UPPER SCHOOL COURSES
Classical Athenian Society & its Modern Influence
This course provides a window into the culture and society of Athens, Greece, during the classical period when modern western concepts of democracy, drama, history, and philosophy were born. Using primary sources and survey texts, the history of the period is considered in terms of its cultural, political, and social structures and how those structures have influenced the modern western world. Works of Athenian drama, including both tragedy and comedy, are read and discussed in their historical and cultural contexts, allowing for a deeper understanding of their authors' intent during composition, their audiences' reactions during performance, and their influence on both the development of drama in the modern western world and contemporary media.
Business of Life: Concepts and Connections
This course seeks to enable an understanding of business that students need as they venture forth in the world. Although intended for a broad audience, future business students will find this course valuable as they acquire a self-constructed framework of concepts and connections prior to embarking upon business coursework in college. Students are exposed to cornerstone concepts from across the business spectrum - from economics, investing, and accounting to law, leadership, and negotiation. Guided exploration of these realms enables students to discover fundamental principles that can be applied to successfully carry them through life.
Myth and Its Meaning in the Ancient & Modern World
This course introduces students to myths and legends from the past and the complex roles they played in ancient societies. These traditional tales are examined not only for their literary and artistic value, but also within their social, cultural, and religious contexts through ancient art, architecture, and surviving literary sources. Theories of modern scholars who have attempted to decode meaning behind the tales of gods and heroes are discussed. Students come to appreciate the impact of these myths on art and music in the modern world and see the relevance of these stories to their own lives.
This course presents basic principles behind robot construction and, in the second semester, delves more deeply into topics determined by students' interests. Because it is designed for students with no previous experience in robotics, programming, or electronics, those with substantial knowledge of robotics should not enroll. Learning is project based, with basic circuitry, programming, and mechanics covered through the building of increasingly complex robots. The course encourages creative thinking to solve open-ended problems. Students are introduced to the engineering design process and learn how to think like an engineer.
Where does the energy we use come from? How did coal become such a ubiquitous energy source? What are the alternatives to coal and other fossil fuels? What are the environmental impacts of different energy sources? What has been the historical use and development of each energy source? In this course, a seminar approach is used to address these questions. The class begins with coal, and students learn about its chemical and physical properties, natural development, history and use as an energy source, economic impact, and impact on human health. Each student then chooses an energy source to research. Students present an in-depth analysis of their source that includes answers to questions posed during the coal study. The main forms of evaluation are class work, project work, and presentation.
This course surveys fundamental topics in psychology, the scientific study of behavior and mental processes. The topics covered include neuroscience, states of consciousness, developmental psychology, theories of personality, abnormal psychology, sensation and perception, memory, learning, and motivation. The course emphasizes personality theories and developmental psychology. This is an interactive class in which students are encouraged to take part in experiential exercises and contribute to discussions. Students who opt to take the Advanced Placement Psychology examination will need to put additional time into studying selected topics not covered.
This course delves into the causes, symptoms, statistics, research, and treatment of psychological disorders. Students work individually and in groups to explore these topics and conduct independent research. After learning the concepts and research methods used in abnormal psychology, students are asked to apply these principles. They work independently to deepen their understanding of selected topics, using resources available through the Internet, school library, and the clinical community of Los Angeles. Students are graded on understanding of the material and ability to expand on its implications for individual lives and human development.
Criminal Law and Advocacy
This course addresses overarching issues in criminal law, including origins of the Anglo-American system, fundamental Constitutional protections (proof beyond a reasonable doubt, right to a trial by a jury of peers, protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, right of habeas corpus, right against self-incrimination, right to confront witnesses, and due process), issues of criminal responsibility (diminished capacity, the insanity defense, and duress) and proof (reliability of eyewitness evidence and confessions and the role of expert and forensic evidence). The course includes a field trip to observe a criminal trial. Topics are addressed through mock-trial simulations, readings and media materials, guest speakers, and a required original research project.
Race, Identity, and Law in American Society
This course analyzes how law and history have combined to create the social construction of race and racial hierarchy in the United States. Contemporary analysis of racism in America finds that it less often takes the form of explicit aggression typified by Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan and instead is expressed through implicit bias, microaggressions, colorblindness, and unconscious systematic behaviors that result in unequal access to resources and justice. Such disparities are created by legal, economic, social, and political structures. Because law is so closely intertwined with economics, politics, and society, it is an excellent vehicle for understanding how systems and institutional biases are created. By examining the historical and legal evolution of race in America, students hone their historical analysis skills, explore how race functions in society and within their own lives, conduct legal analysis, study the media's representation of identity, and build communication skills needed to discuss race.
Los Angeles in Fact and Fiction
This multimedia look at the history and regional identity of Los Angeles leads students from its early beginnings as a Spanish land grant to present visions of the city as both utopic and dystopic. Through histories, novels, short stories, and cinema, students are presented with contrasts between the Los Angeles of popular imagination and its often rugged realities. Classes include lectures, student-led discussions, guided viewings, and debates. Topics include the city's Mexican-American roots, the politics of water and real estate, "Hollywoodization" and the marketing of "L.A.," urbanization, and multicultural Los Angeles. Students complete two central projects: an in-depth profile to be presented in class of an important historical site and an independent analysis of a relevant narrative work in fiction or cinema.
Ethics in Theory and Practice
Students examine moral issues of everyday life and ask questions about character, conduct, and social justice against the backdrop of ethical writings from the fifth century BCE to philosophers of today. Major ethical theories of Western tradition as well as some Eastern views are discussed and applied to human dilemmas and current problems. Actions reflective of individual or social values, which may include integrity, justice, responsibility, and respect, are debated. Students come to understand the ethical implications surrounding individual and social experience and relationships through critical reading and applied analysis. This course intends to sharpen the process used to make moral decisions by developing a breadth of perspective, enabling students to employ the wisdom of the past while developing articulate critical perspectives of their own.
Human Conflict: From Intolerance to Genocide
This course explores why human societal relationships can devolve into discord and violence. Using interdisciplinary and critical approaches, students discuss concepts of group identity and societal dynamics and how they can interplay with cultural and historical factors to generate the most devastating of collective human experiences. A seminar-style, case-study approach is used to explore these issues. Methods include reading texts and articles, reviewing other media sources, participating in group work and class discussion, and undertaking a variety of assignments.
Middle East Studies
Students examine the emergence of the Middle East from imperialism to the current upheavals in the region and focus on topics such as Arab-identity politics, Islamic fundamentalism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the impact of Western policies. Students hone in on the twentieth-century experience and assess the region's developments from political, economic, cultural, and ideological perspectives. Whirlwind events following the tragedy of 9/11 conclude the analysis. The Fertile Crescent, Anatolia, the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf, and North Africa serve as the geographical backdrop, while an appreciation of how the monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have shaped the region are interwoven into this area-studies discourse. Readings include popular and scholarly historical surveys, selections from literary works, primary-source documents, and newspaper editorials. Student work includes quizzes, tests, in-class writings, brief oral presentations, and a research paper of moderate length.
Latin America Studies
American society is increasingly intertwined with the whole of the global community, but Latin America holds special significance to understanding local and national issues and circumstances. Its connection to economic and political matters and its social and cultural influence on the United States should lead to a more considered understanding of this neighboring region. For the purposes of the course, "Latin America" is defined as Mexico, Central America, and South America. Students examine the historical, cultural, and societal facets of Latin American countries and peoples, searching for both unique identities and common connections. They then assess the manner in which those identities and connections play out in relation to local and national circumstances. This interdisciplinary course includes literature, music, art, film, articles from various media, guest educators, and local field visits. Students participate in journal work, in-class discussions and presentations, and individual and collaborative projects.
Cross-Cultural Engagement through Filmmaking
This course focuses on developing skills involved in thoughtfully documenting a community and offers students the opportunity to both travel abroad and look at their own city through a new lens. Regardless of location, a complex set of questions arises when attempting to engage people with a camera. By studying the history of documentary films, journalistic ethics, and the role filmmaking can play in social change, students increase their ability to think critically about cross-cultural engagement as well as gain video-production skills. This multi-faceted course prepares students to conduct interviews, use a camera, record sound, and assemble powerful documentary pieces of varying lengths and is particularly suited for students interested in journalism, travel, ethics, and social justice.
Philosophy in Art and Science
The principal goals of this course are to introduce concepts in Western philosophy and a sense of what it means to think philosophically and to begin to see how philosophical thought informs and animates artistic and scientific endeavors. These goals are approached via a central inquiry into the three perceptions of reality: beyond space and time, within space and time, and within ourselves. The course focuses on these central philosophical concepts as articulated by poets, novelists, filmmakers, and playwrights in such works as Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, Oedipus the King, Paradise Lost, and The Decalogue. One text, Philosophy: A Text with Readings, anchors the inquiry while other works, ranging from 2001: A Space Odyssey to A Mathematician's Apology, further the endeavor. As the year progresses, students are asked to develop a research project with a partner or in a small group. The choices of expression for the project include a paper, film, dance piece, or video game.
Ethics and Culture: Gender Studies
This course examines the ethics of gender and sex-based social roles using the work of scholars, filmmakers, and artists. Study of forms of gender, patterns of behavior, and their cultural contexts reveals value conflicts in our society. Students begin by reviewing the history of women and proceed to the history of forms of sexuality (hetero, homo, and transgender) in science and various cultures. A significant part of the course focuses on masculinity and contemporary contexts within Western society. Students prepare two research projects: a history-based paper and an independent project requiring field work presented in a form chosen by the student. The independent project is in lieu of a final examination. Students also prepare material for Women's History Month. This course complements Ethics in Theory and Practice.
Video Game Design
The entire class works as a team to produce and market a video game. Students are introduced to the characteristics of good storytelling, art design, and computer programming as well as business skills, such as project management and market research. Skills are introduced by the instructor and are practiced and reinforced as students work in teams on production. Some students take on a primary role (writer, artist, programmer, etc.) and become teachers and advisors to their peers. Other students serve as generalists who work on various aspects of the game. In this dynamic, most of the learning occurs student-to-student rather than teacher-to-student. However, all students, including specialists, must produce work in multiple aspects of the game's design.
What is religion, and what does it attempt to explain? Is religion distinct from morality, and how does it shape behavior? What, if anything, differentiates religion from spirituality? This course attempts to answer these questions as well as others. Historical origins, central teachings, and devotional practices of seven major religious traditions - Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - are explored in relation to the common themes of human experience. In so doing, this course offers students an introduction to religious literacy: identifying similarities and differences in thought and practices among the traditions and clarifying and articulating one's own religious attitudes and orientations. Traditions are examined not only through readings, but also by visiting devotional spaces, speaking with the faithful, listening to sacred music, and exploring the religion through its relationship with other disciplines.
Playwrights from Margin to Center
Focusing on traditionally marginalized playwrights in American theater, including African-American, Latinx, LGBTQ+, and Asian-American, this course explores how contemporary writers have engaged the ideas of and context behind diversity, equity, and inclusion. Through survey-style texts and project-based learning, this seminar aims to create a forum in which students can read and write about, discuss, and create performances from the changing landscape of both our school and society as a whole. The course reinforces positive changes around language, cultural appropriation, oppression, sexism, homophobia, and racism. Students attend a local professional production and take advantage of other experiential learning opportunities.
Students develop leadership skills as well as an understanding of the nature of innovation. Two leadership texts, Peter G. Northouse's Leadership: Theory and Practice and Joseph C. Rost's Leadership for the Twenty-First Century, serve as springboards for challenging conventional narratives about leadership. Leadership is examined through the lens of multiple disciplines via the exploration of works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas L. Friedman, Malcolm Gladwell, Steve Jobs, and Michael Lewis. Students are exposed to the nature of leadership through in-class activities ranging from simulations and guest lectures to improvisational comedy workshops, role plays, and public-speaking exercises. Students are assessed on the synthesis, evaluation, and application of course materials. In general, this course teaches students to focus more on questions of "How?" and "Why?," rather than on "What?" Assessments include written tests, frequent class presentations, group projects, and public-engagement work such as opinion-editorial articles and partnerships with local non-profit organizations.
This course expands upon the subject matter offered in Psychology and explores concepts such as group dynamics, conformity, cultural influence, and social relations. Unlike the introductory course, Social Psychology requires independent research, both individually and in groups. The first quarter familiarizes students with psychological concepts as well as research methods used in the discipline. In the second quarter, students apply their understanding of these principles by designing and carrying-out research studies and experiments that explore and test the concepts presented in the course. Students work independently to deepen their understanding of selected concepts in social psychology using resources available through the Internet and school library. Students are graded on their understanding of the material and ability to apply it to designing their own practical studies and experiments.
Directed Study: Projects in IS and Research
This course facilitates immersive exploration of interdisciplinary subject matter through directed mentoring by a faculty member and peer consultation and critique. Regular meetings with the instructor and peers provide students with the structure and guidance to develop skills needed to draft project proposals, obtain and organize resources, work individually and in groups to craft the work product, engage in constructive critique through a peer review process, and offer information and ideas in public presentations.
Directed Study: Analysis of Interactive Media
Video games present stories in ways that novels, short stories, and even films cannot. Games provide a world that responds to the player's actions and give players agency and choice. This class explores games as an art form and how their interactivity and mechanics affect players emotionally and psychologically. Students play selected games with strong narratives, write papers, and participate in seminar-style discussions.