Course Title: ―Topics in History‖ Discipline:
(Semester-long elective/History) School: Marlborough School
District: N/A (Independent School)
City: Los Angeles
Name of School Contact Person: Grade Level(s) for which course is intended: 11-12
Susan Lewandowski (College Counselor)
Contact Information: Length of Course: Semester Phone: (323) 935-1147 x441 Fax: (323) 933-0542 Unit Value: 0.5 (half-year equivalent) E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date of School Board Approval: Seeking Honors” distinction? No.
(Approved by Marlborough’s
Was this course previously approved by the UC?
American History (year-long survey course)
Brief Course Description
This course is intended to allow students to take a more focused topical or thematic approach to
history. The topics and themes of the course will vary from year to year, but the goals and learning
environment will not vary. The course will introduce students to a topic or theme in depth while also
training them in the practice of the methods historians use when they ask very particular questions
about specific topics. Every year in this course—no matter what the topic that particular year—students will examine historiographical issues (―How and what do historians debate?‖), delve into
research issues (―How do historians go about answering the questions that they and others ask? How
will they as students do so?‖), and grapple with interesting questions involved in their particular topic
(―Why have African peoples and nations been relatively poor in modern times?‖, ―What is the most
accurate way to characterize relations between white settlers and native Americans in the mid-19th thCentury?‖, ―How did Americans views of leisure change in the early 20 Century?‖, etc.). For the
academic year 2004-2005, the topic for this course will be ―Twentieth Century American Pop
Culture.‖ For future years, topics will range widely. Some of the future topical courses we have
thdiscussed include: ―African and the Atlantic World, 1850-2000,‖ ―Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in 20
Century America,‖ ―America in the Sixties,‖ ―The Cold War World, 1945-1991,‖ ―Gender and
Modern History.‖ Some of these courses have already been taught at the school; others will emerge
over time. The principal benefit of this type of elective course is to allow students who have really
enjoyed their experience in history survey courses to take a course that emphasizes depth over breadth
and allows more space for them to pursue their own historical interested in a guided, rigorous setting.
In 2005, this interdisciplinary course examines the history of popular culture in the industrialized
United States, drawing on methodologies from different fields, and using a variety of evidence,
including minstrel song sheets, amusement parks, television, and romance novels. We look at the
audience, the producers and the texts presented by American popular culture both domestically and
Cultural significance of the automobile including changes it has produced in our society and our
landscape. Areas examined include the assembly line, automobile design, roadside architecture,
suburbia, advertisements, and the car in popular culture.
Revise academic definitions of youth subcultures by examining music, film, texts, and real people.
The goal is to gain historical perspective on the tricky intersection of youth, music, identity, etc.
Each student will conceive and carry out a supervised research project over the course of the semester.
For Grades 11-12.
A. Course goals and/or major student outcomes:
1. Students will be able to read advanced scholarly material critically, systematically, and
2. Students will improve their ability to articulate, explain, discuss, and defend their opinions
regarding course readings, instructor’s comments, and other students’ comments.
3. Students will improve their independent research skills by conceiving and carrying out a
research project that results in a substantial research paper.
4. Students will improve their ability to write coherent, persuasive analytical essays by writing
a short review essay (for one outside essay or book) and one research paper.
B. Course objectives:
1. Students will become familiar with and discuss the concept of historiography, especially as it
applies to the scholarly study of topics in American history.
2. In a given year, students will be introduced to and discuss one of the major topics involved in
the history of the United States, such as colonial development, the Early Republic, Civil
War and Reconstruction, the American West, popular culture, the Depression and New
Deal, the Cold War, the Civil Rights movement, the Great Society, the Counterculture,
political protest (the New Left, Black Nationalism, La Raza, Feminism), and the Vietnam
C. Course Outline:
I. Overview of topic
II. Historiography as a Concept & the Historiography of the topic
III. Political and Social Context of topic
IV. Legacy of the topic – looking backwards at development
D. Texts & supplemental instructional materials:
Instructional material will consist of textbooks, readers, and media, depending on the topic chosen
and the discretion of the instructor.
For Spring 2004, the booklist will include:
Carroll, Michael T. and Eddie Tafoya. Phenomenological Approaches to Popular Culture. Bowling
Green: Bowling Green State University Press, 2000.
Gilderhus, Mark T. History and Historians – A Historiographical Introduction, 5th edition. Upper
Saddle River , NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003.
Kasson, John F. Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century. New York: Hill
and Wang, 1978.
Nachbar, Jack and Kevin Lause. Popular Culture – An Introductory Text. Madison: Popular Press,
E. Instructional methods and/or strategies:
1. Primary method of instruction and learning will be based on the seminar model. The instructor
will set the format for each class’ discussions and frequently introduce introductory, framing
questions for discussion. At other points, small groups of students will lead discussions.
Discussions will be pitched at or near college-level.
2. Secondary methods of instruction and learning will include: lectures and note-taking on various
topics to supplement the reading, film-watching and discussion of films, outside readings and
reports, and independent research and the writing of a research paper.
F. Assessment methods and/or tools:
Assessments of each student’s performance in the course will come in three areas:
1. Extent and quality of preparedness and participation in discussions. This will include those
times when each of the students is responsible for facilitating discussion.
2. Preparedness for and quality of oral reports on topics to be determined.
3. Quality of research into a topic or theme of the student’s choice, and the quality of the
research paper itself. The research will be completed in pre-designated stages, some of
which each of the students will report on for the rest of the class.
G. Assessment criteria. For discussion: ability to present, articulate, defend, critique, and synthesize various materials and
issues under discussion.
For research: ability to creatively produce a list of possible topics of inquiry, ability to distinguish
between those topics, ability to assess the practicality of researching each topic, ability to
identify and assess possible resources and make use of necessary aids (including reference
librarians), ability to plan and execute a schedule for research, ability to discriminate between
sources with direct usefulness to given research project and those that are mostly irrelevant.
For writing: ability to organize, synthesize, and compose a persuasive expository essay. Varying
levels of achievement will be distinguished by the clarity and sophistication of the student’s
thesis, clarity and sophistication of the student’s explanation of the relevant historical context
and issues, and clarity and sophistication of evidence presented in the body of the paper.