U.S. History Syllabus
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to look at the world anew. A virus that originated across the globe has had a devastating impact on our lives. Over one million people have died in the United States due to Covid. Millions lost their job and were pushed into poverty. But the impact of the pandemic has not been felt equally. While for many these last years have brought loss, unemployment, poverty, food insecurity and trauma, for some the pandemic brought immense wealth. The wealth of billionaires rose by $1,710,000,000,000 ($1.71 trillion) since the pandemic. How do we make sense of a country where billions struggle to survive, while a tiny minority holds on to most of the country's wealth?
In this class we'll be asking and answering the big questions of our time, like the one above in bold. Here are a few others we'll try and tackle:
Why is there so much violence? Why is there racism and xenophobia? Why is there sexism? Why is there homophobia and transphobia? Why does our country spend more money on war than on education? But we also will ask: How have people in the past tried to make things better? When have people stuck up for themselves and for others? What can we learn from their failures and successes?
In other words, this class isn't just about the past, it's also about today. We won't be about memorizing dates of battles, names of generals and presidents and when different laws were passed, we will study the people who really made history: What did they feel and think? Why did they behave the way they did? What choices did they have?
The U.S. is a scary, marvelous, terrible, and beautiful place. This class will try to capture some of that.
HOW IS THIS COURSE DIFFERENT?
While traditional textbooks claim objectivity and use a lot of "us" and "we" when telling the story of this country, there is no one history of the United States. U.S. history looks very different whether it's told from the perspective of white colonizers or indigenous resistors, enslavers or the enslaved, cisgender white men or queer Latinas.
Like all societies, the U.S. is conflict-ridden and the truth is that all histories take sides by what they include, omit, emphasize or deemphasize. Textbooks often concentrate on those at the top of society: generals, presidents, industrialists. To see society more accurately, this course will instead look at U.S. history from the standpoint of the oppressed.
Unlike other history courses, this course will not be chronological. Each quarter (more or less) we'll be examining a key theme in U.S. history and discussing its contemporary implications and relevance. Therefore, the course will roughly focus on these four themes:
Boundaries of the U.S.: Indigenous removal and resistance, U.S.-Mexico War, immigration policy and Latinx and Asian racism
Class, labor and whiteness
War, imperialism, and anti-war resistance
Gender and Sexuality
For each theme, we'll start with a historical investigation of the topic, including one or more case studies, but also discuss current debates and struggles related to the theme.
WHAT ARE THE EXPECTATIONS FOR STUDENTS?
Come to class prepared and on time. Everyday has a purpose and class participation is essential so don’t be late or absent unless it's an emergency. When you arrive in class, please turn off and put away your cell phones. In addition, I expect you to:
Challenge yourself and others
It’s vital everyone feels safe and comfortable enough to participate. Absolutely no put-downs, especially those that are racist, sexist, or homophobic.
Please don't hesitate to contact me. Let me know if your situation makes it difficult to meet any expectations or you are feeling overwhelmed.
The goal of this class will be to develop your skills as a thinker, listener, speaker, reader and writer. We’ll focus on developing your ability to communicate in several ways historians, journalists, and activists communicate: debate, discussion, poetry, narrative, essay writing.
Research has shown that the focus on grades tends to diminish student interest in learning and reduce the quality of student work and thinking. Therefore, this will be a (mostly) gradeless classroom.
I will only be giving you feedback, not points or grades. Because this is so different from most other courses in high school, I explain it more fully on a separate page here.
At the beginning of every week you will get a weekly student journal and reader You will turn in these two packets to me at the beginning of each week. Both will be posted on Google Classroom in case you lose one. Larger projects and writing assignments and projects will be posted AND submitted on Google Classroom separately in addition to the weekly packets.
WHERE WILL I SUBMIT MY WORK?
WHAT SUPPLIES DO I NEED?
To be prepared for class each day you'll need:
A small 3-ring binder or folder designated for U.S. history
Some looseleaf paper or a notebook
Something to write with (and a back-up)
WILL I HAVE A LOT OF HOMEWORK?
Educational research is unclear whether homework has any benefit for students. Therefore, for the most part homework in our class will simply be work that you start but do not finish in class. When I do assign homework, it will be meaningful work that will help you deepen your understanding of what we are studying in class. I do not give busy work.
WHAT IF I'M ABSENT OR HAVE LATE WORK?
When you are absent, you are responsible for completing all missed assignments. If you have to be absent for multiple days, please contact me to figure out a plan. There is no penalty for late work but all late work must have "That Late Jawn" physically attached to it or submitted online or it won't go in the gradebook. If you miss a due date for an assignment (not in the reader or journal) please email me and your caregivers.