Social Studies 8 Course Description

In 8th grade social studies, we study the history of the United States from Reconstruction to the end of the Cold War—further if time allows.

We approach this time period thematically, often covering the same ground many times but from a different perspective. The general outline is as follows:

  • Introductory Unit – where we establish basic concepts and overarching themes
  • Industrialization – where we take an economic focus as we look at the reasons for the change in modes of production that constitute the industrial revolution in America
  • Urbanization and Immigration – where we examine the outcomes of industrialization from a cultural perspective
  • Progressive Era – where we consider the political responses to the problems of the industrial era
  • Midterm Examination - cumulative examination of first two quarters
  • Reconstruction and Civil Rights – where we look at two time periods roughly 100 years apart but closely connected, the Civil Rights Movement being a response to the unresolved problems of Reconstruction
  • Imperialism – where we investigate how the United States became a world power
  • The Roaring 20s and the New Deal – where along with a look at cultural shifts, we consider the role of government in our lives
  • World War II and the Cold War – where we study how the United States became the world’s superpower, with military and political involvement around the world
  • Final Examination - cumulative exam of entire year

We don’t set out to memorize facts, dates, and the like for their own sake, though it is helpful to have in our minds the broad outlines of history, so we can interact with our fellow citizens intelligently and productively.  (A broad knowledge of our history, political structures, and culture is part of what it means to be an educated adult.)

Our main goal is to prepare for high school by reinforcing skills needed within all the humanities, the social studies in particular.  Students will need these skills to do well on the new Regent’s Exam in 10th grade. That’s the concrete justification for the focus on skills. More abstractly, though, these same skills prepare students for engaging critically with others as adults either at work or in the political sphere.  

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