The year 1968 -- 50 years ago -- was a critical nexus of U.S. and world history, culture, political science, technology, art, sociology, music, fashion, psychology, etc., etc.

NOTE: A meeting to discuss this proposed course will take place April 3, 2018, noon-1PM, Jabs Hall 207.  All interested faculty and staff are invited. Please come, and please bring a friend.

If you are interested in finding out more about the proposed course but cannot come on April 3, please send an email to [email protected] to be added to the distribution list.

This is a proposed special interdisciplinary, multi-instructor course based on the confluence of “1968 in America.”  Many historic threads of the 20th century converged in that storied year, and many of our present-day challenges can be traced back to threads passing through 1968.

A few examples include:

  • The Cold War and the Vietnam experience (the Tet Offensive was in January 1968, My Lai massacre in March)
  • Civil Rights in America (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in 1968, and so was Robert F. Kennedy)
  • The moon landing program (Apollo 8, first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon, December 1968)
  • The environmental movement (Wilderness Act, 1964; National Environmental Policy Act, 1969; First Earth Day, 1970)
  • The American Indian experience (AIM was founded in 1968)
  • The American political party system (the tumultuous Democratic Convention in Chicago that year)
  • The rise of George Wallace and Richard Nixon (Nixon elected president in 1968)
  • The appearance of psychoactive drugs and the drug culture
  • Hippies, Yippies, Woodstock, and the counter-culture movements ("Turn on, tune in, drop out")
  • The "Pill" and the sexual revolution
  • Studio music and electronic music synthesis ("Sgt. Pepper" 1967; Moog synthesizer and "Switched-On Bach" in 1968)
  • Changes in music, art, film, architecture…
  • ...and many, many more potential ideas

A single special topics course obviously cannot possibly cover every relevant thread, but the hope would be to discuss the framework and come up with a course outline involving several topics that can be intertwined in a meaningful and provocative manner using areas about which each instructor could be passionately personal.

The Course Concept

The course will contain six threads, with each thread occupying approximately two weeks of the semester. The thread topics will be conceived deliberately so that connections and cross-linkages are made clear.

The in-class format will encourage the use of multimedia: videos, film clips, audio recordings, images, examples, artifacts, etc., to create a dynamic and compelling classroom environment.

The out-of-class work will emphasize key readings, discussion, writing, and observation.

The student products will be journal entries, reading responses, essays, and a culminating activity presented by the students. The culminating activity might include posters, discussion panels, dramatic presentations, student films/music, and other creative examples.

The proposed course logistics:  3 credits, two class meetings per week (Tuesday & Thursday).  Class size:  TBD

The coordinating committee (instructors) for the course will first need to choose the six particular “threads” and decide who will be responsible for preparing and presenting each portion of the course.

This will likely mean six key instructors, each having a “back room” of others who contribute ideas, instructional material, or direct participation.

Besides the intellectual challenge of deciding how best to present the thread, the key instructors will need to have a set of planning meetings in which the linkages between and within the threads are highlighted. For example, an American politics thread and a music and art thread will have ways of understanding the mutual influence of these forces upon each other, and the corresponding threads will highlight the mutuality.

Example framework

An example, using six somewhat arbitrarily chosen threads:

  1. Environmental movement
  2. Civil Rights in U.S.
  3. Cold War and Vietnam
  4. American political parties
  5. Space Exploration
  6. Art and culture.

Each thread will occupy three periods of class time (225 minutes). Each thread is conceived to consider (i) events and ideas that preceded 1968, (ii) explain the key events in the late 60s that reflect the zeitgeist, and then (iii) consider what has happened in the 50 years since.

In a particular thread, the instructor(s) will create a set of learning experiences for the students, including lecture, discussion, videos/movies, guest speakers, demonstrations, and so forth. Instructors will also assign appropriate out-of-class readings, supplementary material, “homework” exercises, etc.

After each pair of two threads, a week will be devoted to reflection and writing. Class time will be used for peer-reading of classmates’ essays and comments, and ideally there will be time for a relevant film or other event—probably in the evening outside of class time.

The last two weeks of the semester will have special presentations further tying together the various threads. One possibility is to have a marquee lecture looking back critically over the last 50 years and consider what has truly changed and what has largely remained unchanged, then try to extrapolate the threads into the future.


Topic Tuesday

Topic Thursday


Course Intro

Documentary Film


Thread 1: Environmental Mvmt.

Thread 1 (cont.)


Thread 1: (cont.)

Thread 2: Civil Rights in U.S.


Thread 2: (cont.)

Thread 2: (cont.)


Film or other event



Thread 3: Cold War and Vietnam

Thread 3: (cont.)


Thread 3: (cont.)

Thread 4: American political parties


Thread 4: (cont.)

Thread 4: (cont.)


Film or other event



Thread 5: Space Exploration

Thread 5: (cont.)


Thread 5: (cont.)

Thread 6: Art and culture


Thread 6: (cont.)

Thread 6: (cont.)


Film or other event



1968: looking 50 years back

1968: looking 50 years ahead


Culminating event

Culminating event

Course Development Process

April 2018:  Initial meetings with interested faculty. Identify other potential faculty collaborators.

May 2018:  Consultation with academic deans and academic affairs to seek endorsement and support resources.

June 2018:  Determine participants and tentative thread topics.

August 2018:  Secondary meetings with interested faculty. Special Topics course proposal. Room selection.

September-December 2018:  Identify/finalize the individuals responsible for each thread.

Spring 2019:  Key faculty team meetings. Publicity and student recruiting.

Summer 2019:  Course schedule finalized and “dress rehearsals.”

Fall 2019:  Showtime!