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Additional Class Topics
For Further Interest: Additional Class Topics
The Eisenhower Era, 1952 - 1960
- Focus on the Army-McCarthy hearings and
the decline at last of low-blow Joe. Perhaps discuss Eisenhowers
reluctance to take on McCarthy when he was popular.
- Consider Americas relation to the
French war in Vietnam or the installation of the Shah in Iran. Discuss how
American policies, while avoiding immediate conflicts, sowed the seeds of
later, more serious difficulties.
- Examine the Kennedy-Nixon campaign of
1960 for the specific light it shed on wider themes of the time, including
anti-communism, the new importance of television, and tensions that accompanied
the movement of previously marginal groups like Catholics into the center
of American life.
- Consider the relation between economic
transformations and the role of women in the 1950s. Show both the new emphasis
on domesticity and childrearing, and the beginnings of rebellion by suburban
- Conduct a class debate over the following
topics: e.g., Racial Segregation in Public Schools Is Unconstitutional, The
Suburbs: The New American Dream, and America Should Send a Man to the Moon;
primary source readings will come from the following book: Opposing
Viewpoints in American History Volume II: From Reconstruction to the
Present, San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Another good source
of debate topics is Larry Madaras and James M. SoRelle, Taking
Sides Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in American History,
Volume II: Reconstruction to the Present, Connecticut: McGraw-Hill,
- Show students the following video: The
Century Americas Time (ABC Video in association with The History
Channel), Volume IV: 1953-1960: Happy Daze. Despite Americas
renewed identity and prosperity, paranoia about Communism gives rise to the
witch-hunts of McCarthyism. The sound of a new generation emerges
as rock n roll fills the airwaves, while African Americans,
angered at their second-class citizenship, let their discontent be known.
- Have the students read Sloan Wilsons The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955). Use this novel
to discuss the tensions faced by average Americans during the height
of the 1950s. This was made into an award winning movie in 1956.
- Have the students watch the movie Edward
Scissorhands (1990). What is the symbolism of this movie how does
it portray life of the 50s? Does it do so in a positive or negative
light? The movie is rated PG-13.
- Have the students read selections from
C. Wright MillsWhite Collar: The American Middle
Classes (1951), The Sociological Imagination (1959),
and The Power Elite (1956). Important works in
American Intellectual Thought of the 50s.
- Have the students read C. Wright MillsLetter to the New Left (1960) in David A. Hollinger and Charles
Cappers (Editors) The American Intellectual Tradition:
Volume II 1865 to the Present, New York: Oxford University
- Have the students watch the movie Invasion
of the Body Snatchers (1956). In what ways can this be seen as a critique
of McCarthyism and the notion of Big Brother? The movie is unrated.
- Have the students read Jack Kerouacs On the Road (1957). Why is this novel known as the Bible
of the Beat Generation?