U.S. in the Cold War (1945-1991)

Essex Street Academy

Consortium school

The Cold War – the longest and most costly world conflict of the 20th century – was dominated by the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR). This course will explore the U.S. role in the Cold War, the conflicting ideologies of the superpowers, and the ways that U.S. policies shaped the conflict itself, world events, and American life.

A Bipolar World: The introductory unit examines how and why the conflict was waged by the two sides. We will examine the differences between the Soviet and American systems and the strategies that both sides used to gain the advantage.

Front Lines Everywhere: Unit 2 examines the connections between the global conflict as the superpowers sought to avoid direct confrontation and the domestic Cold War, as the American people came into conflict with their government.

Détente Fails: This unit focuses on the failed strategy to bring stability to a bipolar world in the 1970s and the changes in the world situation in the early 80s.

An End: The surprising and rapid decline of communism is the focus of the final unit. We will examine American assumptions about winning the Cold War.

Essential Questions

o How did we fight the Cold War?
o Why did we fight the Cold War?
o What were the consequences?

Excerpts from John Lewis Gaddis's The Cold War: A New History
Excerpts from Craig and Logevall's America's Cold War: The Politics of Insecurity
Speeches by Truman, Churchill, and Stalin (1945-1946)
Letters from Krushchev to JFK (1962)
Eisenhower's Farewell Address (1961)
Marian Wright Edelman's Commencement Address (1983)
Excerpts from Klinkner and Smith’s The Unsteady March

Research Essay
The project requires students to identify a topic in the Cold War for independent research. The paper must meet the standards for a panel PBAT project.

Media Used: 
Herblock cartoons
Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Atomic Cafe
Interim Assessments: 

Periodic Assessments: Most weeks will include a text-based seminar, which will be assessed by a writing task to be completed after the discussion. Every two weeks, on Fridays, there will be an open-notes biweekly assessment, to check on student understanding of vocabulary and course content.

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Visual Encyclopedia Project
Students will select a person, event, place, or concept to research. Students will research their topic and write a summary paragraph about the person/event/place/concept and an analysis paragraph to discuss what it reveals either about how the Cold War was fought or why it was fought. The writing will be accompanied by 5-10 captioned images and will be presented in powerpoint format.

Cuban Missile Crisis Simulation
Students will prepare for (independently and in groups) and conduct a simulation of President John F. Kennedy’s options as the world came to the brink of nuclear confrontation in October 1962.

Sample PBATs: 
Was it a mistake to go to war in Korea?