Stanford University The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute
Liberation Curriculum
National Standards for United States History
 

Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)

 
 
STANDARD 1  [ 1A | 1B | 1C ]
The economic boom and social transformation of postwar United States
 
STANDARD 2  [ 2A | 2B | 2C ]
How the Cold War and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam influenced domestic and international politics
STANDARD 3  [ 3A | 3B ]
Domestic policies after World War II
 
STANDARD 4  [ 4A | 4B | 4C ]
The struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties
 
 

Overview:

 
 

Although the study of the era following World War II can easily be dominated by a preoccupation with the Cold War, our understanding of present-day American society will be deficient without grappling with the remarkable changes in American society, the American economy, and American culture in the 1950s and 1960s. It should be remembered that the closeness of the period makes it one of continuing reinterpretation, reminding us that historical judgments should be seen as provisional, never cut in stone.

Students will need to understand how the postwar economic boom, mightily affected by the transforming hand of science, produced epic changes in American education, consumer culture, suburbanization, the return to domesticity for many women, the character of corporate life, and sexual and cultural mores--both of which involved startling changes in dress, speech, music, film and television, family structure, uses of leisure time, and more.

All of this can take on deeper meaning when connected to politics. Politically, the era was marked by the reinvigoration of New Deal liberalism and its gradual exhaustion in the 1970s. In the period of liberal activism, leaders sought to expand the role of the state to extend civil liberties and promote economic opportunity. The advent of the civil rights and women’s movements thus became part of the third great reform impulse in American history. Conservative reaction stressed restrictions on the growth of the state, emphasized free enterprise, and promoted individual rather than group rights.

The Cold War set the framework for global politics for 45 years after the end of World War II. The Cold War so strongly influenced our domestic politics, the conduct of foreign affairs, and the role of the government in the economy after 1945 that it is obligatory for students to examine its origins and the forces behind its continuation into the late 20th century. They should understand how American and European antipathy to Leninist-Stalinism predated 1945, seeded by the gradual awareness of the messianic nature of Soviet communism during the interwar years, Stalin’s collectivization of agriculture, and the great purges of the 1930s. Students should also consider the Soviet Union’s goals following World War II. Its catastrophic losses in the war and fear of rapid German recovery were factors in Soviet demands for a sphere of influence on its western borders, achieved through the establishment of governments under Soviet military and political control. Students should also know how the American policy of containment was successfully conducted in Europe: the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the Berlin airlift, NATO, and the maintenance of U.S. military forces in Europe under what was called the nuclear “balance of terror.”

They should also recognize that the U.S. government’s anti-Communist strategy of containment in Asia confronted very different circumstances and would involve the United States in the bloody, costly wars of Korea and Vietnam. The Vietnam War is especially noteworthy. It demonstrated the power of American public opinion in reversing foreign policy, it tested the democratic system to its limits, it left scars on American society that have not yet been erased, and it made many Americans deeply skeptical about future military or even peacekeeping interventions.

 
Standard 1: The economic boom and social transformation of postwar United States.
Bracketed [] phrases indicate matching Historical Thinking Standards.
 

Standard 1A: The student understands the extent and impact of economic changes in the postwar period.

 
 
Grade Level Student is able to:
7-12 Analyze the debate over demobilization and economic reconversion and its effects on the economy. [Marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances]
5-12 Explain the reasons for the sustained growth of the postwar consumer economy. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
7-12 Explain the growth of the service, white collar, and professional sectors of the economy that led to the enlargement of the middle class. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
9-12 Analyze the impact of the Cold War on the economy. [Identify issues and problems in the past]
9-12 Analyze the continued gap between poverty and the rising affluence of the middle class. [Consider multiple perspectives]
 
 

Standard 1B: The student understands how the social changes of the postwar period affected various Americans.

 
 
Grade Level Student is able to:
5-12

Evaluate the effects of the GI Bill on American society. [Hypothesize the influence of the past on the present]

9-12 Examine the rapid growth of secondary and collegiate education and the role of new governmental spending on educational programs. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
9-12 Explain the expansion of suburbanization and analyze how the “crabgrass frontier” affected American society. [Explain historical continuity and change]
7-12 Explain the reasons for the “return to domesticity” and how it affected family life and women’s careers. [Consider multiple perspectives]
9-12 Examine the place of religion in postwar American life. [Examine the influence of ideas]
5-12 Explore the influence of popular culture and analyze the role of the mass media in homogenizing American culture. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
 
 

Standard 1C: The student understands how postwar science augmented the nation’s economic strength, transformed daily life, and influenced the world economy.

 
 
Grade Level Student is able to:
9-12 Explore how the new relationship between science and government after World War II created a new system of scientific research and development. [Explain historical continuity and change]
5-12 Identify various pioneers in modern scientific research and explain how their work has changed contemporary society. [Assess the importance of the individual in history]
5-12 Assess the significance of research and scientific breakthroughs in promoting the U.S. space program. [Examine the influence of ideas]
9-12 Explain the advances in medical science and assess how they improved the standard of living and changed demographic patterns. [Interrogate historical data]
7-12 Describe agricultural innovation and consolidation in the postwar period and assess their impact on the world economy. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
9-12 Examine how American technology ushered in the communications revolution and assess its global influence. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
 
Standard 2: How the Cold War and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam influenced domestic and international politics.
 

Standard 2A: The student understands the international origins and domestic consequences of the Cold War.

 
 
Grade Level Student is able to:
5-12 Evaluate the “flawed peace” resulting from World War II and the effectiveness of the United Nations in reducing international tensions and conflicts. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
7-12 Explain the origins of the Cold War and the advent of nuclear politics. [Hold interpretations of history as tentative]
7-12 Examine the U.S. response to the Chinese Revolution and its impact on the Cold War. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
7-12 Analyze the causes of the Korean War and how a divided Korea remained a source of international tension. [Formulate a position or course of action on an issue]
7-12 Explain the rationale, implementation, and effectiveness of the U.S. containment policy. [Evaluate the implementation of a decision]
5-12 Explain the popular uprisings against communist governments in Eastern Europe and evaluate how they affected United States foreign policy. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
7-12 Analyze the change from confrontation to coexistence between the Soviet Union and the United States. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
 
 

Standard 2B: The student understands United States foreign policy in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America.

 
 
Grade Level Student is able to:
9-12 Analyze American policies toward independence movements in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. [Marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances]
7-12 Evaluate changing foreign policy toward Latin America. [Identify issues and problems in the past]
5-12 Assess U.S. relations with Israel and explain how Arab-Israeli crises influenced American foreign policy during the Cold War. [Evaluate the implementation of a decision]
 
 

Standard 2C: The student understands the foreign and domestic consequences of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

 
 
Grade Level Student is able to:
7-12 Assess the Vietnam policy of the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations and the shifts of public opinion about the war. [Analyze multiple causation]
9-12 Explain the composition of the American forces recruited to fight the war. [Interrogate historical data]
5-12 Evaluate how Vietnamese and Americans experienced the war and how the war continued to affect postwar politics and culture. [Appreciate historical perspectives]
7-12 Explain the provisions of the Paris Peace Accord of 1973 and evaluate the role of the Nixon administration. [Differentiate between historical facts and historical interpretations]
9-12 Analyze the constitutional issues involved in the war and explore the legacy of the Vietnam war. [Formulate a position or course of action on an issue]
 
 

Standard 3: Domestic policies after World War II.

 
 

Standard 3A: The student understands the political debates of the post-World War II era.

 
 
Grade Level Student is able to:
9-12 Evaluate Truman’s continuation of New Deal policies in labor relations, housing, education, and health. [Formulate a position or course of action on an issue]
5-12 Evaluate Truman’s civil rights policies and their effect on splintering the Democratic party. [Assess the importance of the individual in history]
7-12 Explain the relationship between post-war Soviet espionage and the emergence of internal security and loyalty programs under Truman and Eisenhower. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
7-12 Analyze the rise and fall of McCarthyism, its effects on civil liberties, and its repercussions. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
7-12 Evaluate Eisenhower’s “Modern Republicanism” in relation to the economy and other domestic issues. [Formulate a position or course of action on an issue]
 
 

Standard 3B: The student understands the “New Frontier” and the “Great Society.”

 
 
Grade Level Student is able to:
9-12 Examine the role of the media in the election of 1960. [Utilize visual and quantitative data]
5-12 Evaluate the domestic policies of Kennedy’s “New Frontier.” [Hold interpretations of history as tentative]
5-12 Evaluate the legislation and programs enacted during Johnson’s presidency. [Evaluate the implementation of a decision]
7-12 Assess the effectiveness of the “Great Society” programs. [Evaluate major debates among historians]
7-12 Compare the so-called second environmental movement with the first at the beginning of the 20th century. [Compare and contrast different movements]
 
 

Standard 4: The struggle for racial and gender equality and for the extension of civil liberties.

 
 

Standard 4A: The student understands the “Second Reconstruction” and its advancement of civil rights.

 
 
Grade Level Student is able to:
7-12 Explain the origins of the postwar civil rights movement and the role of the NAACP in the legal assault on segregation. [Analyze multiple causation]
5-12 Evaluate the Warren Court’s reasoning in Brown v. Board of Education and its significance in advancing civil rights. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
5-12 Explain the resistance to civil rights in the South between 1954 and 1965. [Identify issues and problems in the past]
7-12 Analyze the leadership and ideology of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X in the civil rights movement and evaluate their legacies. [Assess the importance of the individual in history]
7-12 Assess the role of the legislative and executive branches in advancing the civil rights movement and the effect of shifting the focus from de jure to de facto segregation. [Evaluate the implementation of a decision]
5-12 Evaluate the agendas, strategies, and effectiveness of various African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, and Native Americans, as well as the disabled, in the quest for civil rights and equal opportunities. [Explain historical continuity and change]
9-12 Assess the reasons for and effectiveness of the escalation from civil disobedience to more radical protest in the civil rights movement. [Marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances]
 
 

Standard 4B: The student understands the women’s movement for civil rights and equal opportunities.

 
 
Grade Level Student is able to:
7-12 Analyze the factors contributing to modern feminism and compare the ideas, agendas, and strategies of feminist and counter-feminist organizations. [Marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances]
5-12 Identify the major social, economic, and political issues affecting women and explain the conflicts these issues engendered. [Formulate a position or course of action on an issue]
9-12 Evaluate the conflicting perspectives over the Equal Rights Amendment, Title VII, and Roe v. Wade. [Consider multiple perspectives]
 
 

Standard 4C: The student understands the Warren Court’s role in addressing civil liberties and equal rights

 
 
Grade Level Student is able to:
9-12 Analyze the expansion of due process rights in such cases as Gideon v. Wainwright and Miranda v. Arizona and evaluate criticism of the extension of these rights for the accused. [Interrogate historical data]
9-12 Explain the Supreme Court’s reasoning in establishing the “one man, one vote” principle. [Interrogate historical data]
5-12 Evaluate the Supreme Court’s interpretation of freedom of religion. [Formulate a position or course of action on an issue]
9-12 Assess the effectiveness of the judiciary as opposed to the legislative and executive branches of government in promoting civil liberties and equal opportunities. [Challenge arguments of historical inevitability]
   
 
 
Home  |  About Us  |  Contact Us  |  Copyright Information  |  The King Center  |  RSS