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Summer Semester I, 2010

Dr. Dan Lerner | Phone: 616-234-4275 | Email:

Welcome to HS 095! This course is a survey of modern American History, explored through the
twin lenses of feature films and popular fiction.

By the end of the semester students in this course should be able to:

1) Identify major themes in the development of 20th century American History including the
complex interplay between various cultural groups;
2) Express an understanding of the behavior of America’s political institutions and how those
institutions have changed over the 20th century;
3) Comprehend and discuss the role of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and class in modern
American History;
4) Build a philosophy of understanding the recent past that allows them to use history as a tool to
reflect on and evaluate human experience;
5) Develop and enhance teambuilding skills by working in small, online groups; build
communication skills through discussion board conversations;
6) Develop and enhance critical thinking skills.


Blackboard (Bb) is the tool we use for online courses at UVM. You’ll take quizzes, submit your
essays, and discuss the class content through Bb. As you browse the Bb site for our course, note
that there are categories for all the pieces of the class, located along the left-hand side of the site.
In “course documents” you’ll find things like the syllabus and schedule. In “assignments,”
you’ll find the essays, quizzes, etc. Use the grade book feature to track your progress in the

Each week of the class will be built on a theme, and will contain a series of topics for us to focus
on within the theme. You’ll have some reading to do in your required text and this will provide
good historical context for the films and novels. We’ll discuss the material from text on the
discussion board.

We will of course also discuss the films and novels. Everyone will view the films. You do not
have to read all of the novels. Instead, I will divide the class so that in weeks 2-6 half of the
class reads one novel, and half reads the other. The only exception is week 1, where we will all
read the same novel. Week by week, I will create a wiki for each film-novel pairing, and this is
where the discussions of those items will take place.

It is important that all students know that this course is NOT self-paced. Our work will be done
weekly; assignments have specific due dates, and I’ll expect you to meet those.
The faculty and staff at UVM are committed to serving all enrolled students. Our intention is to
create an intellectually stimulating, safe, and respectful academic atmosphere. In return it is
expected that each of you will honor and respect the opinions and feelings of others at all times.
Students who are unable to do so will be warned and if necessary, further action will be taken.
This may include removal from the class. For this class and others, students should become
aware of and adhere to the UVM Student Code of Conduct.

Thomas C. Reeves, Twentieth-Century America: A Brief History (Oxford, 2000).

Note: This book is chosen to provide a solid context for the topical work we’ll be doing with the
films and novels. There are many books that explore the material we will cover in the course,
but the Reeves text offers us short chapters, and it is written in a style that is easily accessible.

(A) FILMS (students will view all)

D.W. Griffith, “Birth of a Nation”

Richard Attenborough, “In Love and War”
Tim Robbins, “The Cradle Will Rock”
Scott Hicks, “Snow Falling on Cedars”
Stanley Kubrick, “Full Metal Jacket”
Steve James, “Hoop Dreams”

(B) NOVELS (students will read not read all – just one per week, see schedule)

Anzia Yezirska, Bread Givers

E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
James Lawrence and Robert Lee, Inherit the Wind
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Chaim Potok, The Chosen
Richard Wright, Native Son
Sloan Wilson, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
Bobbie Ann Mason, In Country
John Nichols, The Milagro Beanfield War
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale



Two essays 50% (25% each)
Weekly quizzes 25%
On-line participation 25%
Totals 100%
ESSAYS: Students will write two five-page essays, one midway through the course and another
at the end, see the schedule for the dates. These essays will be your responses to prompts that I
provide. Completed essays will be submitted through Bb using SafeAssignment.

WEEKLY QUIZZES: There is a lot of reading in this course and to be successful, it’s
important to begin the week with the assigned reading (the Reeves text) already completed.
Students are therefore required to take a weekly quiz on the assigned reading (again, the Reeves
text). These will be available on Bb by Saturdays at 10 am, and they must be completed no later
than Tuesdays at 11pm.

PARTICIPATION: Everyone in the class is expected to contribute via the discussion board and
the wikis. I will structure and facilitate these discussions. Students will earn points for actively
engaging with one another. At a minimum, students must post on at least three days of every
seven-day week.


 You are having a problem with course materials, assignments, or other related issues.
 You are having a problem with a classmate.
 You are having a problem with me.
 You wish to discuss your grades.
 You have a burning desire to be a historian (who wouldn’t?)

If you are a student wishing to request accommodations for a disability, you must contact the
Disability Support Services Office. Verification of a disability is required to receive reasonable
academic accommodations. Information regarding disabilities is treated in a confidential and
respectful manner.

Academic honesty is fundamental to the mission and purpose of our College. All members of
the College community must develop, foster, and sustain an environment that supports academic
honesty. Cheating in any form will not be tolerated. Additionally, any student who has
knowledge of others’ cheating is expected to bring that information to my attention. All work
submitted by students must be their own. Representing ideas, concepts, language, etc. from
other sources as one’s own work is plagiarism, i.e., academic fraud. Incidents of cheating and/or
plagiarism will result in a grade of zero for that assignment and possibly other punitive measures.
If you have any questions about what constitutes cheating or plagiarism, PLEASE ASK ME!
Oh how the online universe brings people together! I live in Michigan, where I am the Associate
Dean of Arts & Sciences at Grand Rapids Community College. GRCC is a comprehensive
community college, enrolling approximately 30,000 students.

North Carolina is my home state. I attended Duke University where I earned my undergraduate
degree in History. I spent the next three years working as an admissions officer for Duke, then
went to Michigan State for graduate school. I earned a doctorate in U.S. History from MSU. I
then went to SUNY-Binghamton (in upstate New York) for several years. At Binghamton I
taught U.S. History to undergraduates and to graduate students. I also ran the Center for the
Teaching of American History, which helped K-12 teachers enhance the ways that they teach
U.S. history. In 2006 I came to GRCC, to my present role.

Over the years I have taught many U.S. History courses at several universities – Michigan State,
Duke, UVM, SUNY- Binghamton, and GRCC. Within U.S. History my areas of specialty are
sports history, African American history, and urban history. I’m happy to discuss any of these
with you!


Week 1: Coming to America

Topics: “The American Century,” immigration/industrialization/urbanization, race and ethnicity.

Reading: Reeves, chapter 1.

Film: D.W. Griffith, “Birth of a Nation” (only the second half of this long film)
Fiction: Yezirska, Bread Givers
Assignments: weekly quiz; discussion board and wiki postings.

Week 2: The New World Order?

Topics: The Progressive Era, region, community, labor, World War I, ethnicity and identity, the
“roaring twenties,” modernity.

Reading: Reeves, chapters 2-4.

Film: Richard Attenborough, “In Love and War”
Fiction: Doctorow, Ragtime and Lawrence & Lee, Inherit the Wind
Assignments: weekly quiz; discussion board and wiki postings.

Week 3: Economic Crisis, and Crises of Culture

Topics: The Great Depression, the New Deal, race relations.

Reading: Reeves, chapters 5-6.

Film: Tim Robbins “The Cradle Will Rock”
Fiction: Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath and Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God
Assignments: weekly quiz; discussion board and wiki postings; essay #1.

Week 4: War, Race, and Ethnicity

Topics: segregation and integration, conformity, conspicuous consumption, mainstreaming
ethnicity, the war abroad/the war at home

Reading: Reeves, chapters 7-8.

Film: Scott Hicks, “Snow Falling on Cedars”
Fiction: Wright, Native Son, and Potok, The Chosen
Assignments: weekly quiz; discussion board and wiki postings.

Week 5: Power and Identity in Mid-Century America

Topics: Vietnam, civil rights movement, student protests, the counter culture, feminism

Reading: Reeves, chapters 9-11.

Film: Stanley Kubrick, “Full Metal Jacket”
Fiction: Wilson, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and Mason, In Country
Assignments: weekly quiz; discussion board and wiki postings.

Week 6: America Here, Now and Yet to Come

Topics: Wealth, power, gender, inequality, community, and the “culture wars”

Reading: Reeves, chapters 12-15.

Film: Stanley Kubrick, “Full Metal Jacket”
Fiction: Nichols, The Milagro Beanfield War and Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
Assignments: weekly quiz; discussion board and wiki postings; essay #2; course evaluation.