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Social Studies Curriculum Social Studies - United States History II
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Course Introduction

United States History II addresses the making of modern America, highlighting the events and issues in United States history from the late Industrial Revolution to modern times. Topics include, but are not limited to, the Industrial Revolution, the Progressive movement, imperialism and foreign affairs, the World Wars, the Great Depression, the Cold War, the civil rights movements, the rise of terrorism, and modern social and political history.

The standards can be taught either chronologically or thematically, but are organized into chronological periods. Periodization is an organizational tool historians use to make connections and draw distinctions. Periods are flexible ways of making meaning, and sometimes overlap chronologically.

Effort should be made to help students make connections between the events and ideas of the past and their lives today. Contextualizing the study of modern America by helping students make connections across the span of U.S. history can enrich and deepen their understanding of their own place in the American story.

Civic Preparation
One of the fundamental purposes for public schools is the preparation of young people for participation in America’s democratic republic. The future progress of our communities, state, nation, and world rests upon the preparation of young people to collaboratively and deliberatively address problems, to defend their own rights and the rights of others, and to balance personal preferences with the common good. Social studies and history classrooms are the ideal venues to nurture civic virtue, consider current issues, learn how to act civilly toward others, build a civic identity, and nurture global awareness. These skills, habits, and qualities of character will better prepare students to recognize and accept responsibility for preserving and defending their liberties.

To that end, throughout this course, students should have ample opportunities to:

  • Engage in deliberative, collaborative, and civil dialogue regarding historical and current issues.
  • Apply knowledge of governmental structure, historical concepts, geographic interrelationships, and economic principles to analyze and explain current events.
  • Identify local, state, national, or international problems; consider solutions to these problems; and share their ideas with appropriate public and/or private stakeholders.
  • Develop and demonstrate the values that sustain America’s democratic republic, such as open-mindedness, engagement, honesty, problem-solving, responsibility, diligence, resilience, empathy, self-control, and cooperation.
  • Engage in dialogue regarding American exceptionalism, in the sense of the special character of the United States as a uniquely free nation based on democratic ideals and personal liberty.

Foundational Skills of the Social Studies Disciplines
Students should develop skills associated with the disciplines of history, geography, political science, and economics, most notably the ability to construct arguments using the evidence, texts, and tools valued within each discipline. Of particular importance in a United States history course is developing the reading, thinking, and writing skills of historians. These historical thinking skills include the ability to think critically about diverse forms of evidence, use evidence to construct interpretations, and defend these interpretations through argumentative historical writing. Students will corroborate their sources of evidence, and place their interpretations within historical contexts.

Among other elements of historical thinking, students should have opportunities to consider the concept of historical significance. Out of all the events that have happened in the past, historians must determine those that are significant enough for study. Led by their teachers, students should have opportunities to consider and discuss the relative significance of diverse events.

These skills are embedded within the standards in places that seem particularly appropriate. However, local educational agencies and/or teachers may use their discretion to integrate skill instruction in a manner that meets local needs.

A Note on the Organization of the Utah Standards in All Core Areas
Utah standards are organized into strands, which represent significant areas of learning within content areas. Depending on the core area, these strands may be designated by time periods, thematic principles, modes of practice, or other organizing principles.

Within each strand are standards. A standard is an articulation of the demonstrated proficiency to be obtained. A standard represents an essential element of the learning that is expected. While some standards within a strand may be more comprehensive than others, all standards are essential for mastery.


Core Standards of the Course


(Ca. 1880-1920)

The Industrial Revolution radically changed the daily lives of Americans. The immense industrial growth in the 19th century was fueled by technological innovations, abundant natural resources, and a large unskilled labor force. Migration, urbanization, and immigration are trends that continue into contemporary times.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

  • How did daily life change for many Americans as industrialization developed?
  • What role does industrialization play in the United States today?
  • What key events laid the framework for the growth of industry, mining, agriculture, and human movement?
  • How did employment opportunities influence immigration and internal migration patterns?
  • What were the major "push" and "pull" factors influencing migration to and within the United States, and how did immigrants change culture and politics?
  • What challenges in employment did immigrants face?
  • What is the relationship between industrialism and the rise of consumerism in the U.S.?
  • Why is the Industrial Revolution sometimes considered to be two events? What was distinct about the "Second Industrial Revolution"?
  • How could industrial leaders be considered both "captains of industry" and "robber barons"?

U.S. II Standard 1.1:
Students will assess how innovations in transportation, science, agriculture, manufacturing, technology, communication, and marketing transformed America in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

U.S. II Standard 1.2:
Students will explain the connections between the growth of industry, mining, and agriculture and the movement of people into and within the United States.

U.S. II Standard 1.3:
Students will analyze the causal relationships between industrialization and the challenges faced by the growing working classes in urban settings.

U.S. II Standard 1.4:
Students will use historical evidence to compare how industrial capitalist leaders used entrepreneurship, free markets, and strategies to build their businesses.


(Ca. 1880-1920)

Industrialization and urbanization changed American society in fundamental ways. Reform movements grew in response to these new realities. Urban settings made it easier for people to organize reform movements and recruit new members. The women's suffrage movement, the Progressive movement, the rise of the temperance movement, and the growth of a number of additional labor, health, and educational reform movements developed as individuals and groups worked to solve society's new challenges.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

  • Why do people turn to reform movements?
  • What conditions must exist for a reform movement to begin?
  • Why were some methods used to bring about change more successful than others?
  • How have today's social and political reforms been affected by those that took place from the 1880s to the 1920s?
  • How is daily life today influenced by earlier social and political reform movements?
  • What process is required to amend the U.S. Constitution? What inferences can we make about U.S. history by studying amendments to the Constitution?

U.S. II Standard 2.1:
Students will use primary and secondary sources to identify and explain the conditions that led to the rise of reform movements, such as organized labor, suffrage, and temperance.

U.S. II Standard 2.2:
Students will explain how social reform movements influenced Constitutional amendments and changes to laws and democratic processes.

U.S. II Standard 2.3:
Students will evaluate the methods reformers used to bring about change, such as imagery, unions, associations, writings, ballot initiatives, recalls, and referendums.

U.S. II Standard 2.4:
Students will evaluate the short- and long-term accomplishments and effectiveness of social, economic, and political reform movements.


(Ca. 1890-1920)

By the end of the 19th century, global and domestic events led the U.S. to reconsider the advantages of isolation versus intervention in world affairs. The U.S. increased its role in the world and became enmeshed in global conflicts. Decisions related to isolationism and interventionism continue to be made today.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

  • How does the U.S. decide when and why to intervene in world affairs?
  • What were the arguments made for the United States' expansion into territories?
  • What cases can be made for isolationism and interventionism?
  • What are some examples of unintended consequences that result from each?
  • How did the cultural diversity of the U.S. change during this era?
  • How did America's involvement in World War I change American history?

U.S. II Standard 3.1:
Students will describe how the role of the U.S. in world affairs changed at the turn of the 20th century, and evaluate the arguments used to promote or discourage involvement in world affairs, such as those of the "big stick," Mahan, the Roosevelt Corollary, and the Antiimperialist League.

U.S. II Standard 3.2:
Students will examine and evaluate the role of the media and propaganda in promoting involvement in foreign affairs, using events such as the Spanish American War and World War I.

U.S. II Standard 3.3:
Students will evaluate the positive and negative impacts of imperialism on the U.S. and the U.S. territorial interests, such as the Philippines, Cuba, Guam, Hawaii, Panama, and Puerto Rico.

U.S. II Standard 3.4:
Students will explain the causes for U.S. involvement in World War I and the effects of the war on the home front, such as migration, trade, sedition act, shortages, voluntary rationing, and the Spanish flu.


(Ca. 1920-1970)

Traditions and cultural norms help bind people and nations together; sometimes, those holding fast to traditions find themselves in tension with others who push for reform. The 20th century was a time when these tensions were evident in many aspects of American culture, including the changes in social mores in the "roaring '20s" and the subsequent emergence and ascendency of social change and civil rights movements. Various counter-cultural movements have similarly questioned traditional values and governmental policies. Balancing tradition and reform continues to challenge Americans into the 21st century.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

  • How have opportunities and personal freedoms changed over time for different groups of Americans?
  • How do historians determine causal factors that lead to social changes?
  • What functions do traditions serve in communities and cultures?
  • Why do historians refer to the 1920s as "roaring"?
  • To what degree have the main objectives of the various civil rights movements from this period been attained?
  • Why did the Vietnam War inspire counter-cultural movements?

U.S. II Standard 4.1:
Students will develop and defend an interpretation of why cultural clashes occurred in the 1920s, citing examples such as science vs. religion, rural vs. urban, Prohibition proponents vs. opponents, and nativism vs. immigration.

U.S. II Standard 4.2:
Students will use case studies involving African-American civil rights leaders and events to compare, contrast, and evaluate the effectiveness of various methods used to achieve reform, such as civil disobedience, legal strategies, and political organizing.

U.S. II Standard 4.3:
Students will identify the civil rights objectives held by various groups, assess the strategies used, and evaluate the success of the various civil rights movements in reaching their objectives, paying specific attention to American Indian, women, and other racial and ethnic minorities.

U.S. II Standard 4.4:
Students will identify significant counter-cultural movements of the 20th century as well as the reactions and counter-arguments to those movements, using examples such as the Beatniks, hippies, and the anti-Vietnam War movement.


(Ca. 1920-1940)

Economic cycles of expansion and contraction have had a profound impact on the lives of Americans. There have been a number of economic crises throughout U.S. history, but the Great Depression and the New Deal have had the most significant impact on redefining the role of the government in economic and social policy. The arguments for and against intervention continue to reverberate to the current day.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

  • What were the post World War I economic conditions and policies that led to the economic boom of the 1920s?
  • What are the pros and cons of government involvement during economic crises?
  • How and why are segments of a population affected differently by periods of economic boom and bust?
  • What was the impact of New Deal policies on the Great Depression?
  • What is the relationship between economic factors and international conflicts?
  • How did the Great Depression affect families?
  • What role did the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl play in the extensive internal migration of this era?

U.S. II Standard 5.1:
Students will investigate how individual and institutional decisions made during the 1920s, such as over-production, buying on credit, poor banking policies, and stock market speculation helped lead to the boom of the 1920s and then the Great Depression.

U.S. II Standard 5.2:
Students will use evidence to investigate the effectiveness of the NewDeal as a response to economic crises.

U.S. II Standard 5.3:
Students will explain how economic and environmental conditions, including the Dust Bowl, affected daily life and demographic trends during the Great Depression.

U.S. II Standard 5.4:
Students will craft an argument regarding the role of government in responding to economic conditions after learning about capitalism and other economic systems, historic cycles of boom and bust, and the New Deal.


(Ca. 1930-1950) Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

  • How did decisions that leaders made during World War II change the rules of warfare?
  • What arguments were made for employing the tactics of "total war"?
  • How do local conflicts escalate to become global conflicts?
  • What were the interests and primary objectives of the U.S. in entering into World War II?
  • How was the impact of World War II reflected in the culture of the United States home front?
  • How did the events of World War II set the stage for the Cold War?
  • How did the United States seek to halt the spread of communism in Europe?

U.S. II Standard 6.1:
Students will assess the causes and consequences of America's shift from isolationism to interventionism in the years leading up to World War II.

U.S. II Standard 6.2:
Students will use primary sources to describe the impact of World War II on the home front and the long-term social changes that resulted from the war, such as the baby boom, women in the workplace, and teenage culture.

U.S. II Standard 6.3:
Students will cite and compare historical arguments from multiple perspectives regarding the use of "total war" in World War II, focusing on the changing objectives, weapons, tactics, and rules of war, such as carpet bombing, civilian targets, the Holocaust, and the development and use of the atom bomb.

U.S. II Standard 6.4:
Students will research and prioritize the most significant events in the United States and the USSR's transition from World War II allies to Cold War enemies and superpowers.

U.S. II Standard 6.5:
Students will evaluate the impact of using international economic aid and diplomacy to secure national interests, specifically citing case studies of America's investment in war-torn nations following the war, such as the Marshall Plan and the Berlin Airlift.


(Ca. 1950-2000)

Cold War ideologies have shaped American life and influenced foreign policy since the middle of the 20th century. Cold War rivalries escalated into hot wars in Korea and Vietnam. Alliances led to proxy wars in a number of contested areas. An arms race escalated fears. Eventually, American and Soviet leaders eased Cold War tensions, and the Soviet Union dissolved, ushering in a period of uncertainty in global affairs. American interests in the Middle East have complicated international policies. Differing political philosophies spurred debates over the size and role of government. Throughout the era, American society, education, culture, and politics were shaped by Cold War tensions, technological developments, and changing demographics.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

  • How did the Cold War shape domestic policies, foreign policies, and popular culture?
  • What lessons can be learned from the Vietnam and Korean Wars?
  • How was McCarthyism a reflection of Cold War tensions?
  • How did wartime technologies lead to peacetime innovations, such as nuclear weapons/ power, space exploration, computers, and communication?
  • What were the main goals of President Johnson's Great Society?
  • What philosophy regarding the role of government influenced President Reagan's New Federalism?
  • How did America's relationship with Israel affect its relationship with other Middle Eastern nations?
  • How has American culture been influenced by technological developments?
  • How did the Watergate crisis demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of modern U.S. politics?

U.S. II Standard 7.1:
Students will compare the causes, major events, military tactics, and outcomes of the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

U.S. II Standard 7.2:
Students will use government documents and other primary sources to investigate the motives behind a Cold War policy, event, or foreign operation, such as Truman Doctrine, containment, the domino theory, the Korean conflict, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, and Olympic boycotts.

U.S. II Standard 7.3:
Students will develop interpretations of the impact of the Cold War on American society and culture using evidence such as cultural artifacts from the Cold War era, oral histories, and primary sources.

U.S. II Standard 7.4:
Students will explain how Reagan's neo-conservatism differed from the policies of previous presidential administrations of this era, most notably Johnson's Great Society.

U.S. II Standard 7.5:
Students will use evidence to demonstrate how technological developments (such as television and social media), government policies (such as Supreme Court decisions), trends (such as rock 'n' roll or environmental conservation), and/or demographic changes (such as the growth of suburbs and modern immigration) have influenced American culture.

U.S. II Standard 7.6:
Students will use historical events and trends associated with American policies toward Israel and Middle Eastern nations and groups to make suggestions for current policies.


(Ca. 2000-Present)

The United States continues to confront social, political, and economic changes. The "War on Terror," new threats from old rivals, and international humanitarian needs dominate foreign affairs. Continuing political themes surface in current events. Economic inequalities, racial tensions, environmental issues, and immigration and social reforms dominate domestic concerns. In addition, emerging technologies and innovations hold great promise, and the creativity and civic engagement of Americans continues to thrive. The next chapter in the story of the United States awaits.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

  • How are newspapers, magazines, blogs, and other contemporary expressions the "rough drafts" of history?
  • How do we know what events or trends are of historical significance when we are living in the middle of them?
  • How has U.S. foreign policy had an effect on the War on Terror?
  • What is the most appropriate role for America to play in foreign affairs after the fall of the Soviet Union?
  • How does the U.S. dependency on oil shape foreign policy decision making?
  • In what ways has social media affected the continuity and change of reform movements?
  • How has global trade transformed local communities (e.g., "mom and pop" stores, jobs, manufacturing)?
  • How do people work and organize to respond to systemic domestic problems such as economic inequality, racism, or environmental degradation?

U.S. II Standard 8.1:
Students will select the most historically significant events of the 21st century and defend their selection.

U.S. II Standard 8.2:
Students will apply historical perspective and historical thinking skills to propose a viable solution to a pressing economic, environmental, or social issue, such as failing social security, economic inequalities, the national debt, oil dependence, water shortages, global climate change, pandemics, pollution, global terrorism, poverty, and immigration.

U.S. II Standard 8.3:
Students will use evidence from recent events and historical precedents to make a case for the most significant opportunities the country will have in the future.

UEN logo - in partnership with Utah State Board of Education (USBE) and Utah System of Higher Education (USHE).  Send questions or comments to USBE Specialist - Robert  Austin and see the Social Studies website. For general questions about Utah's Core Standards contact the Director - Jennifer  Throndsen.

These materials have been produced by and for the teachers of the State of Utah. Copies of these materials may be freely reproduced for teacher and classroom use. When distributing these materials, credit should be given to Utah State Board of Education. These materials may not be published, in whole or part, or in any other format, without the written permission of the Utah State Board of Education, 250 East 500 South, PO Box 144200, Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-4200.