Academics: Individuals & Societies

Both the mission statements of Verde Valley School and the International Baccalaureate Program specifically state aims to develop multicultural understanding and respect and to understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right. This mission is central to the department’s philosophy. Through a variety of courses, students graduate VVS with a solid foundation in the history and cultures of the United States and World and an appreciation for understanding this subject through a truly intercultural and diverse perspective.


In many ways, the student body at VVS is the greatest resource in pursuit of this aim, as one recent example from a History class can demonstrate.

For this class students prepared notes to lead and participate in a debate on a question common on the IB History exam: To what extent was the United States justified in using atomic weapons on Japan during World War II?

At the start of the debate several of the American students debated this question from Western perspectives including a need to preserve American soldier lives and a critique of America’s growing military-industrial complex.

At most high schools these opposite sides alone would suffice for a solid debate; however, this was only the start of the debate at VVS. At this point students from Japan gave the perspective of Japanese civilians, specifically explaining to the class the cultural significance of appearing not to surrender. These students also shared intense stories and pictures of children who still suffered from nuclear radiation birth defects today.

Again, at most schools this would be more than enough for a memorable debate, yet our students were only getting started. Next several of the Chinese students in the class presented yet another side of the argument explaining that it was only the use of atomic weapons which stopped the Japanese army from continuing to commit atrocities on Chinese civilians as best exemplified by the Rape of Nanking. Simultaneously, several of the South Korean students in the class also raised the issue that the use of atomic weapons on Japan also meant Japan ended its occupation of Korea.

If this was not enough, the Russian students in the class then added the viewpoint which they were taught in their Russian textbooks that the United States only used atomic weapons on Japan to warn the USSR at the start of the emerging Cold War. In what other classroom in the world could such a varied, substantive, multicultural, and important debate on this issue take place?

Foundations of Civilizations introduces students to the formal study of History and Anthropology. Great emphasis is placed on students acquiring the skills needed for future success in all Social Studies courses such as critical reading, note-taking, essay-writing, and independent research. The course discusses all the major world civilizations from the dawn of civilizations up to 1500. The latter part of the course then focuses on 1500 to the present with specific emphasis on Industrialization, Imperialism, and how world wars have shaped the modern world. The year concludes with a unit on modern day global issues and challenges relating to Verde Valley School’s MDG Project.

US History introduces students to the study of United States History. Students continue to build on the skills needed for success in all Social Studies courses such as critical reading, note-taking, essay-writing, and independent research. The specific content covered closely matches the content on the AP US History and IB History of the Americas Exams. As such, the first semester discusses United States History from 1492 to 1865 with special emphasis on Native American Settlements before 1492, English colonies, The American Revolution, The Constitution, The Early Republic, Slavery and Resistance, and The Civil War. The second semester then focuses on 1865 to the present with emphasis on Reconstruction, Westward Expansion and Native American Resistance, Industrialization, WWI, WWII, The Great Depression and New Deal, The Cold War, The Civil Rights Movement, and major issues of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. The year concludes with a unit on modern day issues and challenges facing The United States of America.

Anthropology, Peoples of the Southwest is a non-IB Anthropology course focusing on cultures around the world, introduces some anthropological theory and covers some biological anthropology and archeology. Sources discussing cultures from all around the world will be reviewed, analyzed and discussed. The study of anthropology is a founding tenet of VVS and this course is aimed at students who would like to take an anthropology class before taking IB History or the special circumstance where the student wishes to focus on Anthropology through his or her time at VVS.

IB History SL 1 & 2: Route 2 –20th Century World History is a 20th century world history course which aims to promote an understanding of history as a discipline, including the nature and diversity of sources, methods and interpretations. Students are encouraged to comprehend the present by reflecting critically on the past. They are further expected to understand historical developments at national, regional and international levels and learn about their own historical identity through the study of the historical experiences of different cultures. Topics include Nationalism and Imperialism, the rise of the United States as an economic power, the long and short term causes of World War I, peacemaking and peacekeeping and international relations between 1918–36. Assessment includes DBQs, article analyses, book reviews, essays, tests and the historical investigation.

IB History HL 1 & 2: Route 2 – 20th Century World History and History of Europe and the Middle East is exactly the same as the History SL course with the addition of the study of aspects of the History of Europe and the Middle East.

IB Social and Cultural Anthropology HL 1 & 2 looks closely at anthropology’s focus is to explore the cultures of the ‘other.’ This includes: Foraging Bands, Tribes, and Micro- Cultures or small societies within nation-states. Otherness is then transformed, via interpretive knowing, into the familiar. Students read articles about other cultures/societies. They will read two longer studies of a specific culture (ethnography), and a book focused on anthropological theory (differing ways of understanding culture). The primary skill learned is applying thoughtful interpretations in attempting to understand other ways of living life, and using preferred theoretical perspectives as context and justification of their interpretations. Assessment includes: questions to articles, questions to videos, essay responses to trimester exams, and projects on large theme units.