U.S. History 1877--Present
Summer 2019 Syllabus


The Americans: The Democratic Experience (Daniel Boorstin)

The Americans: The Democratic Experience is not a conventional textbook. It’s part of a several volume series Boorstin wrote for general readers who wanted to get a different approach to American history than is typical in a high school or college classroom. It’s a kind of “you are there” approach, trying to help the reader understand what it was like to be an American during the various periods of U.S. history.  My focus in class will be on political history.  Boorstin’s focus is very different—and that’s important to you.  My general rule: never get your history from only one source.  Having multiple sources gives you better perspective and makes you less likely to stumble.

This is the first time I have used the Boorstin book.  I’ll be particularly interested in getting your input.  Is this book useful?  Enjoyable?  Worth assigning again? 


In order to really understand any people and time period, it's important to look, not just at secondary sources, but at primary sources as well. Rather than having you purchase an expensive supplemental reader for this class, I will post links to useful/interesting supplemental readings on the class blog, Last Best Hope 2019 (http://lastbesthopesummer2019.blogspot.com). I will also ask you for comments on sections of the Boorstin book. Many of the blog assignments are optional, though I think you will find them helpful in preparing for the exams.

Do remember that your blog comments are public.  Use appropriate academic diction, and remember that that wonderful gal or guy who sits next to you in class (and whose entire impression of you will be influenced by your cyberspace behavior) will be reading your comments.   


Tue.    Introduction
5/28    The United States of America: The Last, Best, Hope of the World?

Wed.   Politics and the Presidency 1876-1900
5/29    Business and Industry in the Late 19th Century

Thu.   The Labor Movement)
5/30    Urbanization and its Results

Fri.     Agriculture in the Late 19th Century
5/31    The Populists

Mon.   Tears along the Trail
6/3      American Expansion I

Tue.    God Guides: Perhaps it will Pay
6/4      The American Empire

Wed.    ******** MIDTERM I ********
6/5          (Be sure to bring a blue book)

Thu.   The Progressives
6/6     Teddy Roosevelt and the Square Deal

Fri.     Gang Oft Aglay
6/7     Woodrow Wilson and the Law of Unintended Consequences
Mon.   Over There—and Back Again
6/10    World War I and its Impact on American Society

Tue.    Just What the People Wanted Done
6/11    Harding and Coolidge

Wed.   Let us Now Praise Famous Men    
6/12    Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt

Thu.   Over Here—and Back Again
6/13    American and World War II

Fri.    *** Upward Bound Field Trip ***
6/14        No Class Probably

Mon.   Give ‘em—well….  
6/17    The Cold War

Tue.       ******** MIDTERM II ********
6/18          (Be sure to bring a blue book)

Wed.   Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society
6/19    The Civil Rights Movement

Thu.    Not Quite Tricky Enough:
6/20    The Nixon Presidency

Fri.     Why not the Best?
6/21    The Ford and Carter Administrations

Mon.   The Unfinished Revolution:
6/24     Reagan, Bush, and their Conservative Coalition
Tue.    Bubba???!!!
6/25    Just Deserts: The Clinton Presidency

Wed.    Taking a Good Look in the Mirror
6/26     The Bush II and Obama Administrations

Thu.    Alternative Facts 
6/27    The Trump Administration and the Exciting Conclusion to This Course!

Fri.       *** Final Examination ***
6/28        (Be sure to bring a blue book)


Your grade for this course will be based primarily on two "midterm" exams and a final exam, each of which will count approximately 25% when I determine your final grade. In addition, I will take into account attendance and participation—another 25% of your grade.

Midterm and Final Exams: 8 ID'S, 1 essay
ID'S will be selected from the terms put on the board at the beginning of each lecture.  You will be asked not only to identify the terms, but also to explain their historical significance.  I am impressed when students can show how the ID terms relate to important themes discussed in this class.

Essay questions will deal with major themes discussed in the lectures.  Most often, the exam question will be a generalization I have made in class with the additional word, "comment."

A student who studies hard and does the required reading should have plenty to say in response to each of these questions.  You will be given two hours for each exam.  Most students will need the full time to do a good job.

What is a good job?  I tell students over and over again that a good essay consists of a series of good generalizations based on the exam question and backed up with specific support from the lectures and the readings.  I am particularly impressed when students include in their essays references to primary source material.


Please make sure all electronic devices are turned off and put away before class begins.  Cell phones, laptop computers, MP3 players, and similar devices are all distracting to other students.  I do *not* allow the use of electronic dictionaries during exams.


There are online notes available for all the lectures. However, you should be sure to take good notes for yourself. You almost certainly will not remember the material if you don’t take extensive notes. You will also find that the time goes much more quickly if are taking notes rather than just sitting and listening.

Generally, a good student will have about four pages of notes for each lecture.  It is a good idea to record the title and date of each lecture. Also, it is a good idea to review and annotate your notes soon after each lecture while the material is still fresh in your mind.

Cheating and other forms of academic dishonesty and misconduct run contrary to the purposes of higher education.   Cheating includes the use of any notes during the midterm or final exam.  Please place no marks of any kind on or in your blue book before I give the signal to begin taking the exam.  All exams must be taken on blank bluebooks.  On at least one exam, bluebooks will be checked before the exam.  Bluebooks that have not been checked, have missing pages, or pages with large erasures will not be accepted.

It is not cheating to study with another student, to share notes, or to prepare essays or ID's together. However, if you do study with another student, be sure you do not sit next to each other during the exam.  

Please be especially careful to observe academic integrity standards on the take-home quizzes. The quizzes are intended to make sure you have done the primary source readings, and your comments should be based on your own observations, not someone else’s ideas. Plagiarism (e.g. copying material from the internet or recycling work done by another student) is not allowed.  I do sometimes allow “group work” on quizzes, but unless I have specifically indicated that you are allowed to work with other students, make sure your quiz comments are entirely your own. 
Northern State University's official policy and procedures on cheating and academic dishonesty as outlined in the Northern State University Student Handbook applies to this course. Students caught cheating will receive a zero for the assignment, and, since zeros are worse than F‘s, they are likely to fail the course as a whole.


Northern State University recognizes its responsibility for creating an institutional climate in which students with disabilities can thrive.  If you have any type of disability for which you require accommodations, please contact Karen Gerety at the NSU Office of Disability Services (626-2371, Student Center 217) as soon as possible to discuss your particular needs.


Under Board of Regents and University policy student academic performance may be evaluated solely on an academic basis, not on opinions or conduct in matters unrelated to academic standards. Students should be free to take reasoned exception to the data or views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion, but they are responsible for learning the content of any course of study for which they are enrolled. Students who believe that an academic evaluation reflects prejudiced or capricious consideration of student opinions or conduct unrelated to academic standards should contact the academic dean administratively in charge of the class to initiate a review of the evaluation