Topics for Unit Three

“The truth of the Oak lies in the Acorn from which it sprouted”—that’s the premise of historical analysis, that we can understand the world by figuring out how and why it came to be this way. This upcoming unit asks you to choose some phenomenon of the present day—a cultural institution like professional football, a movement like gun rights, or a consumer product like skateboards—and seek a deeper understanding of that phenomenon by studying its past.

I’m hoping that many of you will choose to focus on the origin of the political issue you studied in the previous unit, but I’m open to almost any topic. One word of caution: some topics may have little in the way of prior scholarship, which means you will likely struggle to find good secondary sources in the first half of this unit. Others topics have been extensively researched, which means that you will need to narrow your focus and make smart choices about which two or three books to read out of hundreds that are available.

This project provides you the chance to learn and master key research methods. Broadly speaking, these fall into two camps: (!) finding and reading authorities on the topic, and (2) gathering and interpreting evidence. Research is difficult, plagued with setbacks. There’s no straightforward recipe for success. But when you find yourself at a dead end, I’d ask that you come see me for help and advice. In this second half of the term, I’m less a teacher than a boxing coach: here to train you, bandage your wounds, get you pepped up and back out in the ring.

Before naming your topic in the comments below, read through the comments already posted by your classmates to see whether anyone is planning to cover the same or a similar topic. If so, sign up by posting as a reply to their comment. Make a mental note of your classmate’s name, and (in the weeks ahead) collaborate in finding sources for the Bibliography.

51 responses to “Topics for Unit Three

  1. How have labor relations in America been shaped, and what caused the dramatic shift from the union-dominated landscape of the early 20th century to the current system of total employer control?

  2. Why did communist regimes fail at their attempts to implement true communist and socialist ideologies? What were the immediate attitudes from the U.S. political climate following the Cold War? And why have attitudes regarding socialist policies and politicians (such as Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) shifted in recent years in response to the growing dismay of capitalism?

  3. I am curious to find out how different types of languages are created in different methods? I also want to learn more about what makes each language unique and what makes them harder to learn compared to others.

  4. How have attitudes regarding the recreational use of psychedelics changed or mirrored over time? How have these recent interests in psychedelics facilitated drug studies for depression and other mental illnesses?

  5. Do radical (leftist) feminists, who describe sex work as patriarchally oppressive and harmful to marginalized women, or liberal feminists, who describe sex work as harmless and empowering, have a more accurate view of this profession? Both historically and contemporarily, which option (either decriminalization, legalization, or abolition of prostitution/pornography) constitutes the best way to protect and empower women?

  6. What is the history of the War on Drugs and how did the war begin? Did/Does the War on Drugs have a deeper motive behind the movement other than decreasing the use of drugs and the trade of drugs on the black market?

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