About America: Rebels, Heroes & Renegades

The course views historical and contemporary America through the lens of its influential rebels, heroes, and renegades: female and male, ordinary and extraordinary, political and cultural, known and unsung. By studying these people, students learn about the complexity and diversity of the US and gain insight into how it has become such a powerful global force.

The benefits

Stuents at the Unites States Studies Centre
  • Knowledge and understanding of the United States and its impact on the world.
  • Skills in oral and written expression of conceptually difficult ideas and independent critical thinking. These skills will prove useful for other essay-based HSC subjects and debating.
  • After successful completion of the course, students will gain one subject (a six credit point semester-length unit of study) towards a degree in Arts or other combined degree programs at the University of Sydney.
  • The course fee is approximately one-third of the full fee rate for one subject (a six credit point Arts unit of study) at the University of Sydney. Students who gain admission to a degree – which this subject can be credited toward - will not incur a HECS debt or be liable for the full fee for this subject.

How is this course recognised?

America: Rebels, Heroes & Renegades is endorsed as a one-unit option. The course is recognised by the Board of Studies as a Year 11 preliminary unit and forms part of a student’s final HSC record. Board Endorsed Courses are designed for high-achieving students to supplement and extend the HSC curriculum, though the results in these courses are not included in the calculation of the Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR). The result for America: Rebels, Heroes & Renegades will appear on a student’s Record of Achievement and is worth one subject toward an undergraduate degree at the University.

Session times

  • Monday 7 – Friday 11 January 2013, 10am – 2pm
  • Monday 14 – Friday 18 January 2013, 10am – 2pm
  • Saturday 2 February 2013, 10am – 2pm

Each session will include a lunch break. A graduation ceremony will be held on the University of Sydney’s Open Day, Saturday 31 August 2013.

Key ideas

Who are the most significant heroes and rebels in recent American history? Do these people fight for individual freedom or social justice? What do American heroes, rebels and renegades reveal to us about the domestic United States and its global power?

By examining American heroes and rebels this course explores how these individuals reflect and shape the United States, with an emphasis on developing a student’s ability to think critically and develop evidence-based, well-reasoned arguments.

Course outline

  • Understanding the Hero, the Rebel & the Renegade
    Who is a hero or renegade? Who defines heroes and rebels? What role does the American media play in the attribution of these labels? Can a hero be a typical citizen? How are heroes and rebels portrayed?
  • Heroic Journeys & the US in the World
    Is every hero or rebel connected with adventure or a journey? Is there a pattern to the heroic journey? Is the journey of each American hero or rebel equivalent to the journey experienced by the US as a nation in a hostile world?
  • Politicians & Celebrities
    The political landscape includes politicians, presidents, policy makers, journalists, television commentators and military heroes. Are these people celebrities? Can a celebrity be a hero? Is fame a necessary part of heroism? What part do American values and beliefs play in the formation of political heroes?
  • Obstacles to Heroism in the US
    Why are some people denied hero status? Are heroic women and people of colour ignored or forgotten? Does heroic action need to be individual or can it be collective? How does the structure of American society both block and fuel heroism?


Assessment consists of journal entries (1500 words worth 25%); a character profile on a chosen person (1000 words worth 25%); a research essay (2000 words worth 40%); and class participation (10%).

Who should apply?

Any student who has an interest in the topics covered and the ability and aptitude to undertake university-level study is encouraged to apply. The course will be particularly useful for those completing Modern History. Please note only students commencing Year 11 or Year 12 in 2012, are eligible to apply for the course.

How to apply

The application must be given to the student’s school Principal for approval and submission to the United States Studies Centre. Students must also attach a copy of their most recent school report.

Completed applications (including all necessary attached documents) should be sent by the school Principal to the following address:

United States Studies Centre
Institute Building (H03)
The University of Sydney NSW 2006


Applicants will be selected by the course convener on the basis of their past academic record and school Principal’s recommendation of their capacity to meet the demands of the course. This takes into account a candidate’s potential to work at a university-level and their ability to work both in a team and independently.


Offers will be sent out to successful applicants by 12 December 2012. Students will need to accept and finalise payment by 17 December 2012.


The cost of America: Rebels, Heroes and Renegades is $775. Additionally, all students attending the University of Sydney are also liable for the Student Services and Amenities fee (SSA fee) from January 2012. All fees are payable once you are accepted into the course.