The Last Sixty Years of American History Shaped the Present Day US Discussion

Instructions: This open-book/ open-note exam. There is no need to consult sources other than course materials to successfully complete this exam. Please use informal parenthetical in-text citations that mention the name of the source like this (Lecture 4.1)Your writing must include parenthetical in-text citations directly after the information referenced. A works cited at the end makes it difficult for us to grade your engagement with the sources. As such, the failure to include in-text parenthetical citations, as modeled above, will result in point deductions. Do not cite or include any outside sources. The use of outside sources will result in significant point deductions. Copying and pasting without quotation marks is plagiarism and will be graded accordingly. Do not copy and paste directly (even with quotes) from course materials, particularly secondary sources. Merely quoting from the textbook does not demonstrate understanding of and engagement with course materials. It is best to synthesize course materials and put them in your own words.

Course materials:

Chose ONE of the two prompts listed below:

In a five paragraph essay (more info on this essay format here (Links to an external site.)) answer the following question:

Prompt I:

“The past is never dead, it’s not even past.”

William Faulkner

“Well, how did I get here?”

The Talking Heads

In the second half of this course we have discussed a variety of trends, processes and movements, including the civil rights movement, political polarization, culture wars, etc… With these trends in mind, how have the last sixty years of American history shaped the present-day United States? To complete this essay choose one event or issue unfolding in America in 2020. It could be the Trump presidency, the rise of the Alt-Right, Black Lives Matter uprisings, the Climate Crisis, #MeToo, DACA, the changing nature of truth, the Covid-19 public health emergency, issues of technology and privacy, etc… and use course materials to explain how we got here.

  1. Introduction: Select one current trend/ process/ movement (could be from the suggestions in the prompt above or not), and link it to an ongoing process or series of events that occurred between 1945- 2020. Clearly explain and define your chosen current event, and the historical context you are linking it to. State a clear thesis in which you answer the prompt and outline your supporting evidence.

If necessary you may cite 1-2 outside sources related to your chosen current event.

  1. In your body paragraphs, include at least three ways, from three distinct moments post- 1945 that relate to your topic and demonstrate how they link thematically to your chosen current issue.
  2. In your conclusion: What you think would change if more people were aware of the historical context to the trend/ process/ moment you discuss in your essay? Why do you think the longer narrative is significant to understanding your chosen current issue? How could understanding the longer narrative keep us from needlessly repeating history?

Prompt II:

Throughout Barack Obama’s presidency he often invoked Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” In your response answer, to what extent does this quote accurately represent the history of justice from 1945- 2020? Your response could approach justice from the lens of civil rights, civil liberties, peace/ foreign interventions, or something else (as long as you can support your choice with evidence from course materials).

  1. Introduction: In your introduction discuss what the quote means, particularly how you define justice in your analysis. Provide a clear thesis statement that responds to the prompt and states how you will support your argument.
  2. In your body paragraphs, select three examples from distinct historical moments between 1945 and 2020 that speak to the issue of justice (according to your definition) and advance your answer to the prompt.
  3. In your conclusion: Sum up your analysis by restating your thesis and your supporting evidence. Consider, given the trajectory you outline in your essay, what would need to happen for the arc to bend further towards justice in the future?

Optional extra credit (worth up to 3 points):

Throughout the 20th century, the rise of conspiracy theories and misinformation has changed the way that we understand the nature of truth. In 2-3 sentences, provide at least three concrete ways we can figure out if a news article or post on social media is credible.

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