American Issues: A Primary Source Reader in United States History, Volume 2: Since 1865 (4th Edition)

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9780131914025: American Issues: A Primary Source Reader in United States History, Volume 2: Since 1865 (4th Edition)

This popular two-volume series presents an anthology of primary documents, letters, and articles in which participants and contemporary observers express their opinions, make their observations, and reach their conclusions about events and issues of their own day that affected the nation and the American society as a whole. Updated throughout with new material and fresh perspectives, the texts continue to stimulate critical thinking and promote active learning about American history leading students to reject received ideas when appropriate, relate the past to their own experience, and reach conclusions on the basis of evidence.

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American Issues is an anthology of compelling primary source documents that offers a unique perspective on the American experience, in which those who actually lived the drama of the moment recount their observations, express their feelings and opinions, and draw their own conclusions about the events and issues that influenced their lives and ultimately shaped American society as a whole. The carefully chosen readings, which deal with a wide range of important political, social, cultural, and economic problems, reflect the complexity and diversity of the American past. Each section presents differing and often opposing points of view on matters that have had a profound impact on our individual lives as well as our collective life as a nation.

Irwin Unger and Robert R. Tomes provide a thought-provoking forum that forces readers to confront the American past as it was really lived, with all its intricate considerations, its passions, and its apparent contradictions. The readings are strategically arranged and framed with thorough background explanations to enable readers to challenge previously held assumptions, correct misinformation, stimulate critical. and analytical thinking, and, most of all, form mature, defensible judgments on the issues that have shaped our lives and comprise our past.

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Americans worry about the state of education in the United States today. Recently we have been told how little students know about science, geography, mathematics, and history; we fear that our country will be unprepared to compete against the other advanced industrial societies in years to come. We are also concerned that the new generation will lack the shared civic knowledge essential for a functioning democratic system. Study after study reveals that participation in the political process, knowledge and understanding of newsworthy events, and interest in public life are declining, particularly among younger Americans. Stated simply, the younger you are, the less likely you are to vote, read a newspaper, or be aware of current political issues. A growing body of research bemoans a deterioration in the quality and quantity of community life as a new, unchecked privatism, and unchecked individualism characterizes the American experience. What will the future hold for our political, social, economic, and cultural institutions if these trends continue?

There is indeed reason to be dismayed by how small a stock of historical information young Americans possess. But it is important also to realize that education is not just transmission of data. It is also the fostering of critical thinking. The most encyclopedic knowledge does students little good if they cannot use it to reach valid and useful conclusions. It is this belief that has inspired American Issues. This two-volume work will stimulate critical thinking and active learning about U.S. history—leading students to reject received ideas when appropriate, relate the past to their own experience, and reach conclusions on the basis of evidence. At times, no doubt, students will have to do additional reading beyond this textbook; that, of course, is all to the good.

American Issues is not a compendium of scholars' views. It is constructed out of primary documents, the raw material of history. In its pages participants and contemporary observers express their opinions, make their observations, and reach their conclusions about events and issues of their own day that affected the nation and American society. The selections do not point in one direction on any given issue. On the contrary, they were chosen to raise questions and force the student to confront disparity, complexity, and apparent contradiction. American Issues avoids giving students the "simple bottom line." Rather, it compels them to grapple with the same ambiguous raw materials that historians process to reach their conclusions. To further the engagement process, each selection asks specific questions of the student. That approach, we believe, is an incomparable way to enlighten students about the rich complexity and fullness of historical reality.

We would like to acknowledge the following reviewers of this text: Alan R. Ball, Rose State College (Oklahoma); Stephen H. Coe, Eastern Kentucky University; Samuel Crompton, Holyoke Community College; Anthony O. Edmonds, Ball State University; Lorien Foote, University of Central Arkansas; John A. Hall, Albion College; Edward L. Schapsmeier, Illinois State University; Rebecca S. Shoemaker, Indiana State University; and Donald G. Sofchalk, Mankato State University. We express our deep and sincere appreciation to the staff of St. John's University Libraries, particularly Joan Daly, Mark Meng, Ben Turner, and, most of all, Anthony Todman, Government Documents Specialist, for their generous, patient, and knowledgeable assistance.

The selections in Volume I and Volume II range widely in subject matter across the American past. Besides the key political questions, they deal with the social, cultural, economic, and gender problems our predecessors faced. American Issues is guided by the sense that America has always been a heterogeneous society whose inhabitants led their lives in many ways. Yet it does not abandon the view that all of our forebears were also part of the same American experience and shared many concerns of their era.

What can we expect from conscientious use of American Issues? No single text can turn a passive human sponge into an active seeker and thinker. But American Issues can, we believe, engage college students' natural curiosity and tendency to differ and encourage the habit of critical appraisal. Instructors and students alike will find American Issues a stimulating and challenging introduction to informed and discriminating thinking about the American past.

Irwin Unger
Robert R. Tomes

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