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Welcome back to high school! But no, really, I was kind of confused about why this is advertised as a college-level course. I realize it's a GE and that 20th century American history is not on the cutting edge of academia...but if the goal of this class was to transform my historical thinking, then it failed spectacularly.
But yeah, set your expectations for this class pretty low. Professor Hernandez will trumpet the importance of the theme of "freedom." Don't be fooled; this is code for "understand how people in different eras were shaped by social currents." If you can articulate vague ideas about labor, race relations, immigration, and economic thinking while sprinkling in a few examples, you're good to go.
Unfortunately, the course is so broad in trying to hit all of those themes that it never really delves into any critical examination. Example - a substantial chunk of time was devoted to explaining what containment was. Zero time was spent debating whether or not containment was actually effective.
Is the class hard? Well, it kind of says something when your TA sends an email literally begging people who couldn't bother to show up to section (read: not participate, just SHOW UP) to drop the class rather than get a C or fail.
Translation: if you're smart, you have nothing to worry about because this class is full of people who don't give a shit. Just make sure you go to lecture. Reading the textbook is wholly unnecessary; there may be some test IDs from the book, but it's largely irrelevant since that section allows you to discard 3-4 terms.
In terms of grading, there's two midterms and a final, all of which are worth 20%. All the tests have the aforementioned IDs and a short essay asking you to evaluate a primary source. The final also has a question asking you to compare ideas about "freedom" from two different eras, i.e. post-WWII and the New Conservatism.
Section is worth 40% - I know, right? So yeah, you kind of have to show up. Your TA will assign free writes, where you'll analyze a primary source and explain its content, context within the era, and significant. It's a completely vapid exercise because there's zero specificity in terms of how you're expected to respond. Even if everything you say is factually correct, if you don't mention exactly what you're looking for you'll get a 9 out of 10 at most instead of full marks. You also have to take a cultural field trip and write a two page report - not very hard.
I got an A despite literally not studying for the final. If you're looking for an easy class, go ahead and take it, I guess. Just prepare yourself for canned lectures (drinking game: take a shot every time you hear the phrase "orgy of consumption") and uninspiring material.
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