History 141/MAS 141 Spring 2017

Monday & Wednesday, 6:15-9:45

San Ysidro Higher Education Center, Room 5209

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 before 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.

           This is your guide to our class. Our course addresses vital questions which set up our current situation, specifically: “history of the roots of Mexican-American culture from pre-Columbian times to c.1850.” Our emphasis is on the political, economic, and social influences of pre-Columbian America, Spain, Mexico, and the U.S. We will include a careful study of the U.S. Constitution.” This, obviously, is a broad task covering considerable time and geography.

            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 struggle seriously for truth. We may never agree, but our disagreements will be clearer if grounded in evidence. Soldiering, doing the minimum, poisons the common well. Being a student, or a professor, means extending curiosity, not limiting it. Think outside your pay grade. Civility in discussion is expected.         

            We need to be able to be critical, reflective, caring, hard-working; yet detached enough to 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.

            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 different historical interpretations in our texts, in handouts, and links online. Standpoint is important in history.

            You will be asked to become a historian, or be aware that you are a historian now. In developing a critical outlook, asking radical, fundamental, 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 Mexican, American, U.S, and Spanish history, and more.

Through lectures, readings, and some discussion, I will introduce you to some of the major political, social, economic and cultural transformations that have shaped the region in the past, seeking to connect that with the present.

            We will be concerned with broad themes: religion, empire, the importance of geography, inequality, domination and the arts of resistance, war, nation building, the rule of law, revolution and counter-revolution. In each case, we will view history not only from the top (elites) down, but from the bottom up: who did the work, fought, produced, and tried to be free? In addition, we will take up historiography–the competing ways history is created and taught.

            We will interrogate the past using several critical devices while at the same time witness how evidence is obtained and verified as stories about history have changed, sometimes deepened, over time.

            While learning core dates is important, equally or more important is learning the processes of history; how and why things change. Through lectures, readings, writing, and discussion, 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 in deepening your historical knowledge and interpretations in dealing with present concerns. 

            After all, we cannot understand and act on contemporary problems unless we have some idea of how we got here in the first place.  I encourage you to begin to 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.  This course should promote your development of a “critical historical imagination.”

            Attendance is vital. More than two un-excused absences (few absences are excused) will likely result in failure. 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, texting (drives me nuts) or reading during lecture and discussion.  These activities will be considered absences. 

           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

            Therefore, submit (by email) one short essay every other week, around 100 words responding to some selection in the readings: What is said, what do you think about that, and 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 Monday class. We will discuss each person's response in small groups, then as a collective.


            In addition, I require that you write two five to seven 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 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?  I ask that you make a choice, then review it with me. Your options are nearly infinite as long as you stick with the period in question and our class’ issues. Here is a link to some ideas.

            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. 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 the second to 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. Include your analysis of your work and a request for a grade.



            You will be asked to make a brief presentation for the second paper you do. Should you need some guidance in writing the paper, see this link to an “I-Search,” paper, a format originated by my friend Ken Macrorie: http://faculty.nwacc.edu/tmcginn/writing%20an%20I-search%20paper.pdf



            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. Read this with care. To repeat: Plagiarism will result in automatic failure.



            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. There will be no curving of grades. If everyone does mediocre work, everyone receives Cs.  If all do excellent work, all get A’s–which would make me very happy. If you are reading this for the first time, early in the class, you have an A. Work to keep it. That is the grade I hope to give you. Let us both aim high. 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.

            Beyond the grade, my longer term goal is for every student to achieve the great expectations I have for each person in my classes. Consider setting a goal of finishing a top-flight four year college. And then more. Be determined, committed, and persevering. College degrees are good self-defense.

            For now, commit to finishing our class, learning a lot, and getting that A.



  • Meyer, et. al. The Course of Mexican History.
  • Gonzalez. Guest Workers or Colonized Labor.
  • 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.
  • I suggest you refer to a world map as a matter of routine http://www.ilibrarian.net/flagmaps/political_world.jpg       

Depending on your topic, I may be willing to negotiate another optional text(s) with you.

Because of the current financial crisis, I sought to minimize student book expenditures. I have included many online links that are now available at no cost, rather than selecting additional, often, costly, texts. We shall collectively evaluate whether or not we feel anything is truly lost with this maneuver. I now choose to believe little will be lost, or I would choose otherwise. 



In each class, we will begin the week 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 bring a notation from your reading of an article in the NY Times or LA Times, or The Wall Street Journal (all are online) to each class and be prepared to discuss the issue your piece raises. (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 (no more than 4) 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.




Part One: Why are We Here?


MEETING 1 – 1/30

1.     Introductions.

a.     Questions:  Who are you? From? 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 are the motive forces of history?

3.     What is our current context? 

4.     How our class will work?

5.    Why have school?

MEETING 2 – 2/1

1.     What is up? 

2.     Chalmers Johnson (San Diegan author of the great Nemesis trilogy) said that Americans are so unaware of history they cannot connect cause and effect.

a.     Is that true? Why, or why not? Proof?

b.     What is our social context today?

3.     Review and, perhaps download if you choose, Questions for Criticism at: http://www.richgibson.com/QUESTCRI.html  (Save this).

4.     Read my synopsis of Carr’s, “What is History?” at http://richgibson.com/compromisehistory.htm  

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

6.     View Howard Zinn, America’s most well-known, historian deceased in 2010, at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Arn3lF5XSUg&feature=related (8 minutes)

7.     Discussion of syllabus.

**Reading Response Due Sunday midnight**

Part Two: Mexico Today-to Give Us a Rearview Mirror

MEETING 3  2/6

1.     What is up? Prepare to do the exercise here: http://richgibson.com/masterslave.htm

2.     We will watch the Platos Cave video in class but you are welcome to prepare for questions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69F7GhASOdM

3.     Mexico Today. Read the links for Mexico at Wikipedia, at the CIA World Fact Book, at Cockcroft, and see how mainstream US academics view Mexico’s schools here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Mexico

a.     Read Cockcroft’s short article on Mexico today here: http://www.monthlyreview.org/101101cockcroft.php

b.     And my synopsis of Cockroft’s book here: http://richgibson.com/mexicotoday.html

4.     Beware of brainwashing! http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/08/us/08ethnic.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23

Part Three: Back to the Beginning

MEETING 4 – 2/8

1.     What’s up?

2.     Pre-Columbian History:

a.     The climate zones (see this climate map: http://geo-mexico.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Fig4-5-color.jpg)

b.     How people lived, ate, worked (who worked), and more.

c.     Read Meyer, The Course of Mexican History, all of Part I, critically.

d.     I will lecture from McWilliams’ book, North From Mexico, Part 1.

e.     Note pre-Columbian art and culture, especially.

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

MEETING 5 – 2/13

1.     What is up?

2.     How shall we evaluate religion?

3.     The Rise of Capitalism and Imperialism together.

a.     The Birth of Modern Racism. Review the many links at Race, the Power of an Illusion at: http://www.pbs.org/race/000_General/000_00-Home.htm

b.     and Gibson on competing views about racism here: http://richgibson.com/approach.htm

4.     What is capitalism?


MEETING 6 – 2/15

1.     What’s up?

2.     What is imperialism? See Luxemburg for one view, here: http://richgibson.com/twinbirths.html

3.     Read the Introduction and Chapter 1in Gonzalez’ “Guest Workers or Colonized Labor?”

MEETING 7 – 2/22

1.     What is up?

2.     The Spanish Empire part one (Gibson lecture and class discussion).

a.     The Inquisitions and the Invasion.

b.     Read Meyer, Part 2.

c.     See the Requiremento, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Requirement_of_1513 We will read this in class as well.

d.     How was it that the conquistadors won?

3.     Finish Sun Tzu, "The Art of War" (Read the "forward" and part V "Sun Tzu On War." That is p39-150 in my edition.)

 Our class is one-half over

Part Four: Origins of Change in New Spain/Mexico


MEETING 8 – 2/27

1.     What is up?

2.     North Americans and the birth of the USA–taking land and liberty for freedom and equality?

a.     Gibson lecture and class discussions (this will be a good time to catch up or get ahead on your readings, writing, etc.).

b.     What were you taught about this? How was it taught? What do you remember? Why?

3. The Declaration of Independence, the revolution that created the USA (why do people make

revolutions? And why not?

  4. Read Chalmers Johnson on Revolutionary Change, linked here: http://richgibson.com/johnsonquotes.htm"

MEETING 9 – 3/1

1.     What is up?

2.     The Declaration of Independence, the revolution that created the USA continued (a review)

3.     And the Articles of Confederation. The background of the U.S. Constitution.

       4. The US Constitution and the French Revolution too (foreshadowing events to come in Mexico).  Gibson lectures and class discussions.

5.     How does the Constitution relate to you today? Or not?The Bill Of Rights!

6. Zinn's take on the American Revolution  http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/zinntyr4.html

**Reading Response Due Sunday midnight**

MEETING 10 – 3/6

1.     What is up?

2.     New Spain. Read Meyer Part 3.

At the end of this class, your research paper number one is due!

Part Five: Reform, Revolution and Reversals


MEETING 11 – 3/8

1.     What is up?

2.     Reform and Revolution. Please read Meyer Part 4.

3.     Nationhood and loss. Meyer Part 5.

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

MEETING 12 – 3/13

1.     What’s up?

2.     Read Chapter 6 and the Conclusion of Gonzalez; “Guest Workers or Colonized Labor?


MEETING 13 – 3/15 

1.    Student presentations.

2.    What’s up?     


**Reading Response Due Sunday midnight**

MEETING 14 – 3/20

1.    Student presentations. 

2.    What’s up?     

3.     We will look ahead at what is next with two films: “Salt of the Earth” and a part of “The Great Dictator”

4.     A scintillating wrap up and fond farewells.

5.    I will need your portfolios three days before grades are due. I will advise you of that date and time.




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

2. Email (in rtf) a reading response of about 100 words, every other week.

3. Two papers.

4. One brief presentation.

5. 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.

6. 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.


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