Why We Do This: Our Mission and Our Goal

“Why do we study history?”
“How can all of this stuff that happened in the past really be important today?”
“When are we ever going to use this knowledge?”

Certainly, every social studies teacher encounters these questions from students at some point. After all, we live in a very pragmatic, utilitarian society in which the value of knowledge is often measured in terms of the immediate or obvious financial benefit that it brings. A teenager who already knows how to write computer source code, for example, may see little point in learning about personalities and events that seem to have little bearing upon his ability to become the next great computer tycoon.

Unfortunately, teachers in the various social studies disciplines have found it increasingly difficult in this environment to justify the subjects that they teach, and this only makes it more difficult for students to understand its value. Some teachers turn their classes into vehicles for political advocacy, a platform from which they can “change the world." Others try to “jazz up” their classes with every technological gizmo possible, drawing the short-term interest of the students without really conveying to them the deeper meaning of what they are learning. The fact is that the various social studies subjects are not only absolutely essential to the formation of any mature human being, but may arguably be the most important academic disciplines for a student to explore. It's crucial to recognize the critical roles that a well-rounded social studies education plays in the development of any person.

Knowledge of any kind can be used for good or for harm. The study of history reveals plenty of examples of well-educated people who used their talents to inflict misery, sometimes on a horrific scale. While Jesuit high schools and universities have been known over the centuries as institutions of high intellectual repute, what has distinguished them has been their stress on not only acquiring knowledge, but also on using it properly. The various disciplines within the larger field of social studies provide students not only with essential knowledge, but also with an opportunity to examine — through a plethora of real-world examples from throughout the ages — how knowledge can be used to uplift humanity or as a destructive tool.
This, ultimately, is the overarching duty and mission of the Brophy College Preparatory Social Studies Department. We must invest our time, our attention — indeed, our very selves — to produce young men who not only can compete and interact with society’s sharpest minds, but who will know how to use their knowledge in a practical setting for the greater glory of God.

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  • > The critical roles that a well-rounded social studies education plays in the development of any person...

    Social studies courses are essential to a student’s social growth.
    As human beings, we must physically sustain ourselves and our families and try to achieve our hopes and aspirations in the context of a human society. To function effectively in a complex society such as ours is no simple task in itself, but to prosper within it requires a relatively deep understanding of the dynamics by which society operates.

    Social studies courses are a laboratory for studying human nature. 
    Perhaps nothing else has proven to be such a conundrum for humanity’s greatest thinkers as human nature itself! How human beings produce and cope with ideas and emotions, how they produce great works of art alongside horrific acts of irrationality, and how they navigate through a world in which the grace of God and the forces of evil tug simultaneously every person are questions that can only be answered by examining what human beings have done in various time periods and circumstances. A student who comes to understand and reflect upon human nature through a study of history, political science, and economics will likely grow up to be more emotionally mature and better prepared to be an effective spouse, parent or leader within society.

    Social studies courses are critical to developing an effective apostolate.
    Good intentions alone seldom produce effective, lasting works that truly benefit society. In order to wage an effective Christian apostolate in this complex world, any student must have at least some understanding of how its power structures work, how its economic systems function, and how the lives of ordinary people on a day-to-day basis come to be shaped and changed. St. Ignatius of Loyola himself insisted that the members of his order become especially well-educated in the academic disciplines of his time. Only a person educated in the ways of the world could penetrate its various structures and institutions and effectively bring souls to God, remedying the world's physical and spiritual injustices in the process.

    Social studies courses teach vital communication skills.
    Since most of the vital written and verbal communication in which students will engage as adults will occur in a broad social setting — whether in the workplace, in politics, in journalism or in countless other areas — it is essential for students to know how to communicate effectively in those various social contexts. The writing that students learn how to do in their social studies courses will make them more effective communicators by teaching them how to phrase and defend arguments accurately and persuasively, to avoid making vague or hasty generalizations, and to use with precision the terminology they will need to master for the future.

    Social studies courses unite all other fields of study.
    Nothing brings together into a practical context all of the various fields of study with the same clarity and effectiveness as do the various social studies fields. The study of history, for example, brings together the great artistic and literary achievements of humanity, the often-liberating yet sometimes-tragic effects of its scientific discoveries, the importance of mathematical precision, the beauty of human emotions and the practical implications of philosophy and theology. Students who are accustomed to “compartmentalized” learning, in which subjects are learned in very specialized settings, may fail to see the real-world connections among the subjects that they learn if they do not get an effective social studies education.
  • > Forming students who will make effective citizens, leaders, learners and apostles...

    Effective Citizens
    A complete education must not only provide students with the intellectual base necessary to be an effective citizen, but also must prepare students to act on that knowledge in whatever walk of life they choose. Our department seeks, therefore, to produce students who are able to...
    • Analyze on a deep level the base assumptions of the culture in which they live, comparing and contrasting these assumptions with those of other cultures.
    • Grasp the complexity and practical ramifications of such common social “buzzwords” as democracy, liberty, equality and freedom.
    • Discern where their own talents can best be used in the real world.
    • Understand the mechanics of our own society well enough to provide solid teaching and training to any children whom they may have someday.
    • Appreciate the value of patriotism while still being able to critique — honestly and openly –—the society and system within which they live.

    Effective Leaders
    So many of the worthy achievements of humanity over its history were made possible only because of the initiative, vision and capability of individual leaders. What incoming students often fail to see, though, is that leadership is not something that must always take place in an organized political or corporate setting; rather, leadership can be exercised in virtually any walk of life, with the prime tools of leadership being our words and our example. We thus aim to produce students who...
    • Understand the importance of personal example as a form of leadership.
    • Grasp the challenges and responsibilities that characterize any social or political leadership role.
    • Appreciate just how essential leadership — in all forms — is to any effort to remedy social injustice or to achieve any form of social advancement.
    • Understand how the structures of power operate in various types of societies and systems, along with the opportunities for positive action that each presents.
    • Have the courage, acumen and diplomatic skill to challenge prevailing notions and injustices and to propose constructive solutions to social dilemmas.

    Effective Learners
    The Ignatian approach to education has long called for students to be formed into lifelong learners, for we cannot fulfill our potential as human beings or bring about the greater glory of God here on Earth if we abandon the “learning mentality” upon graduation. With an eye to preparing students for college in the short-term, and for the role of a lifelong learner over the longer term, the Social Studies Department seeks to produce students who are able to...
    • Communicate effectively through the written and spoken word using a well-developed vocabulary and adhering to the rules of the English language.
    • Synthesize information from different contexts and draw logical conclusions from it.
    • Critically evaluate real-world situations and hypothetical scenarios where the dynamics of human nature are involved.
    • Read, interpret and evaluate both primary and secondary sources accurately.
    • Perform effectively within a variety of classroom and pedagogical formats.
    • Carry out research with thoroughness, accuracy and scholarly integrity.
    • Grasp the nature of the common cause-and-effect relationships that are the basis of so many of the social studies fields.

    Effective Apostles
    St. Ignatius of Loyola, of course, saw quite clearly that educated apostles would make effective apostles, for many areas of human life and society can only be sanctified by people who have the intellectual background and real-world savvy to penetrate them. The Second Vatican Council would essentially expand upon his thinking four centuries later. Contrary to the countless misinterpretations and distortions of the Council’s words and intentions, the heart of its message was the idea that the time has come for the laity to assume a much greater role in sanctifying the world through the numerous forms of lay apostolates. The Social Studies Department, therefore, aims to produce students who...
    • Understand the potential of any honest occupation or vocation as a means of apostolate.
    • Perceive the nature of the struggle within the human soul as it shows itself in the events and actors in both history and current events.
    • Understand and be able to apply in their studies the authentic social teachings of the Catholic Church.
    • Grasp, through the examples of people whom they study, the need for personal virtue and holiness as a foundation for any apostolate.
    • Know the basic doctrines and historical dynamics of a variety of religious traditions, along with the apostolic opportunities and challenges that religious pluralism entails.
  • > Summer Reading

    For more information on 2021 summer reading requirements, click here.
  • > Textbooks, Resources and Course Descriptions

Social Studies Department Faculty

Meet the Department Chair, Kelly Guffey

Ms. Guffey attended ASU where she received a Bachelor’s degree in political science and communications. She also has a post-baccalaureate certification in secondary education from Rio Salado College and a Master’s degree in public administration from ASU. Ms. Guffey has been a member of the Social Studies Department faculty at Brophy since 2004. During her time at Brophy she has coached Speech and Debate, moderated several student clubs and has enjoyed getting involved with activities in the Office of Faith and Justice.

602-264-5291, ext. 6284  ||  kguffey@brophyprep.org