United States History

Mr. Gary Cook

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”


Thomas Jefferson’s words from The Declaration of Independence are the touchstone for the study of US history. The guiding question for this course will be “How have these truths—political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people—been affirmed or denied, proven or belied throughout US history?” Why ask this question? Why study history? Because, as N. Scott Momaday, a member of the Kiowa tribe, has written, “Unless we understand the history that produced us, we are determined by that history. We may be determined in any event, but the understanding gives us a chance.” (Earth Keeper, p. 52)


To address our question about “these truths,” to “understand the history that has produced us,” we will study survey history texts, primary documents, and videos. We will critically examine the ideas, events, experiments, and personalities that have shaped our heritage so that we may become informed citizens, prepared to participate in our civic rights and responsibilities, to become people who, like the Founders, seek “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”


In this course we will attempt a survey of US history from pre-European colonization through Reconstruction in the first semester. The second semester will pick up post-Reconstruction and continue to the present day. Time constraints will force us to be selective. We will focus primarily on events and people important to our guiding question.


This course is a seminar. Students will be expected to complete assigned reading and to prepare a one-page written reaction to the reading each week. Additional videos may be assigned. Class time will be dedicated to discussion, debate, clarification, and an occasional guest teacher. Additional out-of-class enrichment activities—such as field trips, lectures, film and literature discussion groups—may be offered depending upon interest and opportunity.



  • These Truths: A History of the United States  by Jill Lepore https://amzn.to/3ibY1Xm

  • A College-level Dictionary

  • Pencils

  • Two notebooks, college-ruled preferred

  • A computer with access to a printer and the internet


  • $20 payable with tuition on August 1

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