scale that goes beyond this definition. However, while the main branches of philosophy (Metaphysics, epistemology, etc.) and all major historical trends (Hellenism, Modernism, Post Modernism, etc.) will be taught using primary text, the greater objective will be to instill curiosity and new knowledge. The power of argument will be a crucial tool in discussing themes like traditional metaphysics all the way beyond the limits of reason itself. Political Thought (semester two) In this half of the course, students will Socratically explore and evaluate the various political ideologies dominating modern, Western society. As the Enlightenment perpetuated the belief that the human condition could be pragmatically improved through ideological transformations, students will determine whether particular political theories are idealistic and impractical or necessary rhetoric that champions a worthwhile change to the existing order. The study of primary texts, such as those from Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, Karl Marx, and Horace Greeley, will provide students with a foundation to analyze the formation and utility of various political ideologies. Both these disciplines will be a fusion of abstract and logical reasoning in the critique of great minds of history.


INTERNATIONAL FINANCE and POLITICS (Open to Juniors and Seniors)

Term 1 – International Finance: The Impact of Free Markets and Capital Movement on Global Markets This course explores ways in which capitalism both supports and subverts democracy within the global context. Class discussions will center on whether free market principles enhance the economic welfare of developing nations, or create a culture of dependency. The central objective will be to determine whether distributive justice, social guidance of economic life, and egalitarianism or more laissez-faire principles should dominate fiscal policy. Economic strategies are often dictated by a vast array of institutions like the G-20, World Bank, IMF, European Union and the WTO. These institutions will be studied to determine their influences on fiscal/monetary policy and global trade/capital flow and issues such as global warming. Students will also analyze whether the developing world (or just its leaders) is rejecting capitalism because it demands a competitive social setting (Google-China as an example) that is inconsistent with traditional values and institutions.

Term 2 – International Politics: The Impact of Globalization on Political and Societal Structures This course focuses on particular traditions of politics and governance practiced by both authoritarian states and those experiencing different levels of democratization. Other related topics will be the political and economic reconstruction of former communist regimes, including Russia, and their adjustment to operating within the sphere of a global marketplace. The challenge of globalization will then turn to discussions on developing regions like Latin America, India, China, Nigeria, and the Muslim world to determine the effects of integrated markets on these societies. Post-Industrialized democracies like Great Britain, Japan, and France will be studied within the context of post –materialism to understand the differences between stable democracies and those areas impacted by ethnic/religious cleavages, terrorism, rentier politics and economic disparities.


PERSONAL FINANCE (Open to Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors)

Personal finance is a class intended to focus on the everyday aspects of individuals’ financial decision-making. The course introduces students to key points in financial planning that includes: spending, saving, and investing. The spending topics cover how to compare products to get the most for ones’ money. The savings portion of the class presents the various banking tools used to determine short-term investment decisions. Students will also study the concepts focused on long-term investment decisions with stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. In addition to these topics, the students will learn about essential components of business planning.


SCHOLARS RESEARCH PROGRAM – HUMANITIES (Open to Juniors and Seniors with approval)

This course is designed to provide advanced students with the opportunity to enhance their academic experience by conducting research at the collegiate level. Students admitted to this course will develop a self-chosen topic of interest in either the humanities or sciences, which will culminate in a significant research paper/project to be submitted for publication or national competition. Students will work closely with the instructors to deepen their understanding of the particular topic as well as build the skills necessary to conduct academic research and analysis. Given the intense nature of this course, class sizes will be limited per area and any students wishing to take this course will be required to apply for admission. To be considered for this course, students must demonstrate not only academic success but also independence and cognitive sophistication.

WAR and POLITICS (Open to Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors)

THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR AND VIETNAM EXPERIENCE Overall Course Description: This is a two part course that will be an in-depth examination of the Civil War in the United States and the lengthy conflict that became the Vietnam Experience. The Civil War will be covered in the first semester with the Vietnam War to follow in the second semester. Both sections of this class will mostly draw upon the political and social issues surrounding each of these volatile times, which will enhance a greater understanding of how and why these wars took place. Even though the actual fighting and strategy of these two conflicts are key and will be discussed in detail; this course will not be implemented in the military history tradition, but rather with a keen eye on the political, diplomatic, and social ideologies that arose as a result. Both sections will utilize a wide array of strategies that will fully engage the student into an “ownership” position of the knowledge seized over the term of this academic year. Course Breakdown by semester: TERM 1: THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR Course Description: This portion of the course will deliver an in-depth portrait of the bloodiest altercation on American soil. Through the study of the “war of northern aggression/war of southern secession” students will engage in discussion, debate, and research of influential people, politics, societal confrontation, key legislation, and strategical battles. We will delve into themes such as the growth of sectionalism, justifications for and against secession, the impacts of slavery, methods and implications of war, and competing constitutional systems during conflict. During this process, you will be challenged to draw parallels between the people and leaders of “then” and the people and leaders of “today.” The students will have required texts for this course as a foundation for reading, research, and assessment, but there will be pertinent information for the infrastructure of this course that will be derived from outside sources. This class will also utilize perspectives of filmmakers to analyze content. TERM 2: THE VIETNAM WAR AND EXPERIENCE Course description: This portion of the course will investigate the American involvement in the war in Vietnam through the eyes of political and social struggle. Through the study of this what was described as “the war America watched from their living rooms” we will investigate the origins, events, and consequences of the war from 1945 to 1975. In a thematic approach, we will explore areas dealing in French occupation, the American diplomatic/political course, domestic consequences, and the lingering presence of this war in America. Within this course students will be pushed in regular diagnosis of the comparisons of this conflict with the American Civil War and the situation in Iraq, which will require a deep understanding of related themes. The students will have required texts for this course as a foundation for reading, research, and assessment, but there will be pertinent information for the infrastructure of this course that will be derived from outside sources. This class will also utilize perspectives of filmmakers to analyze content.