Syllabus—Modern America

fall 2022 @ suny brockport.

Dread Scott, What is the Proper Way to Display a US Flag?, an installation for audience participation, 1989.

Overview

Modern America provides explores the history of the United States since the Civil War. Through interactive multimedia lectures, readings, discussion, and writing, students analyze the struggles of diverse communities over wealth, rights, and authority. How did the historical experiences of a wide range of Americans shape systems of power, patterns of resistance, socio-political identities, and cultural and intellectual life during a period that saw the emergence of the US as a global power? As we study the history of modern America, the course also develops skills in critical close reading, historical thinking and contextualization, oral communication, project management, and effective analytic writing.


Required Course Material

  • Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty! An American History Volume 2 Brief Sixth Edition. New York: WW Norton & Company, 2020.
  • Eric Foner, ed., Voices of Freedom: A Documentary History Volume 2 Sixth Edition. New York: WW Norton & Company, 2020.
  • Additional materials on course website.

The two books are available at SUNY Brockport campus bookstore, bookseller of your own choice, and on reserve at Drake Library. You can also try to obtain the books by Interlibrary Loan as an option. Print or electronic versions are both acceptable to purchase, but please be able to bring your copies of the books (whether a book or on laptop, tablet, or smartphone) to class on occasion. Be sure to purchase the correct editions of the two books.


Meetings Schedule

The instructor may adjust the meetings schedule as needed during the term, but will give clear instructions about any changes.

Week 01 — Planting A Flag in Modern America

Monday, 08/29: Planting a Flag in Modern America—Introduction

Wednesday, 08/31: Planting a Flag in Modern America—Introduction

Friday, 09/02: Library Introduction with Librarian Pam O’Sullivan. Meet at Drake Library.

Week 02 — Is Reconstruction Unfinished? 1865-1877

Monday, 09/05: No Class, Labor Day

Wednesday, 09/07: What Was Reconstruction?

Friday, 09/09: Is Reconstruction Unfinished?

Week 03 — America’s Second Industrial Revolution: The “Gilded Age,” 1877-1890

Monday, 09/12: The Hog Squeal of the Universe—Corporate Capitalism Arrives

Wednesday, 09/14: Where Does the Weekend Come From? Americans Respond to the Rise of Corporate Capitalism

Friday, 09/16: Discussion—Practicing Citation

Week 04 — Freedom’s Boundaries, At Home and Abroad, 1865-1900

Monday, 09/19: From US Settler Colonialism to Formal Empire

Wednesday, 09/21: From US Settler Colonialism to Formal Empire

Friday, 09/23: The Nadir: Jim Crow and Discussion

Week 05 — The Progressive Era, 1900-1916

Monday, 09/26: Did the Progressive Era Make Progress? Part 1

Wednesday, 09/28: Did the Progressive Era Make Progress? Part 2

Friday, 09/30: No Class—Catch Your Breath

Week 06 —The Great War and Its Aftermath, 1916-1920

Monday, 10/03: Making the World Safe for Democracy? WWI

Wednesday, 10/05: Making the Postwar World Safe for Democracy? The Aftermath

Friday, 10/07: Discussion

Week 07 — The “Roaring” Twenties, 1920-1929

Monday, 10/10: What Made the “Roaring” Twenties Roaring?

Wednesday, 10/12: What Made the “Roaring” Twenties Roaring?

Friday, 10/14: Discussion

Week 08 — The New Deal and WWII, 1929-1945

Monday, 10/17: No Class

Wednesday, 10/19: From Roaring Twenties to Great Depression

Friday, 10/21: FDR’s New Deal and the Making of “Modern” Liberalism

Week 09 — The New Deal and WWII, 1929-1945

Monday, 10/24: FDR’s New Deal and the Making of “Modern” Liberalism Continued

Wednesday, 10/26: Was World War II the Actual New Deal?

Friday, 10/28: Discussion—Debating Modern Liberalism: The American Century or Century of the Common Man?

Week 10 — Abundance and Its Discontents, 1945-1990

Monday, 10/31: Cold War Containments, 1945-1960

Wednesday, 11/02: Cold War Containments, 1945-1960 Part 2

Friday, 11/04: Cold War Rebellions, 1945-1960

Week 11 — Abundance and Its Discontents, 1945-1990

Monday, 11/07: Cold War Rebellions, 1945-1960  Part 2

Wednesday, 11/09: Reconstruction Redux? The Modern African American Civil Rights Movement

Friday, 11/11: Reconstruction Redux? The Modern African American Civil Rights Movement Part 2

Week 12 — Abundance and Its Discontents, 1945-1990

Monday, 11/14: The Great Society? New Frontiers, New Lefts, New Rights, and the Quagmire of the Vietnam War, Part 1

Wednesday, 11/16: The Great Society? New Frontiers, New Lefts, New Rights, and the Quagmire of the Vietnam War, Part 2

Friday, 11/18: Discussion—Interpretive Timelines Assignment

Week 13 — Thanksgiving Week

Monday, 11/21: Online lecture—R-E-S-P-E-C-T and the Social Movements of the Sixties,” US History Scene

Week 14 — Abundance and Its Discontents, 1945-1990

Monday, 11/28: Disco Demolition—The 1970s From Watergate to the Malaise Speech

Wednesday, 11/30: The Reagan Revolution—Modern Conservatism as Revolution and the Rise of the New Right

Friday, 12/02: An Era of Uncertainty: The 1990s

Week 15 — Is America Modern Yet? 1990-2020

Monday, 12/05: The End of the American Century? The 2000 Election, 9/11, the War on Terror, and the 2008 Great Recession

Wednesday, 12/07: Make America Great Again? The Obama and Trump Eras

Friday, 12/09: Closing Discussion—Is America Modern Yet?


Readings Schedule

The instructor may adjust the readings schedule as needed during the term, but will give clear instructions about any changes.

Week 01 — Planting A Flag in Modern America

Due Wednesday, 08/31:

  • Give Me Liberty!, Table of Contents,Preface, xix-xxviii

Week 02 — Is Reconstruction Unfinished? 1865-1877

Due Wednesday, 09/07:

Week 03 — America’s Second Industrial Revolution: The “Gilded Age,” 1877-1890

Due Wednesday, 09/14:

  • Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 16, “‘America’s Gilded Age, 1870-1890,” 447-505
  • Voices of Freedom, Chapter 16, 28-52, pay particular attention to Carnegie (104), Second Declaration of Independence (106), George (107), and Saum Song Bo (109, especially in relation to Douglass, “The Composite Nation”)

Week 04 — Freedom’s Boundaries, At Home and Abroad, 1865-1900

Due Wednesday, 09/21:

Week 05 — The Progressive Era, 1900-1916

Due Wednesday, 09/28:

Week 06 —The Great War and Its Aftermath, 1916-1920

Due Wednesday, 10/05:

  • Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 19: Safe for Democracy: The United States and World War I, 1916-1920, 572-605
  • Voices of Freedom, Chapter 19, 104-133, pay particular attention to Bourne (106, in relation to Douglass, “The Composite Nation)

Week 07 — The “Roaring” Twenties, 1920-1929

Due Wednesday, 10/12:

  • Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 20, 1920-1932: From Business Culture to Great Depression in the “Roaring” Twenties, 606-636
  • Voices of Freedom, Chapter 20, 134-159, pay particular attention to Congress Debates Immigration (138) and Hill and Kelley Debate the ERA (1922)

Week 08 — The New Deal and WWII, 1929-1945

Due Wednesday, 10/19:

  • Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 21: The New Deal, 1932-1940, 637-669
  • Voices of Freedom, Chapter 21, 160-186, pay particular attention to FDR (145), Hoover (146), Hill on Indian New Deal (148)
  • Optional Brockport Faculty Reading: Anne S. Macpherson, “Birth of the U.S. Colonial Minimum Wage: The Struggle over the Fair Labor Standards Act in Puerto Rico, 1938– 1941,” Journal of American History 104, 3 (December 2017), 656-680

Week 09 — The New Deal and WWII, 1929-1945

Due Wednesday, 10/26:

  • Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 22: Fighting for the Four Freedoms: World War II, 1941-1945, 670-704
  • Voices of Freedom, Chapter 22, 187-207, pay particular attention to FDR on the Four Freedoms (150), WWII and Mexican Americans (155), and Jackson, Dissent in Korematsu (157), Luce, American Century (152) and Wallace, Century of the Common Man (153)

Week 10 — Abundance and Its Discontents, 1945-1990

Due Wednesday, 11/02:

  • Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 23: The United States and the Cold War, 1945-1953, 705-720
  • Voices of Freedom, Chapter 23, 208-239, pay particular attention to The Truman Doctrine (159) and Lippmann, A Critique of Containment (161)
  • Optional Brockport Faculty Reading: Bruce Leslie (and John Halsey), “A College Upon a Hill: Exceptionalism & American Higher Education,” in Marks of Distinction: American Exceptionalism Revisited, ed. Dale Carter (Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press, 2001), 197-228

Week 11 — Abundance and Its Discontents, 1945-1990

Due Wednesday, 11/09:

  • Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 24: An Affluent Society, 1953-1960, 734-750
  • Voices of Freedom, Chapter 24, pay particular attention to Mills (171)

Week 12 — Abundance and Its Discontents, 1945-1990

Due Wednesday, 11/16:

Week 13 — Thanksgiving Week

Due Monday, 11/21:

Week 14 — Abundance and Its Discontents, 1945-1990

Due Wednesday, 11/30:

Due Friday, 12/02

  • Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 27: From Triumph to Tragedy, 1989-2004, 840-879
  • Voices of Freedom, Chapter 27, 323-340, pay particular attention to Clinton on NAFTA (192), Oro and Los Tigres del Norte (195)

Week 15 — Is America Modern Yet? 1990-2020

Due Wednesday, 12/07:

  • Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 28: A Divided Nation, 2001-2020, 880-921
  • Voices of Freedom, Chapter 28, 341-358, pay particular attention to Kennedy, Obergefell v. Hodges (199), Obama, Eulogy (201)
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” The Atlantic, June 2014
  • Optional Brockport Faculty Reading: James Spiller, “Nostalgia for the Right Stuff: Astronauts and Public Anxiety about a Changing Nation,” in Michael Neufeld ed., Spacefarers: Images of Astronauts and Cosmonauts in the Heroic Era of Spaceflight (Smithsonian Scholarly Press, 2013), 57-76

Assignments Schedule

The instructor may adjust the assignments schedule as needed during the term, but will give clear instructions about any changes.

Wednesday, 09/07: Assignment 01—Student Introduction and Foner Preface Analysis

Monday, 10/03: Assignment 02—Midterm Interpretive Essay

Monday, 10/24: Assignment 03—Midterm Interpretive Essay Revisions

Monday, 11/28: Assignment 04—Timeline Analysis

Wednesday, 12/14: Final—Interpretive Timeline Essay


Evaluation Criteria

Evaluations are never a judgment of you as a person, but rather they are meant to help you assess how you are processing material in the course and translating it into historical interpretation and understanding. We are working on college-level skills here and they take practice. History is a craft, and like any craft you must practice it to improve your abilities. Take advantage of the assignments and comments from professor to improve your capacities to analyze, communicate, write well, and express historical understanding. These skills will help you wherever you go and whatever you do in the future, whether you want to add a history major or minor to your studies or bring them to bear on other parts of your developing professional, intellectual, civic, and personal life.

  • Assignment 01—Student Introduction and Foner Preface Analysis = 10%
  • Assignment 02—Midterm Interpretive Essay = 15%
  • Assignment 03—Midterm Interpretive Essay Revisions = 10%
  • Assignment 04—Timeline Analysis = 25%
  • Final—Interpretive Timeline Essay = 30%
  • Attendance and Participation = 10%
    • At least one constructive comment per class = full credit; occasional constructive comments = most credit; attentive presence = some credit.
  • Extra Credit— Brockport Faculty Historians Essay
    • B+ or above on essay will raise final course grade two steps (B- to B+ for instance); B- or B on essay will raise final course grade one step (C to C+ for instance).

What Makes for Good Work?

Evaluation of assignments will be based on the following rubric:  

  1. Argument – presence of an articulated argument that makes an evidence-based claim and expresses the significance of that claim
  2. Evidence – presence of specific evidence from primary sources to support the argument
  3. Argumentation – presence of convincingly connection between evidence and argument, which is to say effective explanation of the evidence that links its details to the larger argument and its sub-arguments with logic and precision
  4. Contextualization – presence of contextualization, which is to say an accurate portrayal of historical contexts in which evidence appeared
  5. Style – presence of logical flow of reasoning and grace of prose, including:
    1. an effective introduction that hooks the reader with originality and states the argument of the assignment and its significance
    1. clear topic sentences that provide sub-arguments and their significance in relation to the overall argument
    1. effective transitions between paragraphs
    1. a compelling conclusion that restates argument and adds a final point
    1. accurate phrasing and word choice
    1. use of active rather than passive voice sentence constructions

Grading Standards

Remember to honor the Academic Honesty Policy at Brockport, including no plagiarism. Confused about what constitutes plagiarism? Don’t hesitate to ask your instructor. Also, as a side note, grades evaluate specific work in a class. They are never a judgment of you as a person. I value and respect all of you no matter what grade you receive. Grades are just a way to register your development in your studies.

A-level work is outstanding and reflects a student’s:

  • regular attendance, timely preparation, and on-time submission of assignments
    • thorough understanding of required course material
    • insightful, constructive, respectful and regular participation in class discussion
    • clear, compelling, and well-written assignments that include
      • a credible argument with some originality
      • argument supported by relevant, accurate and complete evidence
      • integration of argument and evidence in an insightful analysis
      • excellent organization: introduction, coherent paragraphs, smooth transitions, conclusion
      • sophisticated prose free of spelling and grammatical errors
      • correct page formatting when relevant
      • excellent formatting of footnotes or other form of required documentation

B-level work is good, but with minor problems in one or more areas

C-level work is acceptable, but with minor problems in several areas or major problems in at least one area

D-level work is poor, with major problems in more than one area

E-level work is unacceptable, failing to meet basic course requirements and/or standards of academic integrity/honesty

Attendance Policy

Students are allowed **three** absences for the semester, no questions asked, no need for doctor’s note. These include absences for any reason. Each additional absence may lower your grade at the instructor’s discretion. More than five absences are grounds for a failing grade in the course. If you have medical or other issues beyond the three absences, please communicate clearly, as soon as possible, about your situation so that we can come up with a reasonable plan for completing the class successfully. Please contact the instructor if you have questions about the attendance policy.

Covid update: Given the continued pandemic, please if you feel sick with symptoms, stay home, speak with Hazen Health Center or your doctor, and get tested. I will work with you to remain caught up on the course.

Academic Honesty Policy

Academic dishonesty, particularly in the form of plagiarism, will result in failed assignments, possible course failure, official reporting, and potential expulsion from Brockport. The Brockport Academic Honesty policy applies to all work in this course. To be certain about its stipulations, consult it on the College website. If you have additional questions about the Academic Honesty policy, please consult the instructor.


Advice

Citation: Using Chicago Manual of Style

The goals of citation are to allow the reader to track back your evidence to its original source, primary or secondary, and to give credit where it is due to other people if you use their ideas. But, you may ask, Professor Kramer, why is all the formatting so seemingly random and arcane?! Because, well, it is (or I find it that way)! To do it accurately is to stay honest to the ideas that scholarship and writing requires careful, error-free, empirical work, but you can always go back to the key idea of a citation: it allows your reader to go back and inspect the evidence you are using. It’s like a trail of breadcrumbs back to what you used to develop an interpretation or argument and it allows you to distinguish between your original work and words or ideas you are borrowing from someone else.

1. There is a nice, quick overview of citation from the Chicago Manual of Style Shop Talk website. It includes lots of information and a pdf of examples.

2. For additional, helpful guidelines, visit the Drake Library’s Chicago Manual of Style page.

3. You can also access the real deal. Go right to the source—the 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style—at the Drake Library Reserve Desk.

Writing Consultation

Writing Tutors are available through the Academic Success Center and are always helpful at any stage of writing. Don’t hesitate to consult with someone! Be sure to show them the assignment prompt and syllabus guidelines for good work in the course.

Research Consultation

The librarians at Drake Memorial Library are an incredible resource. You can consult with them remotely or in person. To schedule a meeting, go right to the front desk at Drake or visit the Library website.


Additional Information

Disabilities and Accommodations

As the father of a child who is neuroatypical, Professor Kramer recognizes that students may require accommodations to learn effectively. In accord with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Brockport Faculty Senate legislation, students with documented disabilities may be entitled to specific accommodations. SUNY Brockport is committed to fostering an optimal learning environment by applying current principles and practices of equity, diversity, and inclusion. If you are a student with a disability and want to utilize academic accommodations, you must register with Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to obtain an official accommodation letter which must be submitted to faculty for accommodation implementation. If you think you have a disability, you may want to meet with SAS to learn about related resources. You can find out more about Student Accessibility Services or by contacting SAS via at sasoffice@brockport.edu or (585) 395-5409. Students, faculty, staff, and SAS work together to create an inclusive learning environment. As always, feel free to contact the instructor with any questions.

Discrimination and Harassment Policies

Sex and Gender discrimination, including sexual harassment, are prohibited in educational programs and activities, including classes. Title IX legislation and College policy require the College to provide sex and gender equity in all areas of campus life. If you or someone you know has experienced sex or gender discrimination (including gender identity or non-conformity), discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or pregnancy, sexual harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or stalking, we encourage you to seek assistance and to report the incident through these resources. Confidential assistance is available on campus at Hazen Center for Integrated Care and RESTORE. Faculty are NOT confidential under Title IX and will need to share information with the Title IX & College Compliance Officer.

Statement of Equity and Open Communication

We recognize that each class we teach is composed of diverse populations and are aware of and attentive to inequities of experience based on social identities including but not limited to race, class, assigned gender, gender identity, sexuality, geographical background, language background, religion, disability, age, and nationality. This classroom operates on a model of equity and partnership, in which we expect and appreciate diverse perspectives and ideas. If anyone is experiencing exclusion, intentional or unintentional aggression, silencing, or any other form of oppression, I encourage open communication with myself and/or the class as a whole.

Disruptive Student Behaviors

SUNY Brockport’s procedures for dealing with students who are disruptive in class can be found here.

Emergency Alert System

In case of emergency, the Emergency Alert System at The College at Brockport will be activated. Students are encouraged to maintain updated contact information using the link on the College’s Emergency Information website. Included on the website is detailed information about the College’s emergency operations plan, classroom emergency preparedness, evacuation procedures, emergency numbers, and safety videos. In addition, students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Emergency Procedures posted in classrooms, halls, and buildings and all college facilities.


Learning Goals

The study of history is essential. By exploring how our world came to be, the study of history fosters the critical knowledge, breadth of perspective, intellectual growth, and communication and problem-solving skills that will help you lead purposeful lives, exercise responsible citizenship, and achieve career success. 

History Department Learning Goals

  • Articulate a thesis (a response to a historical problem)
  • Advance in logical sequence principal arguments in defense of a historical thesis
  • Provide relevant evidence drawn from the evaluation of primary and/or secondary sources that supports the primary arguments in defense of a historical thesis
  • Evaluate the significance of a historical thesis by relating it to a broader field of historical knowledge
  • Express themselves clearly in writing that forwards a historical analysis.
  • Use disciplinary standards (Chicago Style) of documentation when referencing historical sources
  • Students will identify, analyze, and evaluate arguments as they appear in their own and others’ work
  • Students will write and reflect on the writing conventions of the disciplinary area, with multiple opportunities for feedback and revision or multiple opportunities for feedback
  • Students will demonstrate understanding of the methods social scientists use to explore social phenomena, including observation, hypothesis development, measurement and data collection, experimentation, evaluation of evidence, and employment of interpretive analysis
  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of major concepts, models and issues of history
  • Students will develop proficiency in oral discourse and evaluate an oral presentation according to established criteria

General Education Learning Goals

Social Science (S)

  • Students will demonstrate understanding of the methods social scientists use to explore social phenomena, including observation, hypothesis development, measurement and data collection, experimentation, evaluation of evidence, and employment of mathematical and interpretive analysis. Students will develop their understanding of methods and their skill in using them through daily class discussions that connect information from primary sources to the larger events of which they formed a part, and through writing of four interpretive papers which address the same goals in a more formal, written form
  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of major concepts, models and issues of at least one discipline in the Social Sciences. Students will be introduced to these through direct encounter with secondary sources and through classroom presentation and discussion of same
  • Students will identify, analyze, and evaluate arguments as they appear in their own and others’ work. Each of the four written essay assignments requires this  
  • Students will write a short paper or report reflecting the writing conventions of the disciplinary area, with at least one opportunity for feedback and revision or multiple opportunities for feedback. All of the assigned papers reflect the writing conventions of the discipline. At least one paper will be presented for student feedback prior to submission of the final draft

Diversity (D)

Students will demonstrate an understanding of: 

  • how systems of power and privilege and histories of oppression and activism have informed current social identities  
  • how identity categories and systems of power intersect
  • how bias impacts political, economic and social practices

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