When students transition from high school, the larger world can seem complicated and confusing. This year-long course helps Katherine Thomas students make sense of their world. At the end of the course, they will be able to...
identify and analyze key economic, environmental, and other global issues
know how to stay informed about issues of personal concern
take a position on issues and communicate their views effectively--by speaking, voting, writing letters, doing volunteer work, and in other ways
The In the News page provides a variety range of sources that provide both context about the news and the news itself.
The course has a flexible structure, so that we can look at important issues whenever they occur. The course has two closely related strands: Themes and News.
Strand 1 - Themes
The course introduces students to the following themes. You can think of these themes as “global issues.” Students learn about these themes through background reading, maps, videos, and, most important, exploration of the daily news (Strand 2).
Globalization — Globalization can be defined as the free movement of goods, ideas, and money between countries. As a result of globalization, people are more and more connected. Students explore both the conditions that promote globalization and the downside of globalization for different groups and regions.
Climate change — This theme explores the historical roots and complex effects of global warming. These effects include heat waves, wildfires, rising sea levels, severe drought, and extreme weather. Students explore the human consequences of these effects and some of the proposed methods of reducing global warming.
Conflict — This theme includes both global rivalries (such as tensions between China and the US) and regional rivalries (such as tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East). Specific local conflicts, including civil disturbance within Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and Ethiopia, will be analyzed in the context of larger regional and global conflicts. Students will learn about peace-keeping mechanisms such as diplomacy and alliance systems.
Government — This theme explores the continuum of types of government from democratic to authoritarian. Underlying democratic governments is the concept of human rights. Students explore questions such as "what are human rights?" "What are the conditions in which human rights are valued and threatened?" "What are the groups and institutions that protect and threaten human rights?" Students also explore types of authoritarian governments, including communist, theocratic, military, and oligarchic. Students will examine case studies of democratic governments that become dictatorships (e.g., Myanmar) and authoritarian governments that abuse human rights (e.g., in Xinjiang, China). The aspirations and limitations of the United Nations is an important topic throughout this theme.
Migration - This theme looks at the causes and structure of migration and the human reality of moving to a new country. Students will learn how migration relates to the other themes, including conflict (and refugee crises), types of government (with people migrating from authoritarian to democratic countries), and climate change (with people migrating away from regions disproportionately suffering the impact of warming).
Public health — This theme looks at a range of issues, including the current coronavirus pandemic and food insecurity. Public health is linked to the other themes. Countries experiencing civil war, for example, often experience enormous suffering that is made worse by inadequate institutions for protecting public health.
Students will learn about these themes from a variety of online and print media. Mostly they learn about the themes from the daily news. Project work will give students the opportunity to explore these themes in greater depth.
Strand 2 - News
Several times a week students will explore the news -- "current events" -- as reported by newspapers, TV, radio, social media, and other sources. They will learn to situate current events in the context of larger themes such as conflict and climate change. In the process they will acquire skills for analyzing the news critically -- identifying bias, recognizing fake news, and distinguishing fact from opinion. Where relevant students will explore the historical roots of current events in order to better understand them. Patterns in the news -- such as the severe weather around the world in the summer of 2021 -- will be explored. Skill development. This course is designed to refine the skills that students bring from their history, government, and other social studies courses at KTS. In addition, students will work on the specific skills required to make sense of global issues:
Map skills. Because geography shapes global events, students will refine basic map-reading skills and acquire the skills required to analyze special-purpose maps and other visual representations of events in the news.
Research skills. Students will have the opportunity to pursue research questions and refine the skills required to synthesize a variety of sources. Students will learn strategies for finding specific information and techniques for taking useful notes.
Reading skills. Students will have frequent opportunity to read a variety of online and print text materials. They will learn how to read newspaper articles closely and critically. "Critical" reading includes the skills of recognizing bias and disinformation, and distinguishing between facts and opinions in the news.
Communication skills. Students will use traditional and online media to communicate their understanding and opinions. They will use creative online tools such as Book Creator and FlipGrid. As part of this skill, students will work on the entire writing process, including setting a purpose, understanding the audience, organizing ideas, structuring paragraphs, finding appropriate images, choosing the most effective words, and writing coherent sentences.
Technology in this course. This year the high school is making a transition from Google Classroom to Blackbaud. This learning-management system (LMS) makes it possible for students to do their homework online and also to get their grades online. Blackbaud provides a visual calendar allowing them to see at a glance the work they’ve done as well as the work that needs to be completed. In addition, with Blackbaud students can easily communicate with the teacher.
How grades are calculated. Quarterly grades are based on homework (50%), project work (20%), quizzes (20%), and participation (10%). Homework will be done primarily on Blackbaud. Participation refers to compliance with PBIS (the school's positive behavior system), appropriate participation in classroom activities, and contribution to a positive classroom environment. Discussions are an important part of this class.