Humanities

JCHS Humanities courses encourage the intellectual and emotional growth of our students, supporting them in becoming sophisticated thinkers, confident writers, careful readers, informed citizens, and effective leaders.
 
The courses cultivate critical and creative thinking and inspire students to generate empathy and compassion for human experience in all its variety.
 
English courses present students with appropriately challenging texts that contain original thinking, innovative stylistic choices, and masterful prose. The articles, essays, poems, plays, novels, and memoirs often expose students to perspectives and experiences beyond those familiar to them. These published works also illustrate the various components of composition such as rhetorical devices, evidence, tone, structure, organization, syntax, and grammar.

Our history courses engage in careful reading of primary sources, interdisciplinary connections, and voices of both officially sanctioned narratives and first person histories.  Students will learn to discern bias, assess cause and effect, and compare recurrent historical themes. We focus not just on economic and political history but also socio-cultural trends.
 
Key Skills in JCHS Humanities Courses
All of these skills are taught developmentally over the four years.
 
  • Reading: Analyzing texts critically; reading closely; identifying symbolism, thematic elements, and rhetorical devices; analyzing argument and evidence; identifying tone and devices; understanding poetic and dramatic devices; identifying bias and perspective. 
  • Writing: Identifying and articulating a thesis in a paragraph or essay; supporting a thesis with evidence; writing analytic and persuasive essays, short stories, and poems; using mentor texts; understanding rules of grammar.
  • Research: Defining and refining a research question; finding appropriate research from books, journals, and the Internet; using databases; quoting and citing others’ work appropriately; developing note-taking and bibliography skills. 
  • Other: Historical reasoning; effective oral presentation skills; working collaboratively with peers; understanding and responding respectfully to different points of view.
Click on any course name below to learn more.

English Core Courses

List of 6 frequently asked questions.

  • Archetypes in Literature: From Ancient to Modern

    Subject Area: English
    Open to: 9

    This course is an introductory survey designed to expose students to literature from a wide sampling of time periods, cultures, and genres. The goal of this broad exposure is to provide students with a fundamental basis in world literature. After an in-depth study of archetypes, students will read various forms and examples of literature ranging from pre-modern contexts, such as The Epic of Gilgamesh and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, to 20th century works such as A Separate Peace and Persepolis. The study of literature will also provide the context in which to build and develop composition and analytical skills. Students will be assigned a variety of writing tasks from creative writing to research papers. Emphasis is also placed on building vocabulary and learning grammar.
  • Mordern World Literature

    Subject Area: English
    Open to: 10

    Sophomore English uses literature to explore major historical events--such as colonialism, the World Wars and apartheid--to grapple with the socio-political forces that shaped the 20th century. We begin by studying the Age of Imperialism as it applied to the European colonization of Africa and subsequently examine the rise of nationalism and World War I, along with its social, cultural, and political aftermath. Our study will then move to a specific focus on World War II and the Holocaust before tackling apartheid South Africa. The course culminates in a Human Rights Symposium in which students present their research on human rights abuses throughout the world.
  • American Literature

    Subject Area: English
    Open to: 11

    In this course, a wide variety of voices from different time periods in American history will be examined. As students encounter various authors, their United States History course will cover the historical contexts anchoring the works of literature. While writing and analyzing literature will be the main emphasis of the course, a sustained and interdisciplinary historical research project will also be a key component. Theme, symbolism, tone, and the historical significance of works will be analyzed, and there will be an emphasis on supporting analyses with textual evidence. Students will learn research skills that will allow them to incorporate and cite outside literary sources as they refine their critical thinking skills. Incorporated into the course will be more advanced grammar lessons and vocabulary enrichment.
  • AP English Language and Composition

    Subject Area: English
    Open to: 11
    Prerequisite(s): Department Approval

    The AP English Language and Composition course is designed to help students become skilled readers of prose written in a variety of periods, disciplines, and rhetorical contexts and to become skilled writers who can compose for a variety of purposes. Students will read and analyze a wide range of non-fiction texts—from newspaper editorials, to travel writing, to literary non-fiction, to biography, to sermons. Students will become familiar with the rhetorical strategies that make for effective, persuasive writing. Through learning how to identify the elements of a strong argument, they will seek to improve their own written arguments, becoming more confident in writing thesis-driven, tightly organized, evidence-based, analytical essays in a limited amount of time. Advancing their mastery of all of the elements of powerful composition, students will be challenged to develop a more versatile and bold writing style, learning to adapt their writing voices to meet the demands of genre, audience and occasion. Although most of the texts for the course are non-fiction, some works of fiction—acknowledged classics of American literature—will be studied.
  • Senior Seminar in Literature and Culture

    Subject Area: English
    Open to: 12

    Senior Seminar will engage students in close textual analysis, literary discussion, academic composition and some creative writing. We will study plays, poetry and prose of recognized literary merit dating from the 16th Century to contemporary times. We will move away from the formulaic essay structures, take more risks, and develop personal voice.

    This course is integrated with Senior Seminar: Issues in Jewish Thought. In both courses, students will explore common philosophical and theological themes such as the human condition, tradition vs. modernity, the problem of evil, existentialism, and the importance of memory. Course material has been synchronized to offer powerful moments of connection and integration. There will be several integrated assessments (both written and performance-based) throughout the year.
  • AP English Literature and Composition

    Subject Area: English
    Open to: 12
    Prerequisite(s): Department Approval

    This course will engage students in close reading, criticism and analysis of texts from a variety of historical periods. In addition to evaluating an author’s use of thematic elements, students will deepen their understanding of the ways writers use language and literary devices to affect meaning. As governed by the College Board, great emphasis will be placed on analyzing elements of craft such as diction, syntax, tone, and literary devices in the works we read. Students will become confident writing thesis-driven, tightly organized, analytical essays in a limited amount of time. We will move away from the formulaic essay structures, take more risks, and develop personal voice.

    This course is integrated with Senior Seminar: Issues in Jewish Thought. In both courses, students will explore common philosophical and theological themes such as the human condition, tradition vs. modernity, the problem of evil, Existentialism, and the importance of memory. Course material has been synchronized to offer powerful moments of connection and integration. There will be several integrated assessments (both written and performance-based) throughout the year.

History Core Courses

List of 2 frequently asked questions.

  • United States History

    Subject Area: History
    Open to: 11
     
    This survey course in United States history will examine the major historical forces and events which have shaped our country. Students will review early American history and pinpoint the significant factors that continue to have relevance to our society. The bulk of the year will center on an in-depth examination of the 20th century. Students will learn to employ primary sources, secondary texts, and multimedia offerings to gain a profound understanding of American history and culture. The course will focus on developing students’ abilities to think critically, write clearly articulated and well-substantiated arguments, and develop the confidence and skills to participate in class discussions and debates. Students will write two major research papers during the course of the year, each of which will require students to utilize research skills, make clear connections between history and the present, and write cogently and convincingly. This course integrates with the American Literature course to develop curriculum in which literature supports and reinforces studies in United States history.
  • AP United States History

    Subject Area: History
    Open to: 11
    Prerequisite(s): Department Approval

    AP United States History is designed to be the equivalent of a two-semester introductory college or university United States history course. Students will investigate the content of U.S. history for significant events, individuals, developments, and processes and develop and use the same thinking skills and methods employed by historians when they study the past. These include analyzing primary and secondary sources, making historical comparisons, chronological reasoning, and argumentation. The course is structured around seven themes (American and national identity; migration and settlement; politics and power; work, exchange, and technology; America in the world; geography and the environment; and culture and society) that students explore throughout the year in order to make connections among historical developments in different times and places. A premium will be placed on identifying and contextualizing modern day equivalents to historical events and developments. Finally, while creative projects will occasionally be assigned, the emphasis of this course will be to help students develop clear, concise analytical essay writing skills.

    Please Note: AP courses will require additional meeting times throughout the year.

Humanities Elective Courses

List of 7 frequently asked questions.

  • AP Art History

    Open to: 10 (by Department Approval), 11, 12
    Offered: bi-yearly

    The AP Art History course explores such topics such as the nature of art, its uses, its meanings, art making, and the responses to art.  Through investigations of diverse artistic traditions of cultures from prehistory to the present, the course fosters in-depth and holistic understanding of the history of art from a global perspective.

    Students learn and apply skills of visual, contextual, and comparative analysis to engage with a variety of art forms, constructing understanding of individual works and interconnections of art making processes and products throughout history.  During the course students will engage with selective hands-on processes to develop further appreciation of design, craft, and technique.  Visits to local art museums, and significant works of architecture are also an essential part of the course.  Students are expected to take the AP Art History exam at the end of the year. 

    Please Note: AP courses will require additional meeting times throughout the year.
  • Class, Race and Gender in Modern America

    Subject Area: History
    Open to:
    11, 12
    Offered: bi-yearly

    In the first semester of this seminar style course, students will examine issues of class, race and gender in modern American culture. Students will come to understand the historic antecedents to these topics and will consider questions such as: How does my class/race/gender impact how I interpret and experience the world? To what degree does equal opportunity exist in American culture today? How are class/race/gender infused into our understanding of politics, sports, education, health, entertainment, and the economy?

    In the second half of the course, students will examine contemporary American culture and their place in it by assessing the role the Media and Advertising industries have on their lives.  Central questions will include: how has media and advertising shaped Americans’ understanding of their own culture?  What messages are most prevalent in contemporary advertising?  In what ways is advertising an art form?  What kinds of biases exist in the media?  How are what I know and what I think impacted by media and advertising messages?

    The course will emphasize student-led class presentations, and allow them to examine and discuss critical issues that face our country and our world today. In doing so, students will practice articulating and defending points of view that have been based on evidence rather than emotion. Since there is no textbook, students will read articles from a variety of contemporary newspapers, news magazines, online sources and scholarly journals.
  • The Past in the Present: Understanding What Makes Us Human

    Subject Area: History
    Open to: 9

    This course introduces students to major trends in the development of human societies and the formation of the complex systems of interconnectivity that characterize our world. One central underlying assumption is that historical awareness is an important conceptual tool for navigating the modern world, and as such we will take an approach that differs from the standard chronological and geographical framework of most history textbooks. Organized thematically, each unit will explore related concepts and case studies from the past while drawing useful parallels to the present. From the origins of our species and the emergence of the first civilizations, to the formation of the globe-spanning empires that ushered us into the modern era, we will consider the forces that have shaped history, including migration, war, commerce, and innovation. Throughout, students will focus on solidifying and building the skills that will be necessary in future courses, such as active reading, note-taking, research, and writing skills.

    Please Note: This is an introductory course open to all ninth graders, which may be taken in lieu of World of Coding.
  • Psychology

    Open to: 11, 12

    This course covers core concepts and content areas in the field of psychology beginning with the use of the scientific method in research and the physiological basis for behavior. Topics covered include: history of psychology, neural communication and the brain, state of consciousness perception and sensation, developmental psychology, motivation and emotions, and theories/approaches used by psychologists today. These approaches include: psychoanalytical, behavioral, cognitive, humanistic, socio-cultural, evolutionary and positive perspectives. We will also examine influential psychological  experiments, abnormal behavior, treatments, and therapy.
  • AP Comparative Government and Politics (not offered 2018-19)

    Subject Area: History
    Open to: 11, 12
    Prerequisite(s): Department Approval
    Offered: bi-yearly

    The AP course in Comparative Government and Politics 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. Comparison assists both in identifying problems and in analyzing policy making. Additionally, the course covers the major concepts that are used to organize and interpret specific countries and their governments. Six countries form the core of the AP Comparative Government and Politics course: China, Great Britain, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, and Russia. By using these six countries, the course can move the discussion of concepts from abstract definition to concrete example, noting that not all concepts will be equally useful in all country settings. (Collegeboard.org)

    Please Note: AP courses will require additional meeting times throughout the year.
  • AP European History (not offered 2018-19)

    Subject Area: History
    Open to: 10, 11, 12

    The AP European History course focuses on developing students’ understanding of European history from approximately 1450 to the present. The course has students investigate the content of European history for significant events, individuals, developments, and processes in four historical periods, and develop and use the same thinking skills and methods (analyzing primary and secondary sources, making historical comparisons, chronological reasoning, and argumentation) employed by historians when they study the past. The course also provides five themes (interaction of Europe and the world; poverty and prosperity; objective knowledge and subjective visions; states and other institutions of power; and individual and society) that students explore throughout the year in order to make connections among historical developments in different times and places.

    Please Note: AP courses will require additional meeting times throughout the year.
  • Creative Writing (not offered 2018-19)

    Open to: 10, 11, 12

    This course is designed as a broad-based introduction to various forms of creative writing, such as short fiction, creative nonfiction, memoir and poetry. Students will experiment with writing in each of these genres. They will learn about character, dialogue, voice, style and description in fiction through reading assignments, discussions and writing exercises. Students are also introduced to the concept of a writing workshop, wherein they share pieces with peers in order to give and receive feedback.

Humanities Faculty

Michael Mirelman
Chair, Humanities Department
415.694.5772 x222
mmirelman@jchsofthebay.org

Nicholas Grossenbacher
English & History
415.694.5772 x145
ngrossenbacher@jchsofthebay.org

Aaron Pollock
History
415.694.5772 x223
apollock@jchsofthebay.org

Karie Rubin
English 
415.694.5772 x148
krubin@jchsofthebay.org

Jennifer Sturgill
History
415.694.5772 x150
jsturgill@jchsofthebay.org
Click here to see the complete Curriculum Map.
Jewish Community High School of the Bay
1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: 415.345.9777
JCHS is grateful for generous operational, programmatic, and financial support from:
The Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS) is a unique college preparatory high school committed to integrating deep learning, universal wisdom, and Jewish values. We empower each student to embrace her or his Jewish identity, generate empathy and compassion, delight in lifelong education, and improve the world.