Communist, Socialist, Progressive, Democrats?
Several weeks ago, a Facebook friend posted a meme that I found very disturbing; not because of its political message but because of the ignorance it showed of history. In spite of the meme’s claim, communism is not the same as socialism and neither are the same as progressivism. Furthermore, none of these ideologies is consistent with the contemporary Democratic party.
This meme supports the cause of those who like to discuss the general ignorance of Americans; especially in regards to history.
Since seeing this meme, I have been considering using it as a theme for the Contemporary America History course I am teaching during Spring semester. During Spring semester, we can begin by looking at Communism, Socialism, and Progressivism in contemporary American history. Even though the meme is clearly referring to the Democratic party, I would use democracy as a fourth area for students to investigate; not the political party.
At this point, I would begin the class by forming students into teams to investigate the four ideologies. Each team would prepare a presentation about the role the ideology played in contemporary American history.
After this beginning, we would work either individually or in teams to investigate and discuss key topics in American history. According to the course description, these are: “turn-of-the-century growth and crisis; the Progressive Era and World War I; the 1920s, the Great Depression and the New Deal; World War II and the emergence of the U.S. as a superpower; affluence, consensus and confrontation in the 1950s-1960s; malaise, drift and fragmentation in the 1970s-1980s; and the U.S. in the world of the late 20th century.”
At this point, it appears that we will have a relatively small class. My experience with small classes is that they function very informally and that a lot can be accomplished in them.
Because Spring semester is only seven weeks, I think I will not use an individual project. Instead, I will have students focus on preparing for and responding to class discussions. One way to do this might be to require some type of blog or journal.
Even though we have less than a week before the first day of class, I am going to ask students to respond to my ideas. I will also look for others to respond and make suggestions concerning this approach.
I contributed a comment to Paula M. Kreg’s “Next Time, Fail Better.” (Chronicle of Higher Education. 6 May 2012.)
Susan Bordo’s “When Fictionalized Facts Matter” (Chronicle of Higher Education. 6 May 2012) provides an interesting analysis of historical fiction and historical films. If I were to teach a film based class in HIST 137, I could see using it as a required reading; especially if I used one of the films she mentioned.