King's College Department of History



HISTORY 425

THE UNITED STATES SINCE 1945

HOWARD B. FEDRICK

SPRING 2002



INITIAL OBSERVATIONS and OVERVIEW:

In the history of the United States there is no other historical period which can match the past fifty years plus in shaping the destiny of these United States. The United States Since 1945 has experienced challenge and change at home and abroad which, at times, appeared to threaten the very fundamentals upon which the nation had been built. Traditional ideologies and longstanding institutions were scrutinized and criticized, reevaluated and reformed. In the pursuit of peace around the world the United States secured for itself an unparalleled position in the world at the bargaining table and on the battlefront. And, in this same pursuit, the country experienced armed conflict in Korea, in Vietnam, in the Middle East, and in several other areas of the globe and developed the world's largest military-industrial-scientific complex.Unlike the post-WWI Twenties, the United States chose to play a major role on the international scene throughout the Cold War and beyond.

"Guns and Butter?" was often the underlying question of the economic debates of this period which were framed in such terms as the Fair Deal, the Great Society, Reaganomics, and the Contract With America. With each of these came an examination of the fair and equitable sharing of the American dream and how that might be achieved and what was the appropriate size and scope of government. The period witnessed the phenomenal national and international growth of American business and corporate entities as well the increase of the middle class and those below the poverty line.

During the same period of time an even more rancorous debate has been waged over the blessings of liberty themselves. While the Civil Rights movement challenged the age-old shibboleths of "separate but equal", the voices of feminists, gays and lesbians, young people, and many new immigrants required reexamination of long accepted standards of exclusion. The role of the Supreme Court in the daily life of the citizens of the Republic has been felt as never before in this debate.

Political life assumed a new character aided by the impact of the communication and information revolution in this half century. Our view of politics has also been affected by Presidential assassination, impeachment, and resignation as well as by other significant challenges to the integrity of political leadership since 1945. New forces have arisen in each of the major political parties along with new issues and strong political movements independent of the mainstream, if not wholly alienated by it.

The pursuit of leisure in the period 1945-2000 has opened new avenues of entertainment, sport, and recreation. Television and Hollywood have altered our playtime in dramatic fashion. Art and music have found numerous sources of inspiration as well as audiences as diverse as the nation itself.

IMMEDIATE PURPOSE OF THE COURSE:

It will be the purpose of this course to define and to examine the principal political, social, economic, and cultural forces in this period. And, in examining them, to identify the men and women who gave them currency, and to evaluate their impact on the United States since 1945.Ours is a study of ideas, of institutions, of individuals and of the influences to which they were subject as well as the influences which they exerted and, perhaps, still exert. We cannot hope to examine fully each force yet we should be prepared to view each of those we do examine in the larger context of the period and the larger context of the world. To be sure - this was not a time in which Warren G. Harding would have been content. One cannot use the term "normalcy" to characterize The United States Since 1945.

Properly approached and undertaken, this course should provide celebration and critique. It examines achievements and failures; triumphs and tragedies; hopes and frustrations. It cannot lay claim to prognostication yet it should offer guidance and direction in shaping the future. The study utilizes static data to evaluate and to analyze the dynamic forces and ideas by which women and men have shaped the American story of their times and of our times as we approach a new century and a new millennium. As a matter of fact, it is the study of how men and women created the United States of America in the second half of the 20th Century - the American Century.

GOALS/OBJECTIVES:

  1. To identify the principal political, social, economic, and cultural forces which shaped this period of American history;
  2. To identify the more significant women and men responsible for challenging, creating and sustaining the growth and development of the character of the United States in this period;
  3. To identify the impact which the external and internal crises and confrontations in this period had on the growth and development of American history;
  4. Finally - to evaluate the ideas, institutions, and individuals studied as a means to better understand and to evaluate the character of the American republic as well as the cross currents in this Republic at the end of the 20th Century.

REQUIRED TEXT READINGS:

Promises To Keep: The United States Since World War II (Second Edition). Paul S. Boyer. Houghton Mifflin Co.:New York. 1999.
Major Problems In American History Since 1945 (Second Edition). Robert Griffith, Editor. D.C.Heath and Co.:Lexington. 2001.

REQUIRED COLLATERAL READINGS

Several collateral readings will be assigned during the semester to complement the text and lecture. These readings will be made available in class and it is expected that they will be completed prior to discussion of the material in class lectures.

WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTS

Three(3) brief papers/reports will be assigned. Guidelines for each paper/report will be distributed as appropriate. Exploration of various original research resources including the library and the World Wide Web will be encouraged in the completion of these assignments. You will be expected to demonstrate proficiency in applying the writing and critical thinking developed in CORE 110 and CORE 100. All students will be expected to submit papers in typed or word processed form. Handwritten work will NOT be accepted. Papers not submitted on time will be severely penalized; the highest possible grade will be a "C".

The third paper will also require oral presentation, discussion, and defense in the second half of the semester. A schedule will be established for this purpose at an appropriate time.

WEB RESEARCH PROJECT ASSIGNMENT

It will be the obligation of each student to participate in the research for and review of The United States Since 1945 Web Page(s). The details of this assignment will be distributed and explained/discussed early in the semester. While each student will be responsible for and receive credit for his/her individual contributions to this project, we shall work as a "committee of the whole" to accomplish the final product.

TESTS

There will be three (3) written tests given during the semester including the final examination. The first two tests will be announced in class at least ten (10) days in advance. The third (final) examination will be given according to the Registrar's examination schedule. The tests will be based on the lectures and assigned reading materials and it is expected that integration of the reading will be demonstrated in test responses. The general structure of the tests will be essay. Each test will be non-comprehensive and will review the most recent materials covered.

CLASSROOM PARTICIPATION

Regular participation - asking or responding to questions, volunteering one's own ideas or arguments, sharing evidence - is EXPECTED from each student! Participation will be weighed positively in the overall semester grade evaluation as a growth/development factor. It is not my intention to lecture during every class period. Background in CORE 130 and CORE 132 as well as the assigned readings should provide each student with the raw materials from which active classroom discussions can develop.

ATTENDANCE

You are expected to attend classroom lectures/discussions on a regular basis. The rules of the College regarding class attendance will be followed strictly. You are responsible for all materials discussed in lectures and classroom discussions. MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE ABSENCE of THREE (3) - excused OR unexcused. Three consecutive absences or a pattern of absence over a three week period will initiate an Excessive Absence Report to the Office of Student Affairs. It is to be correctly assumed that it will be impossible to receive a grade which is higher than the percentage of days attended without significant reasons. Absence on the day of a scheduled test will not be excused unless a serious reason has been explained to the professor (in advance, if possible) and arrangements for a make-up test are made within five (5) class days of the scheduled test. It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to arrange the make-up with the professor. It should not be presumed that absence on a test day will automatically permit a re-test.

SEMESTER GRADE EVALUATION

The determination of the final semester grade will be based on the successful completion of all requirements for the course using numerical values as follows:
Tests: Test I, II, III - 20 points each
Written Assignments - 15 points each
Web Research Assignment - 10 points
Participation - 5 points

The professor's grading scale to be used is as follows:
A+ = 98    A = 95    A- = 92
B+ = 88    B = 85    B- = 82
C+ = 78    C = 75    C- = 72
D+ = 68    D = 65    F = 59

OFFICE CONTACT / OFFICE HOURS

Learning is not achieved only within the confines of a classroom. To that end be advised of the following:


GENERAL COURSE OUTLINE: TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION

  (Subject to amendment by instructor)

THE FAIR DEAL and THE COLD WAR

THE SIXTIES: CHALLENGE and CONFRONTATION AT HOME and ABROAD

THE DISCO DECADE: ALIENATION, ANGER, MALAISE, and STUDIO 54

WHILE AMERICA DREAMED: "THE RETURN OF JOHN WINTHROP"

A NEW WORLD ORDER or THE TWENTIES REVISITED?

Howard B. Fedrick

History Department

King's College

Last Updated November 2, 2001