Pamela W. Laird, Ph. D. (return to home) University of Colorado—Denver History 4223/5223 Spring 2006
UNITED STATES SOCIETY AND THOUGHT SINCE 1860
Most people no longer study history as a series of dates and names. In the last forty years, how and why people have shaped their lives and choices have increasingly become the preferred subjects in history. This course will examine the cultural lives of people who have lived in the United States since the period of the Civil War, ranging from leading intellectual and political figures to a variety of “ordinary” people.
The dominant characteristic of American culture after the Civil War was a wide-spread, if not universal, expectation of progress. This new and largely secular vision of purpose evolved to become the dominant explanation for what people experienced and justification for what they did. The ideology of progress functioned at the national, community, and individual levels, disseminated through the growing mass media and the advertisements that supported them as well as through the traditional mediation of community leaders. The continuous struggle to reconcile professed ideals with business and political ambitions and actions grew more intense and consumption, and ever increasing consumption filled Americans’ expectations.
As always, class, gender, race, ethnicity, and religious differences generated deep conflicts that people expressed in their ideologies and actions. In addition to studying the lives and thoughts of this period’s dominant culture, we will also explore the diverse groups that left fewer traces but nonetheless contributed to our complex, joint history. We will, therefore, examine the actions and attitudes that a wide range of people developed to meet their needs for work, for human relationships, for philosophical principles, and for enfranchisement, broadly conceived.
Mondays, 4:00 - 5:00, and Wednesdays, 2:35-3:35, in Room KC 554. I am also available by appointment, telephone (303/556-4497), and e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
The following required books are available in the Auraria Bookstore.
• Frederick Lewis Allen. Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s. [any unabridged edition]
• Edward Bellamy. Looking Backward. [any unabridged edition]
• Frederick M. Binder & David M. Reimers, The Way We Lived, vol. 2 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004).
• Burton Bledstein & Robert D. Johnston, The Middling Sort: Explorations in the History of the American Middle Class (New York: Routledge, 2001).
• Howard Zinn. You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994).
These articles and chapters are available online at the Auraria Library website, either through the catalog or through online reserves.
• Adam Rome, “‘Give Earth a Chance’: The Environmental Movement and the Sixties, American Historical Review 90, no. 2 (September 2003): 525-554.
• Ruth Rosen, The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America (New York: Viking, 2000), pp. 295-344.
• Chester J. Pach, Jr., “And That’s the Way It Was: The Vietnam War on the Network Nightly News,” in David Farber, ed., The Sixties: From Memory to History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), chapter 3.
In addition, everyone will find a basic textbook useful for background.
(1) Class attendance and punctuality, as well as thoughtful participation. Out of consideration for your colleagues, please turn off cell phones before class begins and do not bring meals into the classroom.
(2) A midterm exam plus a final examination. All questions on the midterm exam will call for short essays. The final exam will also include two major essay questions.
(3) A term paper that presents an analysis and argument on some issue that the course material raises. Students may feel free to explore alternatives and to suggest various subjects for their projects. Prior approval in writing will be required for all subjects, however. This is a safeguard to prevent your spending valuable time on unmanageable or inappropriate subjects. See outline on page two for due dates. Papers must follow departmental guidelines; any paper not doing so will lose a full letter grade. See pages 4-6 and 8 for details on this project.
(4) Observation of the UCD History Department’s style and plagiarism guidelines.
The UCD History Department’s plagiarism policy:
The History Department assumes that all work is your own. Any words of ideas that you take from another source, including lectures or outside assistance, need to be acknowledged or cited. Not doing this is considered plagiarism. Plagiarism includes absence of attribution when quoting sources; rewording another person’s ideas and implying they are your own; utilizing the argument or structure of a text without citation; attempting to conceal the degree to which a source has been used; obtaining work from a website and submitting it as your own; and submitting the work of another student, with or without that student’s permission. Plagiarists may face failure of the specific assignment, failure of the entire course, and referral for University discipline, which may result in suspension or expulsion. As these rules merely reflect common sense and ethics, ignorance cannot mitigate the plagiarist’s culpability. For further clarification of the issue, see the University’s Academic Honor Code (<http://www.cudenver.edu:81/gspa/policy/academichonor.html>) or the American Historical Association’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct (<http://www.theaha.org/pubs/standard.htm>#Statement on Plagiarism).
(5) Asking questions and participating in discussions.
Asking questions: Students will sign up for turns at initiating the first round of class discussions by raising one or two (no more) questions based on the readings for that day. This is not to be a formal presentation; it will be evaluated according to how it encourages discussion of the readings. As a general rule, neither asking for comparisons of the past with the present nor asking for predictions of the future leads to helpful discussions. On the other hand, asking for comparisons between periods of the past can be quite fruitful. Of course, anyone can ask questions at any time, and the class will appreciate all thoughtful questions and ideas.
As with any adult learning situation, cooperation and participation are absolutely necessary. Students should take responsibility for absorbing and processing the reading material before class and, therefore, being able to contribute to the collective experience of discussions. Optimal class participation contributes thoughtfully and pertinently to the class discussions; students should gauge the frequency of their contributions according to that guideline.
The ways people have lived and their beliefs and goals and expectations have been the most important ingredients of history. Everything else happens within the contexts of how and why people conduct their lives they way they do. In turn, people’s ideas are profoundly related to the conditions of their lives. For this project, you will analyze an idea or set of ideas in light of the backgrounds, identities, activities, and interests of the people who espoused them. Then you will argue persuasively in favor of those beliefs and their associated social and cultural activities.
For example, the people of European origins who moved westward from the Atlantic coast did so because of a combination of ideas that included both personal and national ambitions. Such moves entailed adventures, privations, and dangers, and they often ended in failure. Who made these moves, and what did they tell themselves and their families to justify taking such risks and making claims on other peoples’ lands? What were the causes and consequences of their decisions? How would you argue in favor of such actions and beliefs? Or would you argue instead on behalf of people who objected and called for reforms or different goals? As another example, Americans have developed and acted upon many different visions that defined the good citizen and person. Who were someone’s
TERM PAPERS (continued)
heroes and role models? Who were their villains? When did they sympathize with others’ plights, and when were they indifferent to or even gratified by others’ difficulties?
For this paper, therefore, first select an ideological position, a set of behaviors, or a social institution that existed in the United States sometime between 1860 and 1980. Second, select or invent a person involved with what you have selected. Then you will need to explore the lives and beliefs of that person or a group of persons who supported or rejected that position, activity, or institution. One productive mechanism for constructing this paper is to explain how a person in the past made and then defended an important personal or public decision. Another mechanism would use your selected person’s ideas to describe one or more people they would assess favorably or unfavorably. Remember, the purpose of this paper is to analyze and to argue from an historical perspective different from your own. Focus on persuasion, not narration or description.
Do not take on the positions of a specific well-known person. Instead focus on someone involved in a major historical shift or event as a relatively ordinary individual, male or female, such as a teacher, a successful or failed businessman, an immigrant, a former slave, a local mayor, a suffragette, a scientist working on germ warfare or a cancer cure, or a member of an extremist group. Other possibilities include a man or woman about to travel west in the late 1870s, a Pinkerton going to break up the Homestead strike, a citizen trying to decide how to vote on a difficult issue, one of your grandparents deciding on a profession, a young man who has been drafted in 1969, or perhaps his mother, and so on. Be careful not to use your knowledge of what actually happened after the dates of your study as part of your evidence.
You should consult both primary and secondary sources, including books and articles, to help you understand the nature of your character’s life and beliefs. The quality of your paper will depend on how well you argue your case from your adopted perspective and how well you demonstrate your understanding of the historical circumstances. Keep in mind that what we now think of as common sense might have been very alien to a person at another time and circumstance. You will not be graded on the positions you take but on how appropriately you develop and contextualize them. Also, very carefully follow the departmental guidelines for writing papers.
Undergraduates’ papers will have two parts. One will detail the results of your research, setting the context for the second part, which will entail a persuasive argument for the position you have selected. The first part will, therefore, explain whose position you are taking and the historical situation in which it was a matter of significance in political, business, or domestic matters. This part will place the issue and its proponents carefully and fully into their historical context. This contextualization should include both the pertinent aspects of daily life as well as the larger historical forces which impinged directly and indirectly on people’s lives, such as wars, disease, migrations, strikes, class interests, technological developments, religious beliefs, attitudes towards gender, family, and so on.
The form that your argument takes is up to you. You may simply write an essay, or you may attempt to persuade your audience through a letter, a sermon, diary entries, or a dialogue. You can also prepare a briefing paper for a novelist or screen writer. Your advocacy of a position for this paper need not be genuine, although that might help you to write more convincingly.
TERM PAPERS (continued)
Graduate students will write two additional sections. In one they will argue for a position in opposition to but contemporary with that taken in part two. This position must be briefly contextualized as well. In a fourth section they should provide a final analysis of the issue from their own perspectives as present-day historians. I will happily consider other formats.
Length: Undergraduate papers should be ten to twelve pages long, graduate papers twenty-five to thirty pages. All students will also provide an annotated bibliography at the end of their essays that lists the works consulted and, in one or two sentences, why each one did or did not help your work. The bibliography will not apply toward the minimum page count.
See the attached rubric for guidance regarding standards for grading. (page 8)
GRADING AND ADMINISTRATIVE DETAILS:
(1) Grade evaluations will include class participation and deportment as well as attendance and punctuality. Tardiness or leaving early by more than five minutes will also be noted as they substantially disrupt the class as a whole. Assignments must be turned in to me personally and on time in order to guarantee full credit. Maintain at least two electronic copies of all work.
(2) Evidence that you have thought about the assignments and class discussions will provide a major criterion for grading. Show in your papers, exams, and in-class contributions that the readings and discussions have made a difference in your understandings of American cultures and ideas. Apply thoughtful analysis to the questions the course raises. Be prepared to ask and answer questions during each class. See page 8 for a rubric that summarizes the criteria for grading.
(3) There will be no make-ups for examinations for any reason whatsoever other than a documented medical incapacity. Neither medical appointments nor minor difficulties will be acceptable reasons for missing an examination or turning in assignments late.
(5) The proportions for grading are as follows:
Undergraduates: Graduate Students:
Midterm Examination 25% 20%
Final Examination 25% 20%
First version of Term Paper 20% 20%
Final version of Term Paper 20% 30%
Class Participation 10% 10%
Grades of B- are the norm for undergraduates and A- for graduates.