Last Wednesday was my final day of formal coursework. Ever. I am done — done taking classes, anyhow. Instead, I get to teach them.
For now, I have been assigned to teach a section of the second half of the U.S. history survey. This section of the survey is offered during one of my university’s short summer terms. Classes meet twice a week for five weeks, and each class meeting is four and a half hours long.
I can guarantee you that I will not be lecturing, nor will my students be sitting, for that entire time. There will be breaks. There will be a variety of classroom activities and exercises. And still, there will probably be some (figurative) weeping and gnashing of teeth. However, in five weeks’ time, I do need to be sure we make it from the Civil War to the War on Terror. So there will in fact be content-laden lectures — two per class.
Below is a day-by-day breakdown of lecture topics / titles. There are lots of ways we Americanists can carve our thin little slices of time, but — for now, anyhow — this general arrangement makes sense to me.
Introduction to History: “One damned thing after another”
The Civil War and Reconstruction: Unfinished Revolution(s)?
From Village Islands to Iron Giants: Industrialization Nation
No Place Like Home: Invasion, Immigration, Dislocation
Filthy Rich: The Swanky Swamp of the Gilded Age
The Octopi Movement: Empires at Home and Abroad
There’s a New Woman in Paradise: Economies of Desire
Ponderers, Peddlers, Meddlers, Settlers: The Progressive Search for Order
Western Civilization on Parade: World War I
Fun While It Lasted: Roaring Twenties, Reeling Thirties
Alphabet Soup Kitchen: The New Deal
World War II: Superheroes with Superpowers
Shelter in Place: Cold War Culture
Staking a Claim: Suburban Life and Civil Rights
Making Room and Making Right: Gender, Race and LBJ’s Great Society
Making Peace and Making Love: The New Left and the Counterculture
From Malaise to Morning in America: The New Right and the Reagan Era
The Culture Wars: Where Is the Fight if the Cold War Is Over?
King of the Hill: The Clinton Era and the Global Imperium
World Wide Webs: The Digital Age and the War on Terror
As far as textbooks go, I am not going to assign a survey textbook — that’s what the lectures are for. But I am planning on requiring two books — a very brief overview of U.S. history and an historical atlas — that should cost about $50 altogether. I don’t want to ask my students to spend more than that. And if the atlas doesn’t work out — I should be getting my examination copy any day — they’ll be spending significantly less than that, because I’ll use what’s available online.
Indeed, between my university’s own online resources and the archival material freely available through the DPLA, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, History Matters, and scores of other sites, I have plenty of primary sources I will be assigning to the class. I am even going to have them read a smidgen of historiography — a little Frederick Jackson Turner, a dash of Dunning, a tiny dose of Schlesinger. Just a little — but a little goes a long way.
In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for particular documents/sources you use in your own teaching, please feel free to post a link in the comments below. I won’t be using any film as a secondary source, but I’ll be showing a few film clips and playing a few songs as primary sources. And I will certainly be including this audio clip to introduce my lecture on “Making Room”:
Now that’s some class and gender business goin’ on right there.