History Department at Berkeley High

Archived Q&A and Reviews


No History Class for Freshmen?


I just learned by chance that history will not be offered at BHS next year for freshmen. The school is planning to align English and history curricula (have world history and literature in the same year, American in another). This brings it into compliance with what is happening in the rest of the state and should be helpful in the WASC process. This is good. I, however, with an incoming freshman, am concerned that he will suffer from having only three real academic classes (geometry, English, language). I think at this stage of development, kids should be having more academic challenge. Other parents may feel differently. I'm interested in discussion about this, and would also encourage you to approach Dr. Lynch or the district if you have concerns. Lili

Well, judging from what I know of frosh history, it is not "a real academic class." I wouldn't call it challenging either. I also think that academic classes are the right choice for some kids, but for others, more practical or artistic classes are better. Fewer requirements allows kids to get more classes that are right for them so I think fewer requirements is a good idea. Students are more likely to attend and enjoy the classes if they get some say in what it is they are taking.

Does anyone have details about the change in the history requirement, next fall, for ninth graders at Berkeley High? I have been told that the school made this change without first figuring out what they are going to offer instead. Has anyone spoken with the history department or administration about this? Lynn

The administration decided to bring the history offerings in line with the majority of the state and with the state framework, which meant moving World History to the tenth grade. The History Department continues to teach Ethnic Studies to ninth graders. Additionally the administration decided it would be a good idea to move Social Living to the ninth grade, although that decision took longer as it was widely discussed before a decision was made. In looking at the impact of these changes on the incoming students, it was decided that the two courses should be seen as a year-long introduction to social studies and paired with the English classes in cores, so that ninth graders continued to have the advantages of the ninth grade cores. The history course is to meet the requirements of both ethnic studies and social living, as well as to include an introduction to the study skills, resources, and community of Berkeley High.

The Site Council approved funding so that the English and Social Studies teachers could meet the day after school closed. The revised freshman core program was reassessed, and course planning for the fall began. History teachers spent a large portion of that day integrating the two classes to create a course outline for the new year-long core class. A number of history teachers took on curriculum development of the units involved. While a great deal of the curriculum material already exists in the ethnic studies and social living curriculums, adapting it to fit this course for these students, while providing ninth graders with a solid introduction to Berkeley High was their top priority. The ninth grade teachers will meet again in August to share the results of their summer work, and will continue to meet throughout the school year in their English/History cores as well as with other ninth grade history teachers.

Annie Johnston, History teacher, BHS

AP History Classes

March 2001

There are two new AP classes offered at BHS in the history department this coming fall, AP Government and AP Economics. Both will be offered as senior electives, with the required government and economics courses as prerequisites. Juniors particularly interested in taking these college-level courses may want to take those required courses in summer school or at Vista college.

There has been some concern expressed because many students were led to believe they could take these courses in lieu of the regular economics and government courses. The History Department, with the consent of the principal, decided to offer them as senior electives after numerous meetings in January and February. We were reluctant consider offering AP courses because we are not interested in tracking our government and economics classes. Since these classes analyze american economics and government, all students benefit from the broadest possible exposure to a wide range of experiences and perspectives, which only a heterogenous, untracked class can provide. At the same time, especially those who enjoy studying social science, to have the ability to fill their history elective requirements with such rigorous courses. But we want to offer these classes in such a way as to increase ALL students' access to rigorous coursework, rather than increasing the disparity in such access, which is now the case with most AP courses at BHS.

AP economics and government classes are, in fact, advanced courses. The required courses give students an essential foundation for success in these new AP classes. The curriculum is not the same -- the AP classes are college-level courses. The economics class, for instance, will look in-depth at macro-economics. The state curriculum standards for economics require that all students be introduced to the basics of micro-economics as well.

Our teachers were pretty unanimous in their desire to make sure the students who take these courses have the advantage of the required introductory classes offered in a heterogenous setting. We felt that this would best ensure a larger and more diverse pool of eligible students who are better able to succeed in those classes. We apologize to anyone who received conflicting information.

Annie Johnston, History teacher, BHS

My history teacher told me today that ap government and ap economics will be made as a history elective for seniors, AFTER we have taken regular economics and government. This is a bad idea. When I asked my history teacher about why the department decided to do this he said, that the teachers that teach regular econ and gov would be deprived of the smartest people in the class and would end up teaching all the less advanced kids. So the teachers would have a harder time teaching their classes. My answer is this changes nothing. By keeping everyone in the same class you dont get rid of the people who dont want to learn, they have them in their class anyways. And there are plenty of kids that are very smart but just might not want to be in AP, so there would be no absence of 'smart' kids. Also senior year, many history electives will get cancelled because they are smaller classes. For instance asian studies, many kids who would want to take that would be torn between taking that class and AP. Many would cloose AP to make their transcripts look good, and then asian studies would get cancelled bacause not enough students signed up for it. I think that taking a few kids out of regular gov/econ is a lot better than destroying many elective classes.

Another point, one does not have to take regular chemistry before taking ap chemistry, BECAUSE THEY COVER THE SAME THING. It is pointless to take 2 different gov/econ classes that teach the same things, but one goes a little deeper and does more work.

This is very unfair to the people who like history. I like history a lot more than i like science. I really wanted to get AP credit for a class that I like (not science) , because i think it would be interesting. But if I have to take AP senior year I cannot take an elective that would be fun as well. Elliot