History Department

Program Philosophy & Goals

A clear understanding of the guiding principles and ultimate objectives of the History-Social Science Preparation Program is crucial to the success of students who enroll in it. They and the faculty who teach them should share a vision of what it means to be well educated. This is not to say that dissent has no place in the program -- indeed, critical inquiry and debate are fundamental to intellectual and moral growth. But a distinct and foundational understanding of the rationale for, and goals of, the program is basic to the commonality of each student's education. The philosophy and goals of the program, developed by a committee comprised of history and social science faculty, are based on the California State Department of Education's History-Social Science Framework and the American Historical Association's Liberal Learning and the History Major(opens in new window).


The fundamental principle underlying the History-Social Science Preparation Program is a belief that the student of history is a traveler in many lands. Like all travel, study of the past is a broadening and enriching experience: no field is alien to history, since in essence it encompasses all that is known about the past.

The study of history involves the acquisition of knowledge, the development of understanding, and the cultivation of perspective, through exposure to cultural differences, varied evidence, and conflicting interpretations. The historical process -- engaging with ideas, examining data, weighing points of view, and reaching conclusions -- promotes intellectual curiosity, sharpens critical thinking skills, and encourages coherent expression. The study of history is, in other words, central to the pursuit of a liberal education.

In concert with the social sciences -- geography, economics, political science, anthropology, sociology, psychology -- history offers the opportunity to explore connections among individuals, ideas, and institutions; to compare behavior, cultures, and epochs; and to reflect upon the consequences of values, policies, and actions. Together these disciplines make our society and world comprehensible, and help prepare students for the role of informed, active, responsible citizens.

The specific contours of the History-Social Science Preparation Program are shaped by the distinct design of the secondary school curriculum. We recognize, however, that not all students who complete the program will pursue careers in teaching, and have therefore incorporated within it a major in history that can open a variety of options to students. The goals of the program are fashioned to address the needs of both groups, and are reflective of the broader values and objectives described above. They function as guiding principles in making advising, curricular, and teaching decisions.


  1. To focus upon concepts, methods, issues, and values that are fundamental to, and significant within, history and the social science disciplines.
  2. To stimulate intellectual curiosity and encourage rigor in the process of mastering content.
  3. To equip students to discover, interpret, and report historical evidence.
  4. To encourage students to integrate knowledge from different fields and disciplines, and undertake cross-cultural comparisons.
  5. To promote an awareness of the variety of human experiences and the diversity within the human community.
  6. To model an assortment of appropriate teaching, learning, and evaluative strategies.
  7. To provide effective coordination, advising, and assessment.