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Modern American History

Today we are diving into modern US history, and we will be working with this competence aim: “Elaborate and discuss how key historical events and processes have affected the development of US history after WWII”.

Assignment: Find out about an American historical event after WWII and present it. You need to make a thesis question (e.g. Why did the Vietnam War turn out to be disastrous for the US? How successful was Kennedy’s presidency? What was the Watergate scandal? and so on).

In addition, find a song from the period that comments on/highlights or criticizes the event/episode.

You should make a power point presentation, Prezi or similar and it is up to you whether you want to work alone, in pairs, or in groups of three maximum. The length of the presentation should be approximately ten minutes, which is the “ideal” length of a presentation at the oral exam. Remember to list your sources, be critical to the sources you use and check if they are reliable! The presentation is due February 12.

Good luck 🙂

The 13th amendment

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1865 in the aftermath of the Civil War, abolished slavery in the United States. The 13th Amendment states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” (Source:

Before watching the Netflix documentary, you should revise a little about slavery in the US. Then watch this to learn about the impact of the 13th amendment.

Discuss the power of the media: Super predator. Criminal. Think about the power of media and the power of words. Discuss media and how words impact the perception and criminalization of people of color, both in the past and the present (animalistic, violent, to be feared, threat to white people, criminals, etc.). Give modern-day examples.

Discuss prisoners for profit: Were you aware of the Prison Industrial Complex and how corporations are profiting from incarceration?

Were you surprised to know about ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council—a committee of politicians and corporations influencing laws that benefit its corporate founders and pushing forth policies to increase the number of people in prison and increase sentences)?

Talk about CCA (Corrections Corporations of America, leader in private prisons that is required to keep prison beds filled—the leading corporation responsible for the rapid increase in criminalization) and how that impacts our communities. The film argues that there is a direct link between American slavery and the modern American prison system. What is your take on this argument?

“Noone in the hood goes to trial.” Discuss your understanding (or what you learned) about bail, plea bargains, and refusing to settle your case. How did the story of Kalief Browder impact you?

“You immediately become numb. That’s what jail does to humans, that immediate dehumanization, and sensory deprivation that nobody can really understand unless they live through it.” Discuss the impact this has on those currently incarcerated and what this could look like upon release.


Comprehension questions:

  1. What is the 13th amendment loophole?
  2. What was the Birth of a Nation? How were colored people portrayed?
  3. Explain what the Jim Crow laws were.
  4. Which president signed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Act? When?
  5. What was President R. Nixon’s main aim?
  6. Explain what the Southern Strategy was.
  7. Who initiated the War on Drugs and what was it?
  8. Why did the presidential candidate Dukakis lose the presidency, and to whom?
  9. What bill did President Bill Clinton ensure? And what were its consequences?
  10. What is Stand your Ground and where does it take place?
  11. Who was Emmett Till?
  12. Source: i

Practice vocabulary from the documentary by working on this:

Write a blog post where you list three ways this documentary has impacted you. What did you learn? What insights did it provide? What questions do you still have?

A new year, a new career

As Congress reconvened after the holiday, you should learn about Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The many women of Congress is another interesting aspect you should learn about. Among them, the 28-year-old representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is also worth knowing about. And last, but not least- the government shutdown. The conflict over border wall funding has led the country into a political stalemate. According to the BBC, this is the longest shutdown in US history.

After reading about the above, find out: What is the conflict all about and what are the consequences of it? Try to be as specific as possible. Visit these news sites: NYT, CNN, Washington Post (which has a daily podcast worth listening to) or the BBC. Discuss your finding in groups of three. Then write a blogpost about the political impasse and its consequences. This is homework for January 15, 2019.

Political Parties, Political Issues

Today you will be reading about the Democrats, the Republicans, Obamacare and the Latin American migrants seeking asylum in the US. 

On your blog, write a text about one of the following issues:

  • Write a brief text about the main differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. What states are red, which ones are blue? Find at least one political issue that the two parties disagree on.
  • Explain what Obamacare is, and find out what the status quo regarding this hot potato is. You may have to do some research to find out about the latest news.
  • Do some research and find out what the migrant caravan is, which has now reached Mexico. Who are these people, why are the seeking asylum in the US, what are they running away from, and what is the latest news regarding this? What has Trump said about this caravan?
GOP and Demo

The American System of Government

founding fathers.jpg

American politics can be fascinating, but to better understand what is going on in the US, we need to understand what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they agreed on the Constitution in 1787. In groups of 3, work with these sources:

Discuss: what are the advantages and disadvantages of the US political system? Do you know of instances when the branches of government have come into conflict with each other?  Discuss whether the Supreme Court has too much power in the US or not. Do you think this is an extremely democratic form of government? Why/why not?

In pairs, take turns and explain the system of checks and balances. Then explain the role of the federal government.

Work with this exercise to learn relevant vocabulary to this topic:

Triumphant Trump?

I voted

Election results

Trump claims the midterms election was a success for the Republicans. Is he right? Today you will write a blog post about the outcome of the midterms when it comes to House/Senate representatives, newly elected female representatives, LGBT, minorities, and reactions from the world. How will this affect Trump’s policies?

Useful links: