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United States Era 10

Contemporary United States (1968 to the present)

Standard 1: Recent developments in foreign policy and domestic politics

Standard 2: Economic, social, and cultural developments in contemporary United States

Examining the history of our own time presents special difficulties. The historian ordinarily has the benefit of hindsight but never less so than in examining the last few decades. Furthermore, the closer we approach the present the less likely it is that historians will be able to transcend their own biases. Historians can never attain complete objectivity, but they tend to fall shortest of the goal when they deal with current or very recent events. For example, writers and teachers of history who voted for a particular candidate will likely view that candidate’s action in office more sympathetically than a historian who voted the other way.

There can be little doubt, however, that in global politics the role of the United States has led to seismic changes that every student, as a person approaching voting age, should understand. The detente with the People’s Republic of China under Nixon’s presidency represents the beginning of a new era, though the outcome is still far from determined. Perhaps more epochal is the collapse of the Soviet Union, the overthrow of communist governments in Eastern Europe, and the consequent end of the Cold War and the nuclear arms race. Students can understand little about American attempts to adjust to a post-bipolar world without comprehending these momentous events.

In politics, students ought to explore how the political balance has tilted away from liberalism since 1968. They should also study the ability of the political and constitutional system to check and balance itself against potential abuses as exemplified in the Watergate and Iran-Contra affairs. They can hone their ability to think about the American political system by exploring and evaluating debates over government’s role in the economy, environmental protection, social welfare, international trade policies, and more.

No course in American history should reach a conclusion without considering some of the major social and cultural changes of the most recent decades. Among them, several may claim precedence: first, the reopening of the nation’s gates to immigrants that for the first time come primarily from Asia and Central America; second, renewed reform movements that promote environmental, feminist, and civil rights agendas that lost steam in the 1970s; third, the resurgence of religious evangelicalism; fourth, the massive alteration in the character of work through technological innovation and corporate reorganization; and lastly, the continuing struggle for e pluribus unum amid contentious debates over national vs. group identity, group rights vs. individual rights, and the overarching goal of making social and political practice conform to the nation’s founding principles.

Each standard was developed with historical thinking standards in mind. The relevant historical thinking standards are linked in the brackets, [ ], below.

Standard 1

Recent developments in foreign policy and domestic politics.

Standard 1A

The student understands domestic politics from Nixon to Carter.

GRADE LEVELTHEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
5-12 Evaluate the effectiveness of the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations in addressing social and environmental issues. [Assess the importance of the individual in history]
9-12 Assess the efforts of the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations to combat recession and inflation. [Compare and contrast differing policies]
5-12 Explain the Nixon administration’s involvement in Watergate and examine the role of the media in exposing the scandal. [Formulate historical questions]
9-12 Analyze the constitutional issues raised by the Watergate affair and evaluate the effects of Watergate on public opinion. [Examine the influence of ideas]

Standard 1B

The student understands domestic politics in contemporary society.

GRADE LEVELTHEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
7-12 Explain the conservative reaction to liberalism and evaluate supply-side economic strategies of the Reagan and Bush administrations. [Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas]
5-12 Examine the impact of the “Reagan Revolution” on federalism and public perceptions of the role of government. [Examine the influence of ideas]
9-12 Analyze constitutional issues in the Iran-Contra affair. [Identify issues and problems in the past]
9-12 Explain why labor unionism has declined in recent decades. [Interrogate historical data]
9-12 Evaluate the impact of recurring recessions and the growing national debt on the domestic agendas of recent presidential administrations. [Compare and contrast differing policies]

Standard 1C

The student understands major foreign policy initiatives.

GRADE LEVELTHEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
7-12 Assess U.S. policies toward arms limitation and explain improved relations with the Soviet Union. [Examine the influence of ideas]
7-12 Assess Nixon’s policy of detente with the USSR and the People’s Republic of China. [Analyze multiple causation]
9-12 Examine the U.S. role in political struggles in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
5-12 Evaluate Reagan’s efforts to reassert American military power and rebuild American prestige. [Hypothesize the influence of the past]
7-12 Explain the reasons for the collapse of communist governments in Eastern Europe and the USSR. [Analyze multiple causation]
9-12 Evaluate the reformulation of foreign policy in the post-Cold War era. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]

Standard 2

Economic, social, and cultural developments in contemporary United States.

Standard 2A

The student understands economic patterns since 1968.

GRADE LEVELTHEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
9-12 Explain the sluggishness in the overall rate of economic growth and the relative stagnation of wages since 1973. [Utilize quantitative data]
7-12 Analyze the economic and social effects of the sharp increase in the labor force participation of women and new immigrants. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
9-12 Explain the increase in income disparities and evaluate its social and political consequences. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
7-12 Examine the consequences of the shift of the labor force from manufacturing to service industries. [Evaluate debates among historians]
5-12 Evaluate how scientific advances and technological changes such as robotics and the computer revolution affect the economy and the nature of work. [Explain historical continuity and change]
9-12 Assess the effects of international trade, transnational business organization, and overseas competition on the economy. [Utilize quantitative data]

Standard 2B

The student understands the new immigration and demographic shifts.

GRADE LEVELTHEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
5-12 Analyze the new immigration policies after 1965 and the push-pull factors that prompted a new wave of immigrants. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
9-12 Identify the major issues that affected immigrants and explain the conflicts these issues engendered. [Identify issues and problems in the past]
7-12 Explore the continuing population flow from cities to suburbs, the internal migrations from the “Rustbelt” to the “Sunbelt,” and the social and political effects of these changes. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
9-12 Explain changes in the size and composition of the traditional American family and their ramifications. [Explain historical continuity and change]
7-12 Explain the shifting age structure of the population with the aging of the “baby boomers,” and grasp the implications of the “greying of America.” [Utilize quantitative data]

Standard 2C

The student understands changing religious diversity and its impact on American institutions and values.

GRADE LEVELTHEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
5-12 Analyze how the new immigrants have affected religious diversity. [Explain historical continuity and change]
9-12 Analyze the position of major religious groups on political and social issues. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
7-12 Explain the growth of the Christian evangelical movement. [Consider multiple perspectives]
7-12 Analyze how religious organizations use modern telecommunications to promote their faiths. [Interrogate historical data]

Standard 2D

The student understands contemporary American culture.

GRADE LEVELTHEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
7-12 Evaluate the desegregation of education and assess its role in the creation of private white academies. [Analyze multiple causation]
9-12 Analyze how social change and renewed ethnic diversity has affected artistic expression and popular culture. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
7-12 Explain the influence of media on contemporary American culture. [Explain historical continuity and change]
5-12 Explore the international influence of American culture. [Draw upon visual and musical sources]
5-12 Explain the reasons for the increased popularity of professional sports and examine the influence of spectator sports on popular culture. [Reconstruct patterns of historical succession and duration]

Standard 2E

The student understands how a democratic polity debates social issues and mediates between individual or group rights and the common good.

GRADE LEVELTHEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
9-12 Evaluate to what degree affirmative action policies have achieved their goals and assess the current debate over affirmative action. [Consider multiple perspectives]
5-12 Explore the range of women’s organizations, the changing goals of the women’s movement, and the issues currently dividing women. [Explain historical continuity and change]
9-12 Explain the evolution of government support for the assertion of rights by the disabled. [Reconstruct patterns of historical succession and duration]
7-12 Evaluate the continuing grievances of racial and ethnic minorities and their recurrent reference to the nation’s charter documents. [Explain historical continuity and change]
9-12 Examine the emergence of the Gay Liberation Movement and evaluate the invocation of democratic ideals concerning the civil rights of gay Americans. [Consider multiple perspectives]
9-12 Evaluate the continuing struggle for e pluribus unum amid debates over national vs. group identity, group rights vs. individual rights, multiculturalism, and bilingual education. [Consider multiple perspectives]