Texas Wesleyan University Course Syllabus

Fall 2018

Course: HIS 2324-31 Modern American History, 1877-present



Christopher Ohan




PMC 244

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 Mon/Wed 11-1 (in ASC), Tue 9-12, 4-6, Thurs 9-12, or by appointment

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This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose…. “All men are created equal”—“government by the consent of the governed”—“give me liberty or give me death.”… In their name Americans have fought and died for two centuries, and tonight around the world they stand there as guardians of our liberty, risking their lives. –Lyndon B. Johnson (1965)


About the Instructor: See Blackboard.


Course Description:  “This course will enable students to develop and demonstrate an adequate survey knowledge and understanding of American geography, politics, society, culture, economics, ideas, and beliefs from 1876 to the present.”  [Another way to put it: A survey of major internal and external developments and trends in U.S. history after the Civil War/Reconstruction period and from its rise as a global power in the Spanish American War to the present.  Relying on lecture and class discussion of source material, this class will focus on the importance of ideas for the period surveyed.]


Course Learning Outcomes: Students should be able to demonstrate a basic understanding of US history since the 1890s; use historical comparison as an analytic tool; recognize the different interpretations of US history; appreciate and interpret multiple forms of evidence (textual, visual, oral, statistical, artifacts from material culture); differentiate between the major primary and secondary sources used in interpreting modern US history and understand how each is used.


This course is required as a partial fulfillment of the 12 credit hour GEC requirement in Cultural Literacy.


Learning Objectives                                                                                          Program Goals


Objective 1: Students completing this course should be able to demonstrate a basic understanding of the major events in US history since the 1890s.

1. Develop a general knowledge of human history, including a basic chronology of both western and non-western societies covering time periods from the ancient to the modern.

Objective 2: Student ought to be able to use historical comparison as an analytic tool; recognize the different interpretations of the various themes within this half world history.

2.  Understand Historical Interpretation and Historiography.


Objective 3: Students should appreciate and interpret multiple forms of evidence (textual, visual, oral, statistical, artifacts from material culture); differentiate between primary and secondary sources and understand how each is used via

a.        reading essays and primary sources relative to the period

b.        writing DBQ essays using primary sources.

c.        using computer software to produce all assignments.


3. Learn the various skills associated with the craft of history. These skills include:

a. Reading Comprehension and Cognitive Skills

b. Historical Thinking Skills

c. Research Skills

d. Written Communication Skills

e. Oral Communication Skills

f. Computer Literacy


Entrance Competencies: Students are expected to poses good reading comprehension, basic writing, logical and rhetorical skills, ability to listen and take notes.


Required Materials:



All materials are found in Blackboard (as well as the Readings page on my personal site)


The American Yawp




Instructional Methods/Class Format:  The term is divided into 3 units.  Each consists of 8-10 lessons (or modules) containing the following: a lecture/video, reading(s), and assignment.  You are responsible for listening/watching each lecture video and completing the readings.  After the lecture and readings, you will answer a question prompt for each lesson; these are the “assignments” listed below and your grade is solely dependent on their completion. 


Workload Expectation:  Each lesson lecture (MP4) is approximately 40-55 minutes in duration.  While it’s not usually necessary to watch, I do expect students to listen.  Most lessons have reading amounting to 4-8 pages, some have no additional reading at all.  I expect that you spend enough time on the writing assignments so that what you turn in is grammatical, logical and addresses the question prompt.  If you have trouble with grammar/writing, please take advantage of the Academic Success Center.




Tests:  There are no tests in this class.


Assignments:  Except for the first, each lesson/module (see schedule) will have a writing assignment.  These short papers—of approximately 250-300 words—will be the basis of your grade in this class.  Each module will have a question prompt based on information from the lecture and readings.  It is incumbent on you to listen to the lecture and read the relevant documents so that you can answer the question(s) asked.  All writing assignments will be marked according to the Module Writing Assignment rubric, which assigns value based on the following criteria:


1.       Information from the lecture (25%)

2.       Information from the readings/documents (25%)

3.       Mechanics of writing an essay (25%)

4.       Answering the question(s) asked (25%)


Submitting Assignments: All assignments will be submitted through the Turnitin assignment link in each lesson module.


Due Dates: All assignments for each unit are due in Blackboard by 11:59 pm on the following dates: Unit One (2-11) assignments by September 23; Unit Two (12-19) assignments by October 21; Unit Three (20-29) assignments by December 2.


Writing for this course should employ standard academic formatting—double spaced, 12-point Times font, 1-inch margins all around—with parenthetical citations.  Unless specified, none of the assignments asks you to draw on information other than the lectures and readings/documents.  Please read/understand this as “You will not use material other than that assigned for this class to complete the assignments.”  Therefore, no bibliography or works cited page is necessary. 

    If you need help with this see the guides on the links page of the class website, the Wesleyan library or the instructor.  Correct use of source information and citations is assumed on the college level.  Failure to cite or format correctly will result in a lower grade.  See Grading Guidelines on the class webpage for specific grading criteria regarding work. 


Late Submissions:  All assignments for each unit are due in Blackboard by 11:59 pm on the following dates: Unit One assignments by September 23; Unit Two assignments by October 21; Unit Three assignments by December 2.  Please do not waste time with excuses; just get assignments turned in.


Instructor Feedback: All feedback will be included in my critique of your lesson assignments in Turnitin’s Feedback Studio.  For other feedback, please send me an email or come by during my office hours.


Evaluation and Grading:  Your grade for the semester is solely based on the averages of assignments in each unit according to the following scheme.  Unit One 30%, Unit Two 30%, Unit Three 40%.  I follow the traditional percentage for determining grades: A=95-90 Excellent, B=89-80 Above Average, C=79-70 Average, D=69-60 Below Average, F=59 and below Poor.


Attendance As this is an online course, you are expected to complete (turn in) each unit’s assignments by 11:59 pm on the following dates: Unit One assignments by September 23; Unit Two assignments by October 21; Unit Three assignments by December 2.  Please keep in mind that this is an online course.  Students are responsible for having and using reliable technologies to fulfill course requirements. Assignments missed due to student technical problems (e.g., ISP connection, memory, modem speed, etc.) may NOT be made up. The last date to drop is Tuesday, November 13.


Texas Wesleyan University Policies:


    Academic Integrity


Familiarize yourself with Wesleyan’s Student Code of Conduct.  Academics are not only devoted to learning, research, and the advancement of knowledge, but also to the development of ethically sensitive and responsible persons. By accepting membership in this class, you are joining a community characterized by free expression, free inquiry, honesty, respect for others, and participation in constructive change.  All rights and responsibilities exercised within this academic environment shall be compatible with these principles. 


Academic Dishonesty is a breach of the Student Code of Conduct.  Dishonesty includes:

1.     Plagiarism, representing the work of another as one's own work;

2.     Preparing work for another that is to be used as that person's own work;

3.     Cheating by any method or means;

4.     Knowingly and willfully falsifying or manufacturing scientific or educational data and representing the same to be the result of scientific or scholarly experiment or research;

5.     Knowingly furnishing false information to a university official relative to academic matters;

6.     Soliciting, aiding, abetting, concealing, or attempting conduct in violation of this code.


Academic Dishonesty will not be tolerated in this course. Any offense will result in an F in the class (not simply on the assignment) and be referred to the appropriate academic officials for adjudication. If you have any questions regarding this subject please see me.  For a detailed description and further clarification, please see the link for “Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty” on my website, the 2017-2019 Wesleyan Catalog (p. 84-86), or the Student Handbook.


Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)


·   Texas Wesleyan University adheres to a disability policy which is in keeping with relevant federal law. The University will provide appropriate accommodation as determined by the Director of the Counseling Center, Dr. Michael Ellison. Students must notify instructors of any permanent or temporary disabilities and must provide documentation regarding those disabilities prior to the granting of an accommodation. For assistance, students should consult with Dr. Ellison at mellison@txwes.edu or via phone at (817) 531-7565.


·   Course syllabi are intended to provide students with basic information concerning the course. The syllabus can be viewed as a 'blueprint' for the course; changes in the syllabus can be made and students will be informed of any substantive changes concerning examinations, the grading or attendance policies and changes in project assignments.


Unified Discrimination and Harassment Reporting (Including Title IX)


As noted in the catalog under the Unified Discrimination and Harassment Policy, Texas Wesleyan University is committed to providing an environment free of all forms of prohibited discrimination and sexual harassment.  If you have experienced any such discrimination or harassment, including gender- or sex-based forms, know that help and support are available from the following resources:

  Complete online incident report at https://txwes.edu/incident-report-form/

  Contact Campus Conduct Hotline (24 hours a day): (866) 943-5787

  Campus security (24 hours a day): (817) 531-4911

  Dean of Students: deanofstudents@txwes.edu OR (817) 531-4872

  Please be aware that all Texas Wesleyan University employees, other than designated confidential resources (i.e., Community Counseling Center) are required to report credible evidence of prohibited discrimination or harassment to the University’s Title IX Coordinator, or to one of the Title IX Assistant Coordinators.  If you wish to speak to someone confidentially, please contact the Community Counseling Center at (817) 531-4859 to schedule an appointment.


Note: Course syllabi are intended to provide students with basic information concerning the course. The syllabus can be viewed as a “blueprint” for the course; changes in the syllabus can be made and students will be informed of any substantive changes concerning examinations, the grading or attendance policies and changes in project assignments.




My Goal in teaching this class is not that you “learn” the modern history of the US.  (Learning about the past is, however, an important consequence.)  Rather, my goal is to teach you how to think critically about the past which is more useful.  For our purposes, therefore, ideas will hold precedence over facts, dates, and the like.  It is important that you consider the writing assignments an open forum for discussion—of anything related question(s)/topic being addressed.  (Of course, any argument must be supported.)  While I may challenge beliefs/perspectives in my comments and questions asked, realize that my purpose is not to change them, but merely to take you out of your comfort zone (to offend you, so-to-speak) so that you can think critically about them.  A perspective of tolerance is fundamental in any academic environment.  Remember—this is a college course where you ought to be able to discuss things openly, critically, and intelligently. 



Class Schedule: I recommend that you stay current with the lessons (as per the dates listed below.) 

                (“Chapter” refer to the American Yawp and are simply the chapters where relevant information about a given topic. All other items (lectures, readings, assignments) are accessible in the individual lesson module in Blackboard.  The question prompts are listed below in red but are also listed as the assignment in each lesson module.)



Unit One


1 (8/20)

Introduction to the Course

2 (8/22)

Isolation to Empire (Yawp Chapters 19)

Based on the information in the lecture and the readings, explain whether or not the US could justify the acquisition of overseas territory.

3 (8/24)

The Gilded Age (Yawp Chapters 18, 20)

Explain the contradictions inherent in the Gilded Age as demonstrated by the attitudes of Carnegie and Gompers.

4 (8/27)

The Progressive Era (Yawp Chapter 20)

Explain what is meant by “Progressive” and then show how Addams, Sinclair and DuBois can each be classified as such.

5 (8/31)

Wilson and the Great War (World War I) (Yawp Chapter 21)

Begin with an overview of Wilson’s reasons for entering the war.  Then argue whether or not he was ultimately successful at achieving his goals.  (Remember that arguments rely on evidence.)

6 (9/4)

Society in the 1920s (Yawp Chapter 22)

Describe the climate of fear as explained in the lecture and show how that fear was manifest in attitudes toward immigrants and change in general.  Conclude by connecting any of these fears to social issue(s) present in the US today.

7 (9/7)

Politics in the 1920s (Yawp Chapter 22)

Explain the significance of mass production in the US in the 1920s.

8 (9/10)

Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression (Yawp Chapter 23)

Based on information from the lecture, explain the cause(s) of the Great Depression.  Then, using the Lesueur document, provide a depth its effects on ordinary Americans.

9 (9/14)

Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal (Yawp Chapter 23)

FDR and Hoover and very different ideas about resolving the Great Depression.  With each we have a glimpse of different political perspectives.  Drawing on the information from both (in this lecture as well as the previous one) explain both the Republican and Democratic philosophies of government.

10 (9/17)

Introduction to World War II (Yawp Chapter 24)

Explain the origins of the Second World War in Europe and, then, how the US became involved in that conflict.

11 (9/21)

The US and World War II (Yawp Chapter 24)

The Second World War is generally thought of as a triumph for the US.  Relying on information in the documents/readings, argue that while the US and its allies did triumph over the fascists and Japan, the country was not immune to the racism and violence that it claimed to be fighting against.

Unit Two


12 (9/24)

Introduction to the Cold War (Yawp Chapter 25)

Based on the documents as well as the lecture, explain the US policy position toward the USSR/Communism by the end of 1947.

13 (9/28)

The US and the Early Cold War (Yawp Chapter 25)

The early Cold War produced a climate of fear in the US not unlike that previously discussed in the 1920s.  Explain McCarthy’s position and argue whether or not he was justified in conducting hearings to discover communists in the US.

14 (10/1)

Vietnam (Yawp Chapter 25)

Considering the threat of communism in Vietnam, was the US justified in a) denying Ho Chi Minh’s claim for independence and, b) prosecuting a war to defeat communism in the country?


15 (10/4)

Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam

After watching this documentary, demonstrate and explain how attitudes toward the war in Vietnam changed from 1964 through the end of the conflict.

16 (10/8)

Cold War: 1950s: Cuba and the Middle East (Yawp Chapters 25, 27)

For this question, put yourself in the position of either Nasser or Castro.  Argue how the US’s position toward you and your country has affected your country’s foreign policy position (i.e. the way you deal with other states).

17 (10/12)

The Cold War and Latin America (Yawp Chapters 25, 27)

The US often stands for ideals, such as those espoused by JFK and Carter.  Explain their ideals and based on information in the lecture, argue whether or not the US lived (or lives) up to those ideals.

18 (10/15)

The End of the Cold War (Yawp Chapters 25, 29, 30)

Who ultimately should get the most credit for ending the Cold War and why?

19 (10/19)

The Post-Cold War Era (Yawp Chapter 30)

By 1991 the US was the lone superpower.  The lack of a competitor brought a whole host of new international problems for the US.  Explain at least one of these problems as it relates to the concept of nationalism.

Unit Three


20 (10/22)

Introduction to the Civil Rights movements (Yawp Chapters 15, 26)

After watching the lecture, explain the idea of equality in the American context.  Then, based on the Till video and the readings, characterize the situation for black Americans until just after World War II.

21 (10/26)

Integration (Yawp Chapter 27)

Using specific examples, explain Martin Luther King, Jr’s non-violent approach to accomplishing civil rights. 

22 (10/29)

Nationalism and Segregation (Yawp Chapter 27)

Argue that Malcolm X’s approach to accomplishing civil rights for African Americans was superior to that of MLK.

23 (11/2)

The Chicano Movement: Militancy and Non-violence (Yawp Chapters 22, 27)

Based on the video and readings, compare and contrast the methods of the Chicano movement for civil rights to that already discussed for black Americans. (While you can discuss method generally for the black movement, you should provide specific information and examples from the Chicano movement in your essay.)

24 (11/5)

The Chicano Movement: La Raza Unida (Yawp Chapter 27)

The advent of La Raza Unida was a unique feature of the Chicano movement.  Why was it successful and why did it work for the Chicanos in a place like south Texas, but would probably not have been successful for blacks in the American south?

25 (11/9)

Women’s Rights I (Yawp Chapters 21, 22)

Describe the various ways that women were empowered during and following the Second World War (up until the early 1960s).

26 (11/12)

Women’s Rights II (Yawp Chapters 27, 28, 29)

Explain how Friedan's The Feminine Mystique (1963) and the Roe v. Wade (1973) case represented two fundamental turning points in the women's civil rights movement.

27 (11/16)

LGBTQ+ Civil Rights (Yawp Chapters 28, 30)

Explain the difference between legal and moral concepts as they apply to a) the US Constitution, and B) the LGBTQ+ movement.

28 (11/26)

Current Issues in Civil Rights: Immigration (Yawp Chapters 29, 30)

Argue that current immigration issues represent the latest phase of civil rights in the United States.

29 (11/30)

An Accounting (Yawp Chapter 30)

Taking all of the civil rights movements we’ve examined into consideration, how can the US come to terms with its own past while, at the same time, not ignore or forget its history?