Advanced topics in American Society 4219-AW109-A
The course will focus on what changes have been taking place in American society in the last half century and what is still happening today. The course will be divided into 6 two-week modules, focusing on a variety of closely inter-related topics.
These 6 modules include several important topics in the study of American society and provide the basis for a systematic inquiry into how these concerns originated, how they developed over the years in response to new events and experiences, and how they are inter-related with the other modules.
1. EDUCATION, SCIENCE, INVENTION, RELIGION
How the special conditions of the new world shaped American
thought and Institutions: Self-reliance, personal responsibility,
The importance of universal education in creating national
identity and unity, bringing new immigrants into the system,
fostering racial integration, and enhancing upward mobility.
How science and invention have shaped American society.
The role of religion in American life.
2. THE AMERICAN ADVENTURE IN DEMOCRATIC RULE
Local organizations and problem-solving.
Teaching democracy in the schools; ignoring it at work
The role of government
Government and business
The new deal and the post-war reaction to it from business.
The free market obsession
Departing from human values and priorities?
The latest assault on democracy from the wealthy and business
(Maybe 3 weeks on this topic)
3. INEQUALITY, THE FREE MARKET AND THE GROWTH OF MEDIA CONCENTRATION, GIANT BANKS AND BUSINESS (MULTI-NATIONAL CORPORATIONS, GLOBALIZATION)
The cycles of inequality, crisis, and reform
The current rise of economic and political inequality
The rise of giant multi-national corporations
The export of jobs
The rise of a global economy
The stagnation of wages and the decline of the middle class
The eclipse of labor unions
The rise in poverty, homelessness, and hunger
Is the American Dream Fading?
Is meaningful democracy an endangered species in the US?
4. POVERTY, BEING LEFT OUT, ALIENATION
The rise of women and minorities and the white man’s isolation
(In the countryside—Militias, guns, and paranoia)
(In the cities—Gangs, unemployment, drugs, alcohol,
Increasing poverty, unemployment, homelessness, single-parent
Anti-government sentiment rising again (especially against the
Rural vs. Urban tension and conflict
Racial and ethnic tensions—Obama and the resurgence of
The growing number of the elderly and their isolation
5. TECHNOLOGY AND ITS EFFECT ON SOCIETY
The Rise of Industry
Film, radio, TV
The telegraph, Telephone, Space Exploration, Satellites,
Xerox, The Recorder, The computer, on-line communication, the iPod, Tablet, and Cell Phone
6. NATURE AND THE ENVIRONMENT
The wilderness, nature, and National Parks
The rise of Cities and urban policy
The transformation of the city, suburbs and bicycles
The climate change debate
Science and religion
How societies solve their problems
Each student will choose at least one of the sub-sections of each of these modules as they become the subject of the 2 weeks in which they will be the focus of class presentations and discussion. Students will be expected to work together as a team to answer the questions that are raised about each of these modules and/or the projects that are proposed.
Special attention will be paid to the role of these major historical events and developments in shaping American society and the specifics in the 6 modules:
British colonial rule
An open (non-rigid class) society
The vast wilderness, raw materials, opportunities
Territorial expansion—and the frontier mentality
Slavery and the plantation system
The Civil war and reconstruction
The Industrial Revolution
The rise of the labor movement
Robber barons, inequality
The progressive movement, and Teddy Roosevelt
World War I
The Red Scare
The Great Depression
World War II
The cold War
The rise of China as a great power
Growth of giant multi-national corporations
The collapse of the Soviet empire
Continuing (now largely illegal) immigration
9/11 and terrorism
Type of course
Students will learn about:
- major developments in the US society
- contemporary variance of American society
- controversies revolving around selected issues and various narratives
Students will develop the skills of:
- identifying and explaining the broad and complex range of American society and what has shaped its development over the years;
- critical thinking by exploring varied opinions, interpretations and approaches;
- interdisciplinary analysis by combining sociological, cultural and economic perspectives;
- working in teams to evaluate problems and develop solutions;
- making written and oral presentations of their findings with confidence
Students will gain the ability to:
- understand the role of culture in the interpretation of socio-economic developments
- recognize the role of ideological controversies in the interpretation of these phenomena
Students will be expected to:
- attend each class, ask relevant questions, take part in a project team, and participate in discussion about the topic of the day (25% of grade).
- write a 10 page double-spaced paper with footnotes and bibliography (25% of grade),
- prepare an annotated bibliography of all of his/her readings for the course (25% of grade), and
- take a fill-in-the blanks final exam (25% of grade).
All of these requirements have to be fulfilled (none can be skipped).
Readings will be assigned each week, with an attempt made to use the best printed (library)and on-line sources to provide background information and bring the class up-to-date on what is happening in the debate over each issue.
Specific texts will include portions of classic works (e.g. Alexis DeTocqueville and Benjamin Franklin) as well as contemporary writings.
We will also use other sources such as The Zinn Education Project or The Kahn Academy as well as documentary movies.
Information on level of this course, year of study and semester when the course unit is delivered, types and amount of class hours - can be found in course structure diagrams of apropriate study programmes. This course is related to the following study programmes:
Additional information (registration calendar, class conductors, localization and schedules of classes), might be available in the USOSweb system: