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Issues in American History:


History 240-2, First half, Fall Semester 2008
(2 Credits)

Professor: Douglas Firth Anderson     Class Period: MWF 11:50-12:50 p.m.
Office, Phone, & E-mail: VPH 212, x7054,     Class Location: VPH 207
Office hours: MWF, 2:10 p.m., or by appointment      
Web page:
Course materials and grades available on Synapse



I. Why Study History?

A. [W]e intend Northwestern graduates to be persons who

    Engage Ideas

  • Demonstrating competence in navigating and contributing to the world of ideas and information, having learned to listen, read, question, evaluate, [and] write ... with a disciplined imagination.
  • Pursuing truth faithfully in all aspects of life; developing, articulating, and supporting their own beliefs; and seeking meaningful dialog with those holding different convictions.

From the NWC Vision for Learning

B. Life can only be understood backwards ... .

Soren Kierkegaard, as quoted in Laurence J. Peter, ed., Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time (New York: Bantam Books, 1977), 305.

C. [H]istory holds the potential ... of humanizing us in ways offered by few other areas in the school curriculum. ...

The argument I make pivots on a tension that underlies every encounter with the past: the tension between the familiar and the strange, between feelings of proximity and feelings of distance in relation to the people we seek to understand. ...

Sam Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001), 5.

II. Why Isn't Studying and Understanding History Simple?

A. [H]istory [i]s a web of contingency.  Contingency is about events, choices, and agency. Webs are about structures and processes, which amplify the agency of individual choices in some ways, and constrain them in others.

David Hackett Fischer, "Response to Yerxa, Kersh, Glen, and Morone," Historically Speaking 7 (Sept./Oct. 2005), 25.

B. History-making . . . is a creative enterprise, by means of which we fashion out of fragments of human memory and selected evidence of the past a mental construct of a coherent past world that makes sense to the present.

Gerda Lerner, “The Necessity of History,” in Why History Matters: Life and Thought, idem (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 117.

III. Understanding the Sixties Thematically

We had the dream and we are losing it. . . . To create a society in which each man has the opportunity to love himself and thereby, the opportunity to love his fellows. That is the dream. . . . Now, because the problems facing us are more complex than we ever imagined, maintaining the dream is that much more difficult.

Julius Lester, "To Recapture the Dream," Liberation Magazine (1969), in "Takin' it to the Streets": A Sixties Reader, eds. Alexander Bloom and Wini Breines (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 636.

IV. How Might a Christian Perspective Shape Our Understanding of the Past?

Does Micah’s injunction to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God” (6:8) have any bearing on a Christian’s historical work?  I believe that it does.  We do justice when we give all the historical actors their due, not privileging those who had the most power, or for whom we have more data.  Loving kindness means exercising compassion towards our historical subjects.  They were no more limited by their location and biases than we are.  They were creating their lives as they went; we need to re-create those lives with a minimum of moralizing.  To walk humbly is to recognize that even hindsight is not fully accurate and that our accounts are never definitive.

G. Marcille Frederick, “Doing Justice in History: Using Narrative Frames Responsibly,” in History and the Christian Historian, ed. Ronald A. Wells (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1998), 220.


What is this course? This course examines the origins, development, and ongoing legacy of a pivotal period in U.S. history: the 1960s. The course will assume that to begin to adequately understand this period, the 1960s should not be taken literally; elements of the 1950s and the 1970s will also be considered as they relate to the significance of the 1960s.

What will class meetings be like? The course will meet three times a week. In general, lecture and discussion will constitute the main portion of most classes. Often, parts of classes will be devoted to the preparation and/or presentation of assignments or the viewing of a documentary or film.  There may also be viewing of one or more film outside of the regularly scheduled class time.

What will be expected in general of each student? The workload of the course reflects both liberal arts expectations in general and historical method in particular. Attendance at all class meetings is, of course, expected. Some 1100 pp. of reading will be required. Writing will include one essay, one report, and two exams. Discussion will be a significant part of the class.


  1. To build familiarity with the significant U.S. historical developments centered in the 1960s, since this period has arguably shaped contemporary society and culture in ways that are still being weighed.
  2. To further develop skills in analytical reading, critical thinking and writing, oral discussion, and research through course assignments and activities beyond 100-level history courses, since such liberal arts skills are key tools for learning how, with the Apostle Paul, to "take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5).
  3. To further develop practice of historical method beyond 100-level history courses through attention to such issues as context, continuity and change, causation, moral judgment, and interpretation while engaged with course material, since historical method can be a tool for living “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Mt. 10:16).
  4. To provide tools and opportunity for integrating a historical understanding of the significance of the 1960s in the U.S. with a maturing Christian perspective on faith and life, since "in [Christ] all things hold together" (Col. 1:17).


Date (MWF) In-Class Subjects, Exams, & Papers Reading Assignments
(to be done FOR class on the date noted)
Aug. 27 Course Introduction  
Aug. 29 PANEL: Experiencing the Sixties  
Sept. 1 The Fifties I *Farber, pp. 3-24
Sept. 3 The Fifties II *Gosse, pp. 1-7, 39-53
Sept. 5 Liberal Dreams I *Farber, pp. 25-89
*Gosse, pp. 7-10, 54-75
Sept. 8 Liberal Dreams II *Farber, pp. 90-137
*Gosse, pp. 10-16, 75-95
Sept. 10 Liberal Dreams III *Cobbs Hoffman, pp. 1-120
Sept. 12 Liberal Dreams IV *Cobbs Hoffman, pp. 121-259
Sept. 15 Liberal Dreams V *Lee, pp. ix-xii, 1-102
Sept. 17 Liberal Dreams VI *Lee, pp. 103-181
Sept. 19 Conflict Overseas *Farber, pp. 138-166
*Gosse, pp. 16-23, 95-99, 112-122
Sept. 22 EXAM  
Sept. 24 Conflicts at Home I *Farber, pp. 167-189
*Gosse, pp. 99-103, 107-109, 123-127
Sept. 26 Conflicts at Home II *Farber, pp. 190-211
*Gosse, pp. 103-106, 110-112, 127-131
*DeGroot doc., in Synapse, course content
Sept. 29 BOOK ESSAY DUE/Conflicts at Home III *Conservative docs., in Synapse, course content
*Religion doc., in Synapse, course content
Oct. 1 The Politics of Deception *Farber, pp. 212-238
*Watergate docs., in Synapse, course content
Oct. 3 Dreams and Nightmares *Farber, pp. 239-268
*Gosse, pp. 23-38, 131-174
Oct. 6 STUDY DAY--No class  
Oct. 15 STUDY DAY--No class  
Oct. 17 FINAL  



1. Reading (in assignment order):

2. Assignments:

A. TWO IN-CLASS EXAMS will constitute 55% of the course grade.

  1. A midcourse exam will be given in class on Mon., Sept. 22.  It will constitute 20% of the course grade.
  2. A final exam will be given during the scheduled final period, Fri., Oct. 17, 11:50-12:50 p.m.  Besides the in-class component, it will also include a take-home comprehensive essay, and it will constitute 35% of the course grade.
  3. Each exam will each comprise at least two essay questions to be written in class.  In addition, the comprehensive part of the final exam will consist of a take-home essay question.

  4. For each exam, a study sheet will be distributed a week ahead of the exam.  (The study sheet for the final will also include the take-home essay question).

  5. On exam days, no textbooks or other course material should be used during the exam (on penalty of voiding the entire exam) except for one 8 ½ x 11 inch exam sheet of outlines and notes (typed or handwritten, both sides if necessary).  This exam sheet must be handed in with the exam blue book.
  6. Blue books will be required for each exam.  (These are available in the NWC bookstore.)

B. An ARTICLE REPORT will constitute 20% of the course grade.

  1. A report on a scholarly article about some aspect of the sixties is due on Oct. 8 (Wed.), 10 (Fri.), or 13 (Mon.).  Each student will be assigned one of these days; these assignments will be decided soon after the course gets underway.
  2. Each article reported on is up to each student, so long as the choice meets all the following guidelines:
  1. The report is to be in two forms, written and oral.
  2. The written report should be 1 p., typed, single spaced, with a header containing your name, the due date, your RSC box number, and the author, title, and source of the article in Chicago style bibliographic form, e.g., Farber, David. "The Silent Majority and Talk about Revolution." In The Sixties: From Memory to History, ed. David Farber, 291-316. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.  (On the Chicago style form, see the appropriate links at
  3. The written report should concisely provide a) a one-to-three sentence statement of the article's main argument, b) a paragraph summary of the main points made in the article, and c) a paragraph critically engaging the article in relation to course reading and/or course issues.
  4. Enough copies of the written report should be made so that the instructor and all class members have a copy of it at the beginning of the class for which it is assigned.
  5. The written report is the basis for an oral report to the class (to be presented on the class day assigned).  The oral report should present present parts a), b), and c) of the written report, with any appropriate elaborations, quotations, and illustrations, in five to seven minutes, followed by three to five minutes of class discussion.  The total time for each oral report should be around 10 minutes.  (These times are subject to adjustment depending on the number of students in the course.)
  6. Evaluation of the report (written and oral) will include the following factors: 1) how completely and well are all of the formal specifications above met? 2) how clear and coherent are the two forms of the report? 3) how accurately, thoughtfully, and insightfully is the chosen article understood, engaged, and related to course material/issues?

C. A BOOK COMPARISON ESSAY will constitute 15% of the course grade.

  1. The comparison essay is due in class Mon., Sept. 29.
  2. The essay should draw on All You Need Is Love and For Freedom's Sake to critically discuss the significance of young people (the boomer generation) in initiating, sustaining, and limiting substantive social change during the sixties.  In other words, what do the cases of the Peace Corps and Fannie Lou Hamer suggest about whether or not--and in what ways--young people initiated, sustained, and limited substantive changes in U.S. society (For Freedom's Sake) or other societies (All You Need is Love)?
  3. The report should be 4-5 pp. (1000-1500 words), typed, double spaced, with a header containing the student’s name, the due date, e-address, and an essay title.
  4. Submit the paper via Synapse: i.e., save your paper in a Microsoft Word file; then log onto Synapse; click on this course; click on “assignments”; click on “paper”; locate your Word file and submit (Synapse will automatically send your paper through
  5. The factors for evaluating this assignment will include at least the following: a) how well does the essay meet the formal specifications? b) how well does the essay reflect familiarity (breadth, depth, and accuracy) with each book? c) how thoroughly and insightfully are the books analyzed and evaluated in relation to the Sixties? and d) how well written is the essay (organization, clarity, cogency)?

D. CLASS PARTICIPATION will constitute 10% of the course grade.

  1. Class participation is a portion of the grade based on the instructor’s estimation of the integrity of each student’s engagement with the course material and the classroom environment.
  2. Part of the material on which this portion of the grade will be based will be various brief written assignments (e.g., developing questions about or reflecting on course material).  A record of the assignments and their general sufficiency will be kept (i.e., pass/not pass).
  3. Another part of the material on which this portion of the grade will be based will be an assessment of the overall consistency and quality of each student's attentiveness and involvement in the course.  Attentiveness and involvement include discussion, listening, and note-taking.  Talkativeness is not the standard, though, any more than is silence.  Listening and note-taking are important.  Rather, the goal for each student is an overall consistent engagement with the material of the course in class, which, while allowing for differences in personalities and variety in class sessions, could by a reasonable observer at the end of the course be deemed at least "good" or, if exceptional, "excellent."
  4. When appropriate, the instructor is prepared to be flexible with occasional student scheduling problems, but the instructor must be consulted.  “Exceptions” are not an entitlement.


1. Late Written Assignments

  1. All assignments are due as stated in the syllabus or announced in class.
  2. They are to address the assignments current for this course, not an assignment from a previous version of this course, lest they be subject to the equivalent penalty for late papers (see #4 below).
  3. Exceptions due to illness, approved field trips, regularly scheduled games or performances, or other reasons outside the control of the student can be made, but it is up to the student to petition the instructor for such legitimate extensions.
  4. Papers: If a paper is handed in late up to a week after it was due and without a legitimate extension, it will normally receive a penalty of at least one full grade down from whatever score the work merits apart from the penalty.  If a paper is over a week late and without a legitimate extension, it will not be accepted.
  5. Finals: Finals can only be rescheduled through application to the Registrar's Office; a Final Exam Change form is linked to the Registrar's Form webpage. Travel plans are not a legitimate reason for rescheduling finals.  All course material must be in to the instructor by the scheduled period; no materials will be accepted thereafter.

2. Academic Honesty

  1. It is expected that all reading and written work done in and for the course will be done with integrity.  That is, reading and writing as assigned is to be done with honest single-mindedness by each student, without undue reliance on others to do the work and without deceit about the work's timeliness, authorship, and sources.  Integrity of this sort is not easy or convenient; it does not provide shortcuts or guarantee "As."  Yet it is the best path to growth in wisdom, and wisdom is the fruit of education most to be savored.
  2. Academic dishonesty includes cheating and plagiarism, as defined in the Student and Faculty Handbooks.
  3. Cheating in quizzes, plagiarizing in papers, and other forms of academic dishonesty, will, when duly determined, lead to a "0" score for the assignment involved and the filing of a report with the Academic Dean (VPAA), per the Student and Faculty Handbooks.

3. Grading

  1. We the faculty of the History Department do not believe that "grade inflation" is good for you. Jesus admonishes us to "Let your word be 'Yes, Yes' or 'No, No'" (Mt. 5:37); in other words, let grades have integrity as indicators of knowledge and/or competence for a given assignment or course.
  2. Therefore, an A=excellent or outstanding work; B=good work (more than adequate but not excellent); C=sufficient work (the assignment or the course’s requirements have been met, but not with any remarkable quality); D=insufficient work (does not fully meet the assignment); F=failing work.
  3. Grades for assignments and for the course as a whole are based on a 100% scale, as follows:
  A = 90-100 B = 80-89 C = 70-79 D = 60-69 F = 0-59
  1. Within the 100% scale for letter grades, + and - will be given on the following scale (exceptions: no A+ or F + or F-):
    + = x7-x9 - = x0-x2        
  1. Remember--grades are NOT a measure of your personal worth; that is already established by God! Grades are measures of the quality of your work for a given assignment and/or course--nothing more and nothing less.

4. Advice for Doing Well in History Courses


  • This course is about texts and contexts of the Western past.  That is, this course is about attentively reading various primary and secondary texts and thinking about the settings--context--for the relevant pasts.  Thus, reading is central to this course.
  • There are three important things you should do with the reading: Read it all; take notes on it so that you can use it; and draw on all of it that may be relevant for each course assignment.
  • Reading for history courses is not so much about memorizing data, but about seeing the structure, the argument, and the supporting evidence in a reading, and to also think critically about context (e.g., authorship, audience, developments taking place, etc.).  Mark and take notes on these things as you read.  The time you take on making notes as you read will save you time later when you go back to look for material for your writing assignments.
  • We will engage some of the reading in class, but, there is not enough in-class time to go over all the reading.  Pay attention to discussions.  What reading we do go over in class will have to provide you with models for how to deal with all that we cannot deal with directly.  If there is something in the reading you wish to ask about or discuss, please do not hesitate to raise your question or make your observation.


  • Writing is the primary method by which you will show me that you have read the assigned material and not only considered it thoughtfully, but also considered in-class discussions, films, and other materials.
  • Since this is a history course, grammar, spelling, syntax, and other such things that might well be graded in a writing course are not the focus in your writing here.  Nonetheless, the better you are at writing a clearly worded, coherently ordered essay with an introduction, a thesis or claim, several main points (with supporting evidence from the reading and other course materials), and a summary conclusion, the better the historical substance of your writing will stand out.  For help with writing, please don't hesitate to see history tutors in the Writing/Academic Support Services Center (VP127).


  • This course may seem "slow" in terms of assignments, but do not take the slowness for lack of rigor in how the main assignments will be graded.
  • As the past itself took time, so this course about the past has to let some things unfold before there can be meaningful interaction with course material.  Writing about the reading means on has to do the reading before one can write about it.  And, the reading and writing are cumulative, that is, you will continue to draw up earlier reading in the latter part of the course.  One implication of this is that more than 50% of the course grade will come with assignments in the second half of the class.
  • So, plan ahead!  All the major due dates are in the syllabus, and the reading assignments are there as well.  A good habit to cultivate is to read ahead, especially for materials that will be the focus of class discussion.


  • The old wisdom still stands: "you reap what you sow" (Gal. 6:7b).  Sooner or later, what one puts into something is usually directly related to what one receives, whether one is engaging in farming, music, sports, drama, or studying.
  • As noted above, reading is central to this class--and reading takes time.  A rule of thumb for humanities courses (history, literature, philosophy, religion) is that spending 2 hours on the class in addition to every hour in class usually brings better fruit than spending less than that.  That is, for a 3-hour-a-week course, an average of 6 hours per week on the class is a reasonable goal if you wish to do well in the class.
  • If you signed up for this course, I expect you to be in class.  I hope that you are interested in the course (or that I can awaken interest in you for the course), and that you will thus want to come.  I will try hard not to waste your time.  Apart from this, someone is paying lots of money for you to attend here, and presumably you (and whoever else is involved) are interested in getting your money's worth from your investment.  And, the less you are in class, the more you miss opportunities for understanding the course material: discussions; concepts explained; themes noted; issues to ponder; connections to make; additional material presented; explanations of assignments or other things; etc.  On the one hand, I do not formally take class attendance.  On the other hand, if you are often absent, I do tend to notice.  If you are absent a lot, and with no legitimate explanation, then when it comes time for me to total up your work for a course grade, I will have little to no reason to give you any benefit of the doubt.


  • Rule of thumb: If you wish to do well in history classes, generally plan on two hours of outside work for every in-class hour. Much reading and some writing is involved, and this takes time to do adequately, let alone well.
  • Spirituality: Approach your studies with a prayerful attitude. Pray for discipline, for attentiveness, for discernment and understanding. Christ is Lord of all of life, so he is Lord of our learning. Give him the glory with the mind he has given you. We don't think of playing an instrument or playing basketball without practice; why would anyone think that glorifying God with our minds takes any less time--any less prayer and disciplined action?
  • Reading: READ ATTENTIVELY AND INTELLIGENTLY. For history courses, the point of reading is to gain information AND to put that information within some context, or thesis, or pattern. Your goal in reading for a history course is to watch for all the cues the author gives you as to 1) what facts are more important than others and 2) how the facts are marshaled into larger patterns that "tell a story" or "make a point."
  • Taking notes is always relevant—in and on your reading, on lectures, on discussions, on videos.  (If you have a photographic memory or already know all the material, then of course taking notes would be pointless . . .)
  • Further Help: You should be able to handle this course with sufficient time and attention. After all, hundreds of other students have. However, if you run into problems, DON'T HESITATE TO ASK FOR HELP: me, my student assistant, folks in the Writing Center.


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