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Big Era Nine: Landscape Unit 9.7

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Globe-Girdling Cultural Trends
1945 - Present

Why This Unit?

This unit has two major goals. First, students will develop a general understanding of the role of culture in the decades following the Second World War. The unit does not present an exhaustive list of widely-recognized, specific cultural figures. The Beatles, for example, are mentioned but not examined. While the unit defines culture broadly, specific examples of culture are drawn almost entirely from artistic and musical developments. Language is briefly examined, but religion, sports, and other elements of culture are left out. The unit takes this approach partially because no list of cultural developments can hope to be complete. Partially, as well, it does so because the unit asks students, above all, to explore not just what culture is, but what culture means. As Big Era 9 ends at the present, students will connect recent history to their own place in the world.

A second goal of the unit is to develop all students as thinkers and writers. The unit is designed around a series of questions. The unit poses a general Big Question: "Have popular cultural developments in the world since 1945 become more democratic or less so?" From there, students gather data and develop ideas in a series of more specific Focus Questions. These questions, and the data students use to respond to them, are related to each other as would be the ideas in a well-structured essay. Along the way, the unit prompts students to write sentences which, when reorganized and revised, will form just such an essay. The best writers in the classroom will benefit from the unit's probing questions and reminders of how to structure ideas. The less-developed writers, however, will use the unit's scaffolding to create what may well be for some of them the best essay they have ever written! The unit teaches partly that all of our students can write essays, if they get the guidance they need to do so. This unit provides that guidance.

Unit Objectives

Upon completing this unit, students will be able to:

1. Identify major cultural developments in the world between 1945 and the present.

2. Relate cultural developments to other characteristics of society, including the extent of democracy.

3. Construct an argument that correlates cultural developments with the global development of democratic societies.

4. Relate specific, concrete details to broader, interpretive ideas.

5. Examine their own efforts at cultural creativity and their consumption of forms of popular culture.

Time and Materials

This unit should take between 4 and 8 class periods, depending on the length of the periods and whether or not the final essay is completed in class or as homework. Teachers may choose to use only some of the lessons.

  • Photocopies of all student handouts, one for each student.
  • Color reproductions of each of the paintings included in the "Avant-Garde Art Galley." Larger is better, so if 11x17 reproductions are possible, use them. The accompanying text pages may be in black and white and do not need to be larger than 8 1/2 x 11.
  • A computer with which to play the video in the "Globalization of Hip-Hop" section.
  • The video in the "Globalization of Hip-Hop" section itself, available freely under a Creative Commons license, posted here.
  • An LCD projector, attached to a computer, to show the video in the "Globalization of Hip-Hop" section.
  • A recording of Ornette Coleman's "Free Jazz."
  • A recording of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song."

Table of Contents

Why this unit?


Unit objectives


Time and materials


This unit's Big Question


The historical context


This unit in the Big Era timeline


Lesson 1: The United States in world culture


Lesson 2: The post-war- avant-garde


Lesson 3: Global popular culture from the 1970s until today




This unit and the Three Essential Questions


This unit and the Seven Key Themes


This unit and the Standards in Historical Thinking




Correlations to National and State Standards and to Textbooks


Conceptual links to other lessons


Complete Teaching Unit in PDF Format

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