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Social Science Classes Restructured for the Masses

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Amidst the waves of change overtaking West, a new financial literacy course will be offered to juniors and seniors, and US History will shift to sophomore year. 

The one-semester financial literacy course requirement will impact this year’s freshmen, and some sophomores will start taking AP US History next fall. 

With the additional upperclassmen course requirement coming soon, the Social Science Department “took a hard look at our course sequencing and thought this was a good time to make some big changes in our curriculum. It would make the process smoother as we go forward,”  Social Science department chair Susan Gahagan Mueller said. 

Currently, students have no required sophomore social science class, leaving a gap in sequencing of skills for some students; students have a world history requirement freshman year and a United States history requirement for junior year, but some students miss out if they don’t take History of the Western World or AP European History as sophomores. 

Instead of sophomores taking AP European History or History of the Western World as sophomores, the new plan is for students to take U.S. History during sophomore year. 

“The current course track is working well with Maine West, but with some of these other changes ahead, we are doing kids the favor to free up space to take electives junior year,” Gahagan Mueller said. “Students then have the option to take civics and government junior or senior year.”

This would allow space for extra electives during junior or senior year, such as AP European History, Sociology, AP Economics, Intro to Philosophy or AP Psychology.  “We offer such amazing courses, and I hope the students find their way to them during and after sophomore year,” AP Euro teacher Diane Littlefield Lanham said. 

By 2022-2023, the full shift to sophomore U.S. History will become standard for all students. Although these changes are drastic, the same options still exist overall for students. The AP European History course currently for sophomores is not going away; this class is still offered and widely recommended to sophomores, juniors, and seniors by social science teachers. “Most of my former AP Euro students have told me over the years how much they have enjoyed the course; I just hope that future juniors and seniors will consider my courses as an option, even if they’ve never taken an AP class before,” AP Euro teacher Diane Littlefield Lanham said. 

Students see the value in it, too. “I would definitely recommend taking AP Euro; it is a very interesting class, we learn about different philosophers all the way to political activists,” junior Oksana Bidash said. “AP Euro pushes for the development of writing and critical thinking skills when analyzing historical events that allow for a smooth transition for students into other AP classes.”  

The decision to change sequencing was made by a group called the Social Science MCC, which includes the department chairs from Maine West, East, and South, as well as assistant superintendent Jill Geocaris. 

The goal was to create opportunities to take more social science electives. “We believe that all the social science courses will help any student in any career because we learn about people, diversity of opinions, how to articulate those opinions, empathy, oppression, and much more,” Gahagan Mueller said. “We want more kids to take as many classes as possible, and not get lost in the sea of options. We have a lot, and we want everybody to take them.”

Photo by Mohnish S.
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