History 100 Spring 2019

Southwestern College 

HEC - San Ysidro

Tuesday & Thursday, 6:50 p.m. -  8:40 p.m.

Room: 5205 LEC

Dr. Rich Gibson, Emeritus Professor, San Diego State

Lecturer, Southwestern College

Web Page: https://sites.google.com/site/richgibsonswc/

Email: prof@richgibson.com

Office Hours: 1/2 hour after each class, by appointment


Einstein: “It is the theory which sets up what is observed.”

Hegel: “The purpose of education is transformation, toward an ethical person.”

Dickens: (in Hard Times, Gradgrind speaking): “Facts! I want nothing, nothing, but facts!”

Freire: “To act as if truth belongs only to a teacher is not only preposterous, but false.”

Goodman: “Whether or not it draws on new scientific research, technology is a branch of moral philosophy, not a science.

Marx: “Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point is

to change it.



    This is your guide to our class. Ours is a very fast-paced course dealing with vital questions which set up our current situation. I urge you to develop, right now, a week by week calendar for this class outlining your assignments and your plan to meet them before you fall too far behind.

    I ask you to work with your colleagues to create a climate where ideas, evidence, and argument matter in a struggle for what is true, where everyone is valued for the part of the truth that they can contribute, and where we learn to agree and to disagree reasonably and productively–yet passionately. 

    I will do all I can to be available to help every student. I believe you have a right to expect encouragement, sympathy, humanity—and a serious challenge to all that you know.

    Even so, you are responsible for your own education.

    This process will work best if we cooperate to create a community that includes the following:

1. Our ideas count. They set up our deeds. There are worthy things to be learned.

2. Our collective may offer greater wisdom than any one of us. This only happens if we seriously struggle for truth. We may never agree, but our disagreements will be clearer if grounded in evidence. Soldiering, doing the minimum, poisons the common well. Think outside your pay grade. Being a student, or a professor, means extending curiosity, not limiting it. Civility in discussion is expected.    

    We need to be able to be critical, reflective, caring, hard-working; yet detached enough that we can see that there are many ways of knowing something. Each of us may bring a different way. Passion is a big part of learning, as is understanding that all knowledge is partial, and we might just be, even partially, wrong. Mutual respect and humility make sense. Contempt doesn’t. This does not mean, however, that there is no way to test for the value of given ideas, no way to determine where correct ideas come from. Some ideas are much better than others.



    Class will begin and end on time. Arrive promptly with assignments completed. Please shut off cell phone ringers. Don’t text (drives me nuts!).

    Our task is to answer, “Why are things as they are?” with the understanding that people make their own histories, but do not choose their birthrights.

    We will ask fundamental, to the root questions, from “What is History?,” to “Why are we here?” to, “What are the competing views on the processes of history?,” to “Why do things change, if they do?,” and many in between.

    I will share my outlook with you–not expecting that you accept it–and criticize your standpoints as well, with respect for ideas rooted in evidence. You will also see two different historical interpretations in our texts. That adds up to four: you, me, Zinn, and Devine–perhaps many others from classmates.

    You will be asked to become a historian, or be aware that you are a historian now. In developing a critical outlook, asking radical questions, in being better able to locate your own historical situation, you will be able to make better decisions about your future. That is one reason why history matters. At the end of the class, you should be able to better answer the question, “Who am I, in relation to others?” The answer to that sets up how you sort truth from lies and, therefore, what you choose to do.

    I can and do lecture. However, much of learning history, or anything, comes through dialogue. I will pose questions; history as a problem. Part of your responsibility is to speak up and struggle for truthful answers. You will occasionally work in groups. Find a friend–priceless.

    Every student is concerned about grades, for good reasons. However, solely performing for a grade can lead to a “tell me what to do and I will do it” outlook that I do not want to foster. It’s the psychology of slaves: obedience and feigned loyalty. More about grades below.

    You will be asked to do critical research. The purpose is to try to better understand and change the world. Today, this is a life and death matter.

    It may be that you have already developed a research question to propel your intellectual work–or perhaps not. The question that continues to interest me, in general, is this: What is it that makes it so easy to turn people into instruments of their own oppression (Confederate troops on Picket’s Charge), or, inversely, what is it that people need to know, and how do we need to come to know it, in order to lead reasonably free, creative, connected lives, as distinct from engaging in mass perpetual industrialized slaughter? Further still, what is the relationship of how people learn to do what they do, and what they know—their conscious decision-making? 

    As a historian with a future of intellectual and practical work, think about a broad question that might puzzle you for years to come, or you may just find a fast breakthrough answer that leads to a new question. A good question can guide you throughout college.

    This course is a survey of the history of the United States through Reconstruction. Via lectures, readings, and discussion, I will introduce you to some of the major political, social, economic and cultural transformations that have shaped the United States. In general, we will be concerned with three broad inter-related themes: 1) the development of the United States as a nation, 2) the emergence of capitalist democracy and an empire, and 3) the struggles of ordinary people to define the American promise of freedom and democracy.

    While learning core dates is important, equally or more important is learning the processes of history; how and why things change.
We will examine the connections between historical events, the larger themes of the class, and their role in shaping today’s world.

It is my goal that you will cultivate the intellectual skills you will need to use to develop your historical knowledge and interpretations in dealing with present concerns. We cannot understand and act on contemporary problems unless we have some idea of how we got here in the first place. View today’s world not just as “the way it is,” but as the way people in history have made it, and how you and I continue to make and remake it every day. Our class should promote your development of this “critical historical imagination.”

    Attendance is vital. More than two un-excused absences (few absences are excused) will likely result in failure or you will be dropped without notice. If you’re not here to discuss – to share with us your thoughts – you won’t be getting all that you could out of the class. More importantly, your absence (physically or mentally) deprives the other students in the class who rely on you to help foster an atmosphere of open exchange. We each need everyone else’s participation to make this a useful class, so no sleeping, extraneous talking, or reading during lecture and discussion. These activities will be considered absences.  Repeated tardiness will lead to failure.

    Our class will move very fast. The readings and writing requirements do not ease up, but get more demanding. Don’t fall behind. It will be very hard to catch up.



    Testing, whether through essay exams, papers, or multiple choice tests is relatively subjective. I oppose high-stakes trick exams that set professors against students, causing many people to forget what they learned when the test is done. I prefer you write reading responses and essays in depth about research topics of interest to you. 

Reading Responses

    Submit by email, one every other week, a short essay of about 100 words responding to a selection of your choice in the readings. What is said? What do you think about that? What did you learn? Emphasis is on what you think and evidence for that. I know what the texts say. I suggest you choose to do these each Sunday with your own deadline at midnight. 

    Make note of what you wrote and bring that to each Tuesday class. We will discuss each person's response in small groups, then as a collective.

    From time to time, but not most of the time, you can choose a current event and respond to that–or a class discussion.


    In addition, I require that you write two 5-7 page essays (double spaced, usual margins) demonstrating research that you have done on a specific part of the readings. I expect you to cite at least three reputable sources (Wikipedia is “iffy” but often useful as a starting point). Use APA or MLA style. There is an example here (you’re not expected to read the paper, just look at how the citations are done): http://www.richgibson.com/curtain.htm

    Topics? Click here Suggested Topics for Papers and Presentations.

    Some people find a question that needs to be answered, then look for a topic to answer it. Others take a topic that interests them, then find more questions that need to be answered.

    Again, it is your choice. But, ask me to approve your topic via email. I expect you to do research expanding beyond the assigned texts. If you have questions, email me. One paper is due mid-semester, one on last class.


    In addition, at the last class, you will compile your short responses and longer papers as a modest portfolio. You may email the papers to me (in RTF) or give me hard copies in a stamped self-addressed envelope. The first page of your portfolio will include a short self-evaluation and request for a grade.


    Give one 5-10 minute presentation on one of your papers.


    If it appears to me that students are not doing the readings and responses, I foresee giving exams–multiple choice, essay questions, etc. None of us will enjoy that. Do the readings.


    Cheating or plagiarism will not be tolerated. Plagiarism is representing the work of another as yours. Plagiarism is dishonest, unfairly sets the plagiarist against other students, and it cuts off the struggle for knowledge. Don’t do it. Plagiarism will result in failure. Review Plagiarism at https://sites.google.com/site/richgibsonswc/plagiarism.


     Your evaluation of yourself should be more important to you than the grades I offer. Even so, grading requires me to make some judgment about your work. That is not to say that grades are arbitrary; rather, they are based on your ability to demonstrate to me a level of understanding and critical engagement with the material.  I have never had complaints about grades. Students found my judgments fair. You will not compete against each other and there will be no curving of grades. If everyone does mediocre work, everyone receives Cs. If all do excellent work, all get As. If you are concerned about how you are doing, let me know, and I will let you know if I believe your performance is sub-par. If you are reading this for the first time, early in the class, you have an A. Work to keep it. Aim high. My goal is to give you the A you earn.



  • Robert A. Divine, T.H. Breen, et al, The American Story, Vol. I
  • Howard Zinn, People’s History of the United States
  • Sun Tzu, The Art of War  The only good edition is by Griffith. Sometimes it appears online.
    Read the "forward" and part V "Sun Tzu On War." That is p39-150 in my edition.
  • Handouts on my web site linked to the syllabus.
  • It would be wise to obtain a good world map, but it is not assigned. 




In each class, we will begin with an approximately 20 minute discussion of “What’s Up?” Part of being a historian is paying attention, critically. Over the years, you will remember the history that you lived. All history is an analysis of the past, from a standpoint in the present, that is embedded with a call to action in the future. Given the many present crises, we need to know what is up.

Please check a reputable news source (NY Times, Wall Street Journal, LA Times are ok), make note of an article of interest, and be prepared to discuss the piece in a small group of no more than five. (Gossip may make the world go ‘round, but let’s skip pokemon, zombies, and, forgive me, 9/11/01 conspiracies, etc). We will develop a process of choosing what to discuss that will grow more sophisticated as the class progresses.

Once we complete What’s Up? we will go on to discussions about the assigned readings. That discussion will begin with you working in small groups reviewing your reading responses, deciding what you would like to discuss with the entire class, and why.


Check the syllabus each week for announcements and links to extensions from our discussions.





MEETING 1 – 2/26

1.     Introductions.

a.     Questions:  Who are you? Why are we here? What is history? Why take this class? What were you taught about history? How was it taught? Why? What do you remember most clearly? Why?  

b.     Who is this professor anyway? 

2.     What is history?


MEETING 2 – 2/28

1.     Please read and prepare to discuss syllabus.

2.     Why have school?

3.     Review: What are the motive forces of history?

4.     What is our current context? 

5.     Read "How Would You Draw History?" at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/19/opinion/how-would-you-draw-history.html


MEETING 3 – 3/5

1.     What is up? 

2.     Further discussion of syllabus.

3.     Chalmers Johnson (San Diegan author of the great Nemesis trilogy) says that Americans are so unaware of history they cannot connect cause and effect. Is that true? Why, or why not? Proof? What is our social context today?

4.  Please Review Questions for Criticism at: http://www.richgibson.com/QUESTCRI.html  (Save this).

5.    Read my synopsis of Carr’s, “What is History?” at http://richgibson.com/compromisehistory.htm and This key synopsis by me, here: http://richgibson.com/HistoryIs.pdf 


MEETING 4 – 3/7

1.   What’s up?

2.     Read Gibson’s Lie Spotters Manual at: http://www.richgibson.com/liespotter.htm

             3.   Read these links demonstrating my own method of analyzing how things change.

a.    http://www.richgibson.com/diamatoutline.html and

b.     http://www.richgibson.com/scedialectical4.htm

c. Watch Plato's Cave  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTWwY8Ok5I0

              4.    We will work through the Master/Slave exercise here: http://richgibson.com/masterslave.htm


**Reading Response Due Sunday midnight**

MEETING 5 – 3/12

1.   What’s up?

2.  Chapter 1 in American Story.

3.  Chapter 2 in American Story.

MEETING 6 – 3/14

1.   What’s up?

2. Please read this brief selection on empire http://richgibson.com/twinbirths.html


By the end of this day, your topic for your first paper should be submitted and approved.


MEETING 7  – 3/19

1.     What’s up?

2.    Chapter 1 in Zinn, People’s History USA.

3.   Chapter 3 in American Story

4.   Chapter 4 in People's History

NOTE: Ken Macrorie's advice about writing well may help http://richgibson.com/isearch2.htm



MEETING 8 – 3/21

1.     What’s up?

2.     Chapter 4 in American Story

3.     Chapter 5 in American Story


**Reading Response Due Sunday midnight**


MEETING 9 – 4/2

1.     What’s up?

2.     Critically examine this web site (click through it) http://www.pbs.org/race/001_WhatIsRace/001_00-home.htm

3.     Read and consider: http://richgibson.com/johnsonquotes.htm

4.     Compare the sides of the debate about racism here http://www.richgibson.com/approach.htm



MEETING 10 – 4/4 (we are now more than 1/3 done! Keep up!)

1.    What is up?  

2.   Chapter 6 in American Story

3.   Chapter 7 in American Story

4. Read Washington's farewell address (and take note of his warnings)  http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp


Part Two: The Interlude as Contradictions Build in Empire, Nationalism, and Democracy

MEETING 11 – 4/9

1.   What is up?  

2.   Chapter 8 in American Story

3.   Chapter 6 in People's History   



MEETING 12 – 4/11  (at the end the class, more than 1/2 way done--keep up!)

1.     What is up?

2.     Chapter 9 in American Story

3.    Finish Sun Tzu, "The Art of War"

4.    Listen or Read "American Revolution Reinvents Guerrilla Warfare" at


**Reading Response Due Sunday midnight**


MEETING 13 – 4/16

  1. What is up?  
  2. Review of Chapter 1-9 in American Story.
  3. We are more than half-way. Where have we been? What are the processes of history that we witness? How is history being done by the authors? Us? How are you doing with your responsibilities as a student? How am I doing as your professor?



MEETING 14 – 4/18

  1. What is up?
  2. Reread Chapter 6 in People's History
  3. Please read this link on slavery and the Constitution: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2000/winter/garrisons-constitution-1.html


MEETING 15 – 4/23

1.   What is up?  

2.   Chapter 10 in American Story

3.   Chapter 7 in People's History


MEETING 16 – 4/25

1.     What is up?

2.     Chapter 11 in American Story

3.      Chapter 12 in American Story


**Reading Response Due Sunday midnight**


MEETING 17 – 4/30

1.     What’s up?

2.     Chapter 13 in American Story

3.     Chapter 14 in American Story



MEETING 18 – 5/2

1.     What is up?

2.     Read Chapter 15 in American Story


MEETING 19 – 5/7

1.     What is up?

2.     Read Chapter 9 in People's History

3.    Read Chapter 10 in People's History


MEETING 20 – 5/9

1.     What is up?

2.     Read Chapter 16 in American Story


**Reading Response Due Sunday midnight**


MEETING 21 – 5/14

1.     What is up?

2.     Read Chapter 7 in People's History


MEETING 22 – 5/16

1.     What is up?

2.     Student Presentations



MEETING 23 – 5/21

1.     What is up?

2.     Student Presentations

3.     Recap of what we did

4.     Fond farewells.



 PORTFOLIO DUE–a collection of your short responses and your papers. Include a class evaluation, a self evaluation, and a request for a grade with evidence for your case. Sent in rtf or hard copies in stamped self-addressed envelope.



1. Attend class, bringing a contribution to “What’s Up?” and prepared to discuss readings.

2. Email (in the body of an email or rtf) a reading response of about 100 words, every other week.

3. Two papers.

4. Give one 5-10 minute presentation.

4. Compile your written work into a portfolio and email it to me in RTF. In this portfolio, please include your own analysis of your work and a request for a grade.

5. Have, like, a total blast with history and keep at it the rest of your life.



Disability Support Services (DDS) of Southwestern College recommends that students with disabilities discuss academic accommodation with their professors during the first two weeks of class. An alternate format of this syllabus and class handouts are available upon request. Call (619) 482-6512 or email dss@swccd.edu.



Plagiarism and cheating constitute violations of academic honesty whether perpetrated actively or passively. All violation and suspected violations of academic honesty will result in action taken against the parties involved and will be documented in writing with the Dean of the School of Arts and Communication. Penalties may include no credit on the assignment in question, course failure or formal charges of student misconduct. Formal charges can result in academic probation, suspension, or expulsion.



To further your success, reinforce concepts, and achieve the stated learning objectives for this course, I refer you to the Academic Success Center learning assistance services. Upon request for tutorial services, you will be automatically enrolled in NC3: Supervised Tutoring, a free noncredit that does not appear on your transcripts.

Services are located in the ASC (420), the Writing Center (420 D), the Reading Center (420), Math Center (426), the library LRC Interdisciplinary Tutoring lab, MESA specialized on-campus School, tutoring Labs, the Higher Education Center, and the San Ysidro Education Center. Online learning materials and Online Writing Lab (OWL) are available at www.swccd.edu/~asc.



Students will write a research paper that will demonstrate their collegiate command of research, critical thinking, content development, coherence, and sentence structure.

Students will write an essay that will demonstrate their collegiate ability to apply the major concepts of historiography and ethnography to the critical study of American Civilization.

Course Description:
[Recommended Preparation: RDG 158 or the equivalent skill level as determined by the Southwestern College Reading Assessment or equivalent.] Covers American history from the origins of Native Americans to Reconstruction. Emphasizes the contributions made by the diverse peoples around the world to American culture. Includes a study of the Constitution with an emphasis on the Constitutional issues promoting the Civil War. (Partially fulfills American Institutions requirement at CSU.) [D; CSU; UC; C-ID HIST 130]

This syllabus may be changed as the class progresses (extensions are inevitable)



Marx on How History Moves:

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.

In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic – in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production. No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.

Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation. In broad outline, the Asiatic, ancient,[A] feudal and modern bourgeois modes of production may be designated as epochs marking progress in the economic development of society. The bourgeois mode of production is the last antagonistic form of the social process of production – antagonistic not in the sense of individual antagonism but of an antagonism that emanates from the individuals' social conditions of existence – but the productive forces developing within bourgeois society create also the material conditions for a solution of this antagonism. The prehistory of human society accordingly closes with this social formation. (Marx, Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, 1869).

Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court Justice, “Bicentennial View from the Supreme Court,” on the US Constitution: http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?documentprint=1142

Charles Beard: Economic Interpretation of the Constitution


Robert A. McGuire, A New Economic Interpretation of the Constitution

W.E.B. Dubois, John Brown: http://books.google.com/books?id=Sg-oAAAAIAAJ&dq=w.e.b+Dubois+John+Brown&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=pJSISpCSPITEsQP8-8DiAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4#v=onepage&q=&f=false

Dubois, Black Reconstruction in America

Eric Foner, Reconstruction, America’s Unfinished Revolution

Foner, A Short History of Reconstruction

Gordon Wood, Radicalism of American Revolution and The American Revolution

Lynd, Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism

Fredy Perlman, “Continuing Appeal of Nationalism”


Sun Tzu, The Art of War (only the Griffith edition is worth the price)

Republicanism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republicanism_in_the_United_States

Library of Congress on the US Revolution: http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/revolution/memory.html

Landmark Books were produced by Random House, mostly in the fifties. Their conservative outlook aside, the books are usually well written and, at least, they identify key issues and people in history. There are many of them that deal with our period of US History, like, “The American Revolution,” by Bruce Bliven. Home-schoolers rely heavily on Landmark Books for good reason. They are easy to read, inexpensive, and can often be found as “used.”

Jim Loewen’s, Lies My Teachers Told Me, is a very fine resource on k12 education.