Oct 21 2011

Basic U.S. History

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Basic United States History


2013 – 2014


The history of theUnited States of Americais a vast subject to complete in two semesters.  Basic United States History is titled “basic” because of the reading level of the textbook.  In all other respects it is as or more challenging than the regular United States History course.  The course is a yearlong survey of the history of this nation and its successful completion is required for graduation from Rockridge. This course is designed to be used with the textbook and a number of outside readings and films (commercial as well as documentary).  It will incorporate primary and secondary source material to refute some popular American myths and to focus on five key themes:

–          The revolution againstGreat Britainand establishing an independent government.

–          The Civil War and the making of theUnited States of America.

–          Populism, Progressivism and the quest for equality of all citizens.

–          The Great Depression and emergence of the United Statesas the world power.

–          The Cold War, its challenges and emerging new trials after the fall of theSoviet Union.


Grades are calculated as described by the student handbook.  All grades received are percent averages (I do not use points).  Each nine weeks grade is computed from:

30% – quiz and test scores

40% – assignments (20% short term assignments/in-class activities/group work, and 20% from each of the 9-weeks projects)

10% – class attendance/preparedness/participation

20% – comprehensive nine weeks exam

An average of both nine weeks comprises the semester grade.


Four 9-weeks projects are included with regular assignments accounting for one-half of each total assignment grade during those 9-weeks.  These projects vary over the course of the year and detailed instructions for each will be handed out at the beginning of each new 9-week quarter.  The first project is a local or technology history research project assigned by the instructor.  The second is a “Memory Book” of experiences from the student’s life.  The third is a memorial to a friend or relative who witnessed first hand the first three-fourths of the 20th century, and the final project will be the tracing of a family tree and interview of a person on that tree.  All projects require the generation of a two to five page typed paper, and all project must be turned in for the successful completion of this course.  Writing is a skill that will be stressed during the course and all assignments and projects are required to be typed.


Quizzes will occur frequently (sometimes daily) over reading assignments.  Tests will be given at regular intervals, usually at the completion of one or more chapters (or the end of unit) in the textbook.  A comprehensive exam for each 9-week quarter will be given over all material presented during that 9-weeks.  Some quizzes may be open book or taken with notes.  Tests and exams are all closed book and without notes.  Some tests will contain a short answer or essay question in addition to objective (multiple choices and matching) questions.

A general outline of what the student can expect to study during the year follows.


First Nine Weeks:

Early American History, the birth of a nation, the making of theUnited Statesand building a powerful nation will all be incorporated in the first 9-week quarter.  This includes the early exploration of the New World, the revolution, civil war and reconstruction of theUnited States.  (Chapters 1 – 11)


Second Nine Weeks:

            The growth of the United States as it expands and industrializes – a nation on the brink of change during the later 19th and into the early 20th centuries.  The rising of the populist and progressive movements as well asAmerica’s becoming an imperial power are included.  The study ends with the Great War (precursor to endingU.S. isolationism) and a look at the results that would lead to a second global conflict in twenty years. (Chapters 12 – 17)


Third Nine Weeks:

We start with the roaring twenties and look at the interwar period.  Guest speakers are brought into the classroom to share their living memories of life in theUnited States’ period of turmoil of the Great Depression, World War II andKorea.  The course will delve more deeply into these topics because of their continuing impact on our current history.  The beginnings of the Cold War and the 1950’s complete the study.  (Chapters 18 – 23)


Fourth Nine Weeks:

A look at the tremendous upheaval and demand for change as well as look to the future conclude the year.  A Cold War with hot spots dominates the majority of the final 9-weeks:Vietnam, the moon landing, the civil rights movement and turbulent 1960’s are the principle focus of this study.  Watergate, the transition from the Cold War to new challenges (i.e.,Cuba,Nicaragua,Iran,Iraq, andAfghanistanet al.), and technology advances wrap up the year.  (Chapters 24 – 32)


The entire history of theUnited Statesis a daunting topic.  It is a primary goal of this course to convey a sense of interest and learning rather than to rush through a textbook in order to “cover” all of the material presented.  There will be much that is not contained in the text that I will add.


If you have questions concerning any of this material please feel free to contact me.  I use an answering machine to screen calls at home so please leave a message.  During the school day the best time to contact me is before school, during my prep-time and immediately after school.


David R. Potthast, MA

LCDR, USN – Retired

School: (309) 793-8020

Home:  (309) 582-0969

E-mail: (work) dpotthast@rockridgeschools.org

(home) d.potthast@mchsi.com

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