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Advanced topics in American Society

General data

Course ID: 4219-AW109-A Erasmus code / ISCED: 08.9 / (0229) Humanities (except languages), not elsewhere classified
Course title: Advanced topics in American Society Name in Polish: Advanced topics in American Society (Społeczeństwo amerykańskie - zagadnienia zaawansowane)
Organizational unit: American Studies Center
Course groups: All classes - weekday programme - 2nd cycle - Advanced Track
obligatory lectures - weekday studies - MA level
ECTS credit allocation (and other scores): (not available)
view allocation of credits
Language: English
Type of course:

obligatory courses

Short description:

The course will examine what is happening in American society today and how so many things have changed over the years, especially since the Great Depression. The course will be divided into 6 modules, each focusing on several inter-related topics, 1) Education, Science, Invention, Religion, 2) The American adventure in democracy and local organization and problem-solving, 3) Inequality, the free market, and the growth of media concentration, giant banks, multi-national corporations, and globalization, 4) Poverty, being left out, alienation, 5) Technology and its effects on society, 6) The environment and nature. Students will specialize in one of these modules and sub-topics and work together as a team to identify and solve problems in their area(s) of specialization.

Full description:

The course will focus on what changes have been taking place in American society in the last half century and what is still happening today. The course will be divided into 6 two-week modules, focusing on a variety of closely inter-related topics.

These 6 modules include several important topics in the study of American society and provide the basis for a systematic inquiry into how these concerns originated, how they developed over the years in response to new events and experiences, and how they are inter-related with the other modules.


How the special conditions of the new world shaped American

thought and Institutions: Self-reliance, personal responsibility,

self-help, cooperation.

The importance of universal education in creating national

identity and unity, bringing new immigrants into the system,

fostering racial integration, and enhancing upward mobility.

How science and invention have shaped American society.

The role of religion in American life.


Local organizations and problem-solving.

Teaching democracy in the schools; ignoring it at work

The role of government

Government and business

The new deal and the post-war reaction to it from business.

The free market obsession

Advertising, materialism

Departing from human values and priorities?

The latest assault on democracy from the wealthy and business

(Maybe 3 weeks on this topic)


The cycles of inequality, crisis, and reform

The current rise of economic and political inequality

The rise of giant multi-national corporations

The export of jobs

The rise of a global economy

The stagnation of wages and the decline of the middle class

The eclipse of labor unions

The rise in poverty, homelessness, and hunger

Is the American Dream Fading?

Is meaningful democracy an endangered species in the US?


The rise of women and minorities and the white man’s isolation

(In the countryside—Militias, guns, and paranoia)

(In the cities—Gangs, unemployment, drugs, alcohol,


Increasing poverty, unemployment, homelessness, single-parent


Anti-government sentiment rising again (especially against the

national government)

Rural vs. Urban tension and conflict

Racial and ethnic tensions—Obama and the resurgence of


The growing number of the elderly and their isolation


The Rise of Industry

The automobile

Film, radio, TV

The telegraph, Telephone, Space Exploration, Satellites,

Xerox, The Recorder, The computer, on-line communication, the iPod, Tablet, and Cell Phone


The wilderness, nature, and National Parks

The rise of Cities and urban policy

The transformation of the city, suburbs and bicycles

The climate change debate

Science and religion

How societies solve their problems

Each student will choose at least one of the sub-sections of each of these modules as they become the subject of the 2 weeks in which they will be the focus of class presentations and discussion. Students will be expected to work together as a team to answer the questions that are raised about each of these modules and/or the projects that are proposed.

Special attention will be paid to the role of these major historical events and developments in shaping American society and the specifics in the 6 modules:

British colonial rule


An open (non-rigid class) society

The vast wilderness, raw materials, opportunities

Territorial expansion—and the frontier mentality



Slavery and the plantation system

The Civil war and reconstruction

The Industrial Revolution

Public education


The rise of the labor movement

Robber barons, inequality

The progressive movement, and Teddy Roosevelt

World War I

The Red Scare

The Great Depression

World War II


The cold War

The rise of China as a great power

New technology

Growth of giant multi-national corporations


The collapse of the Soviet empire

Continuing (now largely illegal) immigration

Growing Inequality

9/11 and terrorism


Readings will be assigned each week, with an attempt made to use the best printed (library)and on-line sources to provide background information and bring the class up-to-date on what is happening in the debate over each issue.

Specific texts will include portions of classic works (e.g. Alexis DeTocqueville and Benjamin Franklin) as well as contemporary writings.

We will also use other sources such as The Zinn Education Project or The Kahn Academy as well as documentary movies.

Learning outcomes:

Students will learn about:

- major developments in the US society

- contemporary variance of American society

- controversies revolving around selected issues and various narratives

Students will develop the skills of:

- identifying and explaining the broad and complex range of American society and what has shaped its development over the years;

- critical thinking by exploring varied opinions, interpretations and approaches;

- interdisciplinary analysis by combining sociological, cultural and economic perspectives;

- working in teams to evaluate problems and develop solutions;

- making written and oral presentations of their findings with confidence

Students will gain the ability to:

- understand the role of culture in the interpretation of socio-economic developments

- recognize the role of ideological controversies in the interpretation of these phenomena

Assessment methods and assessment criteria:

Students will be expected to:

- attend each class, ask relevant questions, take part in a project team, and participate in discussion about the topic of the day (25% of grade).

- write a 10 page double-spaced paper with footnotes and bibliography (25% of grade),

- prepare an annotated bibliography of all of his/her readings for the course (25% of grade), and

- take a fill-in-the blanks final exam (25% of grade).

All of these requirements have to be fulfilled (none can be skipped).

This course is not currently offered.
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