U.S. History – High School Course

Course Description

First and foremost, I need to emphasize that our time in co-op is extremely limited and my time with the students should comprise of only a small fraction of this course.  Each parent remains the primary instructor for this course.  I will provide an outline of assignments for the parent-teacher to assign to the student including reading from the assigned textbooks, worksheet assignments and discussion questions.  Since our co-op time will be largely dominated by group discussion and questioning, it is critical that the student come prepared for class each week.  Since you will be working with the student throughout the week, each parent-teacher should be keenly aware of their child’s readiness for the weekly discussion.

I’ve attempted to put together a U.S. History course using a unique approach in order to make the course more interesting and relevant to High School students and their parents.  I will be teaching U.S. History in reverse order starting with current events and working our way back roughly decade by decade to the Civil War in our first semester.  The second semester will start quickly with twenty year periods back to 1800 and then slow down a bit during the critical foundational years of 1790 back to 1750.  We will close the year with a summary of early colonial America.  The last three weeks will be reserved for a grand historical summary and project reports.

During the course I intend to incorporate small pieces of musical history, fashion history, art history and military history into the teaching and research.  As the course concludes, each student will be asked to present a project to the class.  My intent is that this project is completed during the entire year and that it represents no additional work for the student in the flurry of the last two weeks.

“Why”, you may ask, “did you decide to teach history in reverse order?”

I believe that one of the reasons that history can become monotonous and too often filled with date and event memorization is that students and teachers rarely see the relevance of historical fact to their current situations. 

“What does the concept of ‘manifest destiny’, prevalent in the mid 1800’s, have to do with my life today?”

Students are asked to hold on to these concepts, in faith, with a promise that they will see their relevance in later weeks. 

With this “history in reverse” approach, I plan to begin with the relevant current events of our day, and after discussion, begin to ask, “How did we get here?” questions.  Each week, in fact, we will end with several “how did we get here” questions for research for the coming week.  During the year, I hope to provide a new appreciation and understanding of history from this unique approach to teaching.

In order for us to dive directly into work on our first day, I have prescribed the following course prerequisites.

Course PreRequisites

Note:  the reading below is definitely high school level material.  It may contain strong language and adult situations.  I encourage parents to read/watch along with the students.  I expect that this prerequisite work will take some time, so I implore parents to begin working through this material as soon as possible.  Completing a little bit each day during the summer will make your Labor Day plans much less stressful.

Read one of the following: 1984 by George Orwell, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, or The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Read the book of Revelation from the Bible

Read at least one of The Future History series by Robert A. Heinlein and Watch Star Trek: The Motion Picture from 1979.

Watch at least three consecutive weeks of at least two Sunday afternoon news shows – take notes of the issues discussed. (what was the topic, what was the best argument, what was the best counter-argument).  Note whether it was a neutral, optimistic or pessimistic argument and if you can tell what kind of world-view the speaker has.

Week 1 – Future, Worldview

Additional prerequisites 

·        Read SL pages vi-xiii

·        Read KEYS v-vi

Class Preparation for Week 1

Please discuss the following topics with your child(ren) a day or two before our first Co-Op session.

The Future

·        Describe what you honestly believe the future will be like.

·        Is your view of the future an optimistic one, or a pessimistic one?

·        What do you think a Christian future-vision might be like?

·        Which future-vision book(s) did you choose to read?

·        Tell me the storyline.  What future does the writer envision?  Have your child(ren) write down adjectives to describe the future portrayed in the secular books they read. 

·        How does the book of Revelation compare?

The Present

·        Name a current-event that was discussed in the Sunday afternoon talk shows.

·        If you had to take a position on this current event, what would you choose, or what action would you take in response to this current event? 

·        What is the best argument in favor of your position, what is the best counter-argument?

·        Consider some of the questions on pg. 211 of Short Lessons in U.S. History (SL)


Week 1 Co-Op Session


How the course is going to work.

Assignments –       SL (a broad brush, easy assignment for the student) …discuss bias in History books.

                           KEYS (a detailed, historically contemporary view of a single event for you and your parent(s) to review together)

                           Discussion assignment (a series of questions for you and your parents to investigate and discuss together).  The answers will occasionally be found in your reading assignment, but will more often require library or internet research.  Avoid Wikipedia, and always document your sources.

                           Occasionally you will have a special assignment such as an interview to conduct, or an assignment to bring in cultural examples.

Co-Op Session      A general group discussion of prior week’s assignments

                           Major Topic focus

                           Quick overview of next week’s era.

                           Project Presentations

Projects               At the end of each semester we will have a couple weeks in which you will make a project presentation.  For your project, you may work individually, or with one other person.  You may choose any 3 decade time period writing an alternate history based on the “butterfly-effect”.  Your projects will be graded based on creativity, rationale, presentation, and thoroughness.  You may use timelines, false news talk shows, campaign commercials, a court case, congressional action, or any other method to convey your alternate history.

Today’s Co-Op

The Future – Review of Class Prep questions

The Present - Where are we now?  What problems do we face?  How did we get here?  What happened in since the year 2000 A.D. that brought us to this place.

Overview of the 2000’s?


Week 2 – 2000’s

Week 2 Assignment

SL assignment - Student

Complete (SL) pages 199-210. 

KEYS assignments – Student and Parent

Read and discuss the 2002 Joint Resolution

Read and discuss the 2001 Patriot Act

Read and discuss the 2000 Bush v. Gore case that resolved the 2000 Presidential election.


Additional Assignment

Interview one relative (age 28 – 38) about the 2000’s.  Ask them how life would have been different today if one of the above discussed events had not occurred.  Take notes on what trends/fads were new in the 2000’s.

Class Preparation for Week 2 – Student and Parent

Please discuss the following topics with your child(ren) a day or two before our Co-Op session.

We are currently in a difficult economic time.  Why?  If the economy were doing great, how would that affect our present?  What would be different?

President Obama was elected in 2008 on a theme of “Change” and “Hope”.  Why do you think these themes resounded with the American people in the election?  

Why was the election of a person with black skin such a significant issue to some people?

President Obama gained much of his early support with his strong anti-war positions regarding the conflict in Iraq.  Why made this position popular with so many people?

In the 2000’s we were at war in two countries (Afghanistan and Iraq).  Why were we at war?  How did this war affect the U.S.?  Some argued that President Bush did not have the authority to take our country to war.  After reading your KEYS assignment, do you believe the “2002 Joint Resolution..” gave the President the power?

On September 11, 2001, our country was attacked by terrorists.  What happened?  Why did they attack us?  What changed when the U.S. was attacked?  What is the “Patriot Act”?

In the year 2000, George W. Bush was elected President of the U.S.  It was a very unusual election.  What happened?  Why was the election so close?  How could one person get more votes than the other and yet lose the election?  What arguments were presented before the Supreme Court?  A survey after the 2000 election indicated that a large number of people voted for President Bush because he was viewed as being honest.  What do you think may have occurred in the 1990’s that would have made the honesty of the President a “swing” factor in the election?

Other than these events other major events took place?  How did they impact the present? 

Week 2 Co-Op Session

Discuss interview results

Discuss 2000 election dispute and the Electoral College

Week 3 – 90’s


Week 3 Assignment

SL assignment – Student

Note:  SL groups the 1980’s and 1990’s together.  This will happen on a regular basis as such a concise book attempts to cover all of U.S. History.  For this reason, you will be asked scan the relevant chapters for events of the decade(s) we are currently studying.  Where it makes sense, I will lead you to the pages within SL that are most relevant. 

Complete (SL) pages 192-197. 

KEYS assignments – Student and Parent

No KEYS assignments for this week.


Additional Assignments

Read the “Articles of Impeachment” – December 1998 (easily found on the internet).  Use a dictionary for unfamiliar words.


After completing your assignments for the week, make a brief fictional timeline of the 2000’s by changing one major event of the 1990’s.  Be ready to explain your rationale for the fictional events.

Class Preparation for Week 3 – Student and Parent

Why was the election so close in 2000?  What brought us to this point in history?

In 1999 14 students and 1 teacher were killed in Columbine H.S.  Despite the obvious tragedy of this shooting, what were the social impacts of this event.

Also in 1999, President Clinton with NATO ordered a bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.  What was unique about this NATO action?

In 1998 President Clinton was impeached.  What does that mean to be impeached? Read the Articles of Impeachment of Bill Clinton (internet).  President Clinton was not convicted?  Why?

In 1996 a major law suit was filed against tobacco companies.  Why?  There are thousands of law suits filed each year.  What made this one unique?

In 1995 a massive bomb in Oklahoma City killed 168 people.  What made this a significant event in U.S. history?  What did it signify?

Also in 1995 the U.S. Government partially shut down over a budget stand-off between President Clinton and Congress.  What were the issues?

In 1993, eighteen peacekeeping soldiers were killed in an ambush by Somali militiamen in Mogadishu.  What lesson was learned by the U.S.?

Also in 1993 a bomb exploded in the basement garage of the World Trade Center in NYC.  What event did this bombing foretell?

In 1991, following an invasion by Iraq into Kuwait, the U.S. led an international coalition to drive Iraq out of Kuwait, a defeated Iraq accepted the United Nations ceasefire terms.  Throughout the rest of the 1990’s, Iraq continued to defy a large majority of these terms.  The reaction of the U.N. and the rest of the world largely set the stage for the more recent war with Iraq.  What lessons could be learned from this series of events?

Week 3 Co-Op Session

Review timelines and rationale.  Discuss impeachment and U.S. Constitution. 

Week 4 – 80’s

Week 4 Assignment

SL assignment – Student

Note:  SL groups most of the 1980’s and 1990’s together.  This will happen on a regular basis as such a concise book attempts to cover all of U.S. History.  For this reason, you will be asked scan the relevant chapters for events of the decade(s) we are currently studying.  Where it makes sense, I will lead you to the pages within SL that are most relevant. 

Complete (SL) pages 182-192. 

KEYS assignments – Student and Parent

Read and discuss the 1987 Fall of the Berlin Wall

Class Preparation for Week 4 – Student and Parent

1987 is often cited as the year Communism fell.  What is Communism?  It was this year that President Ronald Reagan stood before the Berlin Wall and made the discussion cited in your KEYS study.  Why was such a simple speech so important?  Why was the Berlin Wall a symbol of communism?

In 1986 a government scandal known as Iran-Contra became known?  It was very complex, but what were the basic issues surrounding the scandal?  What were the effects of the investigations?

In 1986, President Reagan won the Presidential election with the largest electoral landslide in U.S. history.  During this campaign, he ran an advertisement known as “It’s morning in America again”.  Watch this ad (available on the internet).  What information did it portray?  What, in U.S. history would make such an ad so effective?

In 1983, the U.S. invaded the small island of Granada.  Why would this happen.  Go beyond the small events to conjecture the “big story” of why we would invade a small island.

In 1982 the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) to the U.S. Constitution failed to win approval.  What did the ERA state and why was it not approved.  How close was its approval? 

In 1981, Ronald Reagan survived an assassination attempt.  Read the account of this attempt from President Reagan’s diary.  What insight does this 1st hand account give you about the Reagan’s values?

Week 4 Handout


Monday, March 30 1981


My day to address the Bldg. & Const. Trades Nat. Conf. A.F.L.-C.I.O. at the Hilton Ballroom – 2 P.M.  Was all dressed to go & for some reason at the last min. took off my rally good wrist watch & wore an older one.

Speech not riotously received – still it was successful.

Left the hotel at the usual side entrance and headed for the car – suddenly there was a burst of gun fire from the left.  S.S. Agent pushed me onto the floor of the car & jumped on top.  I felt a blow in my upper back that was unbelievably painful.  I was sure he’d broken my rib.  The car took off.  I sat up on the edge of the seat almost paralyzed by pain.  Then I began coughing up blood which made both of us think – yes I had a broken rib & it had punctured a lung.  He switched orders from W.H. to Geo Wash. U. Hosp.

By the time we arrived I was having great trouble getting enough air.  We did not know that Tim McCarthy (S.S.) had been shot in the chest, Jim Brady in the head & a policeman Tom Delahanty in the neck.

I walked into the emergency room and was hoisted onto a cart where I was stripped of my clothes.  It was then we learned I’d been shot & had a bullet in my lung.

Getting shot hurts.  Still my fear was growing because no matter how hard I tried to breathe it seemed I was getting less & less air.  I focused on that tiled ceiling and prayed.  But I realized I couldn’t ask for Gods help while at the same time I felt hatred for the mixed up young man who had shot me.  Isn’t that the meaning of the lost sheep?  We are all Gods children & therefore equally beloved by him.  I began to pray for his soul and that he would find his way back to the fold. 

I opened my eyes once to find Nancy there.  I pray I’ll never face a day when she isn’t there.  Of all the ways God has blessed me giving her to me is the greatest and beyond anything I can ever hope to deserve.

All the kids arrived and the hours ran together in a blur during which I was operated on.  I know it’s going to be a long recovery but there has been such an outpouring of love from all over. 

The days of therapy, transfusion, intravenous etc. have gone by---now it is Sat. April 11 and this morning I left the hospital and am here at the W.H. with Nancy & Patti.  The treatment, the warmth, the skill of those at G. W. has been magnificent but it’s great to be here at home. 

Whatever happens now I owe my life to God and will try to serve him in every way I can.”

Week 4 Co-Op Session

Discuss the First Gulf War

Discuss the fall of Communism

Discuss the Reagan revolution – concentrate on peaceful revolutions in general as well as ideological changes.

What led to such an ideological change in the American culture?  From what were we changing?

Week 5 – 70’s

Week 5 Assignment

SL assignment – Student

Complete (SL) pages 178. 

Note:  Scanning pgs. 174-182 may provide answers to some of this week’s questions and provide additional insight.

KEYS assignments – Student and Parent

Read and discuss “Nixon Resigns”


Additional Assignment

Prepare a timeline of the events leading up to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.  Try to determine the “point of no return”, or “tipping point” where the outcome became inevitable.  Change that event and predict an alternate outcome.


Optional assignment:  Watch Star Trek IV:  The Undiscovered Country.  Take note of Spock’s “old Vulcan proverb”.

Class Preparation for Week 5 – Student and Parent

In 1979 the United States recognized that China “existed”.  That sounds strange, until you understand what “recognition” of one country by another implies.  What made it difficult for the U.S. to formally recognize China?  Why was this an issue?

Also in 1979 a popular revolution in Iran overthrew the Shah (king) of Iran and replaced him with a theocracy led by the Ayatollah Khomeini.  In November of that year, a group of students were encouraged by the government of Iran to storm the U.S. Embassy in Tehran Iran.  They took 52 American diplomats hostage.  This became know as the Iranian Hostage Crisis.  Diplomats are considered as “guests” of the country they are serving.  The storming of the U.S. Embassy and taking these “guests” hostage was an intentional insult and challenge to the United States.  What reasons would cause this type of action?  How did the U.S. respond?  What impact did this have on U.S. politics?

Finally in 1979, a nuclear reactor accident occurred.  While no one was hurt and back-up systems functioned well, this near-accident had a major effect on U.S. energy policy.  What was it?  Was it justified?  Who promoted the reaction and why?

In 1978 President Jimmy Carter was able to bring Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin together to sign a peace agreement.  The event signaled the end to a 30 year war between Egypt and Israel.  What impact did this have on the U.S.

In 1976 Jimmy Carter, the plain spoken Governor of Georgia was elected President.  He was an outsider who ran a campaign with the slogan “I will never tell a lie to the American people”.  What in recent history would have made this a particularly effective slogan?  Watch some of the Carter campaign commercials and compare them to the Ford campaign commercials at:  http://www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1952

Also in 1976 our country celebrated our Bicentennial.

In 1975, the Apollo-Soyuz space mission took place symbolizing the policy of détente.  What is détente?

 1974 was a climatic year in U.S. History.  In 1974 president Richard Nixon resigned from office.  Why would anyone give up the most power political office in our country?  The resignation was a result of something known as Watergate.  Although the details of this scandal are pretty complex it is worth understanding the major events in order to appreciate how our government works as well as the impact it had on future presidents.

Also in 1974, the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade was decided by a 7-2 margin.  This case is still hotly debated today and is the course of heated disagreements among politicians and even within families.  It is appropriate that you and your parents look beyond the emotion on both sides of the arguments and be able to defend your position.  There are legal, political, religious, and social consequences to your position on the issue of the legality of abortion.  Discuss these with your parent(s).

In 1973 the Vietnam War ended for the United States.  While this event is a major event the entire topic of the Vietnam War covers several decades and will be handled in detail next week.

In 1972 Nixon visited communist China.  Why was this a big deal?  What does this have to do with Star Trek IV?

Week 5 Co-Op Session

Discuss Watergate – What tipping point did you decide upon?

Childhood memories.

Discuss the Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism

Discuss “only Nixon could go to China” and its relation to Star Trek IV.  Note the value of knowing some history.

How did we get here?

Discuss the division of the 60’s and expectation of work for next week.

Week 6 – 60’s Part 1 of 2

Week 6 Assignment

SL assignment – Student

Complete (SL) pages 169-175. 

KEYS assignments – Student and Parent

Read and discuss “1965 Voting Rights Act”

Read and discuss “1964 Civil Rights Act”

Read and discuss “1961 President Kennedy’s Inauguration”


Additional Assignment

Research stereotypical fashion from the late 60’s.  Bring in an image of a classic example, or if you are hip, wear something from the 60’s.  Be ready to discuss how the fashion reflected the pop culture?

Class Preparation for Week 6 – Student and Parent

In 1969, America landed the first man on the Moon, ending the “Space Race”.  What kind of race was it?  What effect did it have on the American psyche?

In 1968 Richard Nixon won the presidential election on a platform of “Law and Order”.  This proved to be a very effective theme.  What do you think might have been going on in the U.S. to make this so effective?  Review some of the ads from http://www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1968 for Wallace, Nixon and Humphrey.  What did Humphrey stress in his ads?  How was that message different from Nixon’s?

Two assassinations occurred in 1968, Senator Robert Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.  Both of these assassinations had a dramatic effect of people and were signs of growing violence in America.  We will discuss Martin Luther King Jr. in detail when we discuss Civil Rights.

During 1968, the “hippie” culture was in full bloom during the “Summer of Love”.  The youth culture of the 1960’s continually challenged the status quo, sometimes for good, but often for selfish reasons.  Drugs, sex, non-conformity, and “violent peace” were prevalent.  What do you think were causes of such a culture?  Using what you know about the 1970’s, what were the results? 

One of the issues that dominated life in the 1960’s was the Vietnam War.  In order to fully understand the 1960’s we need to understand this war in some amount of detail.  Therefore we will leave this topic for next week.  For this week just understand that the Vietnam War was highly controversial and generated passionate feelings on all sides.  It affected our economy, literature, music, and entire national psyche for years and continues to affect us today.

In 1965, in Los Angeles 883 people were injured and 35 people killed during six days of a race rioting.  This event, known as the Watts riot (named after the section of L.A. where the rioting started) actually made life more difficult on minority blacks in the L.A. suburb and reinforced a fear of black prejudice and ushered in a trend of “white flight”.  Discuss with your parent(s) what a Christian attitude toward race should be.  Interview your grandparents, or someone between the ages of 60-80 and discuss with them 1960’s attitudes toward the races.  Ask if they actually witnessed open discrimination and what they felt about it at the time.  Ask if their views have changed over the years.

Just before the Watts riots, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.  Read the act in KEYS.  Speak with your parent(s) about any restrictions to voting that you might think are valid.  Why was this Act necessary?

Also in 1965, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (MKL) and a group of peaceful demonstrators (seeking a guaranteed right to vote) were attacked by State troopers as they crossed a bridge in Selma Alabama.  These attacks were televised and the broadcasts on national TV and shocked the nation.  View video clips from this march at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s00-OoZAWno&feature=related

Early in 1965 President Johnson proposes his “Great Society” program designed to eliminate poverty.  Research three arguments for, and three arguments against, this program.  Knowing what we know now, was the program a success, or failure?

In 1964 President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.  Read this Act in KEYS.  What was the key purpose of the Act?

In January 1964, your teacher, Mark Dowty was born.  Write a 10,000 word essay on the importance of this event – (just kidding).

In 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated, marking the beginning of a string of assassinations of major figures in the following years. 

Earlier in 1963, MLK gave is now-famous “I have a dream” speech in Washington D.C.  It is worth your time to listen to the whole speech.  Imagine yourself as a black person during the 1960’s and hearing MLK’s speech (available on the internet).  How would it make you feel? 

In 1960, a young energetic President, John F. Kennedy was elected as President.  Kennedy’s election signaled a marked change in U.S. politics and a generational change in the psyche of the U.S.  Kennedy faced off against Richard Nixon (who later became President, as you know).  View some of the TV commercials from their campaign at: http://www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1960

After watching the commercials, knowing that the U.S. was in a period of relative peace and prosperity in 1960, who’s campaign would benefit from the 1960 world situation?  How would Nixon’s message resonate differently eight years later?

Although TV had been around for a while, this election was known as the 1st TV election.  It was in this election, that the 1st televised TV debate took place.  Nixon, was actually recovering from the flu and looked terrible on TV.  He didn’t wear make-up and his light colored suit made him look more poorly on the black and white TVs.  The debate was also covered on the radio.  It is interesting to note that those that watched the TV debate overwhelmingly thought that Kennedy had won the debate.  Those that heard the debate on radio overwhelmingly thought that Nixon won the debate.  Why do you think that is?  What does this say about how TV can influence our vote?

Week 6 Co-Op Session

Discuss Civil rights…and the 1960 contemporary arguments against the ACT

Discuss The Great Society…discuss the role of Government

Week 7 – 60’s – Cont.

Week 7 Assignment

SL assignment – Student

None this week 

KEYS assignments – Student and Parent

Read and discuss “1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution


Additional Assignment

Contact someone 52 - 71 years old.  Ask them to help you find the name of someone they knew who died in the Vietnam war.  Look-up their name at the following link


and write down any information you can find about them.  Consider why I’m asking you to do this assignment.

Complete the Cuban missile crisis worksheet located at (this may take 2 days)



Optional:  Watch the 2000 film “Thirteen Days” – do this after completing all assignments only.

Class Preparation for Week 7 – Student and Parent

This week we are going to focus on the Cold War, and particularly Vietnam.

Look up Vietnam on a world map.  Take a virtual tour of the Vietnam war memorial at:  http://thewall-usa.com/


As we’ve already discussed, the Vietnam War dominated more than a decade of U.S. History so we will jump back for a moment to 1975

In 1975 an emergency airlift of the U.S. Embassy and Marine Embassy guards took place.  View a video of the airlift at the following site:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwmCPNid9Kk&feature=fvw  Note the panic evident in this event.  What do you think would cause such panic?

Only a month before this event, South Vietnam (then a separate country from North Vietnam) had surrendered and the Vietnam War had ended.  The results of this war are as follows:  3-4 Million Vietnamese dead, 1.5-2 million Laotians and Cambodians (neighboring countries), and 58,159 U.S. soldiers and $686billion dollars (in today’s $).  After such a loss of life, the U.S. did not achieve the end it sought and the war was considered a failure.  The U.S. was demoralized.  Having already studied the 70’s and 80’s how do you see this demoralization demonstrated?

It is important to understand that there were actually four groups fighting during this war:  the North Vietnamese army, the South Vietnamese army, the U.S. Armed forces, and the Viet Cong.  This last group was a guerrilla paramilitary force that operated undercover in South Vietnam.  This is the first time that the U.S. Military had confronted a guerrilla conflict.

In early 1973, North and South Vietnam, the Viet Cong, and the U.S. signed a cease-fire agreement after years of negotiations.  This cease fire seemed to give the U.S. an honorable exit from the costly Vietnam War.

In 1971 the portions of the “Pentagon Papers” were published.  What were the Pentagon papers?  What impact did they have on the U.S. population’s view of Government?

In 1970, National Guardsmen opened fire on student protesters at Kent State University killing 4 students and injuring others.  This event marked the height of the war protest violence.  Research President Nixon’s reaction to this event?  In hindsight was this an appropriate response.  What would you have done?

Early in 1970, President Nixon announced that U.S. troops would attack the enemy in Cambodia.  Look at a map and find Cambodia.  Look up the Ho Chi Minh trail.  Why would Nixon bomb Cambodia when we weren’t at war with them?  Immediately after this announcement, nationwide protests erupted (some of them violent).  Guess what may have happened in the 1960’s that may have caused such a violent reaction to this announcement.

Now in the 1960’s (1969), President Nixon ordered some of the U.S. troops out of Vietnam.  The war wasn’t over.  Why would Nixon begin removing troops?  FYI:  in December 1968 (just before Nixon was inaugurated), the U.S. had 540,000 troops in Vietnam.  (ref:  the U.S. had ~130,000 troops in Iraq at the height of the war there and there are ~30,000 troops in Afghanistan).

War is a terrible business and one of the toughest things is how it brings out the worst in some people.  It is often necessary, but it takes is toll on the soul.  In March 1968, a group of U.S. soldiers killed hundreds of Vietnamese civilians in the town of Mai Lai.  Investigate this incident with a focus on what drove these men to commit this crime.

In January 1968, the North Vietnamese army and Vietcong launch a major offensive during the Vietnamese New Year Tet.  This Tet offensive was repulsed by US and South Vietnamese troops.  Militarily it was a major defeat for the North Vietnamese, but it turned into a huge political and psychological victory for them.  Before you research the Tet Offensive take a guess as to how this could be. 

During 1966-1967 as American troop levels increase, Americans at home begin to doubt the validity of our cause in Vietnam.  Most of the protests in these years were peaceful, but they reflected the latent anger lying just under the surface.  What kinds of protests were typical during these years?  What did they accomplish?

In 1964, the American ships were attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin (off the coast of Vietnam).  The U.S. Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution giving President Johnson the power to conduct an all-out war without getting a formal declaration of War.  Compare the Gulf of Tonkin resolution with the 2002 Joint Resolution regarding Iraq.  Now knowing the history of both the Iraq War and the Vietnamese war as well as the public reaction to both conflicts, what is the effect of such informal conflicts?

Although the Gulf of Tonkin incident marked turning point in America’s involvement in Vietnam, the U.S. had been involved for several years prior to this event.  Look-up a timeline of events prior 1964 and try to determine what event in your mind signifies U.S. involvement.  Consider this your ultimate “How did we get here” exercise.  Take a few notes and be able to “tell the story” on how the U.S. became involved in Vietnam.  Don’t just consider facts, but use the 5 WHY’s approach. 


Meanwhile, the cold war was raging between western democracies and communist countries.  The struggle was primarily “fought” between the United States and the U.S.S.R. (Soviet Union).  We will cover the origins of the Cold War next week, but in the 1960’s the Cold War reached its most dangerous single moment.  To set the stage, you should understand that both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. had a large stockpile of nuclear bombs and missiles.  The missiles were just beginning to have a range such that the U.S.S.R. could strike the U.S. from their own country.  The U.S. could do the same.  The policy of Mutually Assured Destruction was the prevailing theory.  What was M.A.D. and how effective was it?

In 1962 and 1963, the U.S.S.R. did something that nearly upset this dangerous balance.  The Soviets began installing missile launch sites on the island of Cuba (a communist ally of the U.S.S.R.)  Complete the worksheet at the following site:


Finally, be aware that in 1961 the U.S. supported a group of exiles from Cuba in invading the island at the “Bay of Pigs”.  President Kennedy had been widely criticized for his apparent last minute withdrawal of support for the invasion.  The result was a slaughter of the invasion force and an embarrassing defeat for the young President, and the concern in Cuba that another invasion was immanent.


Week 7 Co-Op Session

Discuss personal stories from the Vietnam War memorial

Discuss the lessons of Vietnam

Discuss how we became involved in Vietnam

Discuss the Cuban Missile Crisis including its results


Week 8 – 50’s

Week 8 Assignment

Special Note:

Although this course does not include tests, I will be handing out a quiz at the end of class this week.  The quiz is for you to take and return to me.  It will allow me to judge the effectiveness of the course.  It is nothing you can study for, but you may wish to just read through the questions in the Future – 1950’s Sections and recall what you have learned.  I will grade and return your tests to your parents for their information.


SL assignment – Student

Complete (SL) pages 166-167. 

KEYS assignments – Student and Parent

Read and discuss “1954 Brown v. Board of Education”

Read and discuss “1951 The Twenty-Second Amendment”

Read and discuss “1950 United States Takes Military Action in Korea


Additional Assignment

The hit show M.A.S.H. was set during the Korean conflict.  It is regularly shown as re-runs, but is also available at video stores.  Watch 3 episodes of M.A.S.H.  The episodes are typically comedy, but also contain information about life during the Korean conflict.  Take some quick notes on the show including:

a)     If the episode depicted Koreans, how were they depicted?  How did they live?

b)    How are the military leaders depicted?

c)     Outside of the comedy, what was the theme of the show?  Did it have political content?

Optional Assignment:  Watch the excellent 1959 movie “Pork Chop Hill”.   Made shortly after the Korean Conflict ended, this movie will give a unique perspective on the questions raised by the conflict.


Class Preparation for Week 8 – Student and Parent

In 1959, Alaska and Hawaii become our 49th and 50th States.


In 1957, President Eisenhower, a former commanding General in World War II, sent federal troops into Central High in Little Rock Arkansas to enforce the integration of colored students.  This action was in direct response to the 1954 Supreme Court’s case Brown v. Board of Education.  Investigate the ruling, and list two arguments for and two arguments against segregation.  What was the reaction to the ruling in several parts of the U.S. (specifically the South).


Americana” is a term used to describe certain cultural aspects that are stereotypically American.  Examples might be Hollywood, Rock ‘n’ Roll, the Hula Hoop, Stock-car racing, the love of the Automobile, Coca Cola, McDonalds.  During the 1950’s several of these stereotypes were developed.  Choose 3 of cultural Americana Icons that developed in the 1950’s and write a couple paragraphs on each to share with the class on Wednesday.  Ideas would be to describe how they came about, what was iconic about them, how long they lasted and what they represented.  This should be a fun and relaxing assignment…..keep it light!!


In 1956, the U.S. Interstate Highway system was begun under the impetus of President Eisenhower.  Although this might seem mundane, investigate what the inspiration of the Interstate Highway system was, and what its “primary” purpose was.


In 1955 Dr. Jonas Salk invented a vaccine for Polio.  What is polio?  What was the mortality rate of polio in 1955?  Was it the #1 killer disease in the 1950’s?  Why was it so feared?


In 1954, Senator Joseph McCarthy presided over a series of investigations public hearings where he charged many people of being communists.  During this stage of the Cold War, there were real evidences of Communist activities in the U.S. and several paranoid delusions of Communist activities.  The McCarthy hearings were later widely criticized.  Investigate the good and bad of these hearings.  Specifically research the policy of “black-balling”, and the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.


During the 1950’s and early 1960’s Nikita Khrushchev was the leader of the Soviet Union.  Khrushchev was a colorful character and he epitomized the Cold War soviet.  A famous incident involving Khrushchev was the “shoe banging” incident at the U.N.  See if you can figure out what was going on and why.  If you wish to have fun with your elders, have them tell you if they remember seeing a clip of Khrushchev banging his shoe.  They will, almost to a person, tell you they remember seeing it.  However no such video exists……they won’t believe you though.  There isn’t even a photo of it, however a faked “photo-shopped” one exists.


In 1952, the world’s first Hydrogen bomb (H-bomb) was detonated.  This new atomic weapon was more devastating than an A-Bomb.  Investigate the difference between these two weapons and what, other than its destructive power, the H-bomb represented.


Interview someone in their 60’s - 70’s.  Ask them to describe any school age memories they have of the Cold War.  Ask if they ever practiced “Duck and Cover”?  Find out how “real” the threat of communism was for them in the 1950’s.


Between 1950 and 1953, the U.S. participated in a military conflict on the Korean peninsula.  Find Korea on a map.  What do you notice about the dividing line between North and South Korea?  North Korea has been in the news a lot recently.  Discuss with your parents the current situation in the Korea’s.


In 1951, in the midst of the Korean Conflict, President Truman removed his WWII hero and commanding General Douglas MacArthur from command.  Investigate the cause of this removal, the reaction to Truman’s decision, and the result in the theatre of battle. 


In 1950, President Truman, committed troops to battle in Korea without the approval of Congress.  Under what authority did he justify his actions?  See if you can find a vintage news article that questioned this decision.  It will be good if you can have access to on-line copies of vintage news articles for use throughout the remainder of this course.


Week 8 Co-Op Session

Discuss Segregation

Hear Americana reports

Review Cold-War memories

Hand out Quiz