The questions we came up with during our first two weeks were drawn from class discussions and the Google doc we created in Week One. That document still contains other topics that might be good sources of questions, but I’ve selected the ones that are most clearly historical in nature. If you don’t understand why a question from the Google Doc was left off this list, ask!
Guns and Gun Control
How have American gun culture and perceptions of guns changed over time? Have changes in weapon technology or portrayals of gun violence in video games and movies contributed to these changes?
How have gun lobbyists and gun lobby arguments changed over time?
How have changes in gun policy affected rates of violent crime?
Given that some states have chosen restrictive gun laws, why didn’t others?
Gay Rights and Same-Sex Marriage
How did the modern conception of American “family values” develop over the last century?
How has the view of same sex relations changed over time? Has the change been gradual or were there pivotal moments where things changed rapidly?
How have religious groups’ views on same-sex marriage changed over time, and have these changes shaped the gay rights movement?
What factors explain the shift in same-sex activist groups from advocacy of simple recognition and social respect to the advocacy of legal marriage rights and civil equality?
Why did early same-sex advocacy groups like the Daughters of Bilitis begin in California instead of elsewhere?
Taxes, Debt Ceiling and the Fiscal Cliff
How did the current debt crisis or fiscal cliff develop?
Given that tax reforms and new Social Security taxes were passed in the 1980s, what has changed to make bipartisan legislation on fiscal policy so difficult to pass in Congress? Given that split Congresses under Reagan still passed fiscal legislation without coming to a stand-still over the debt ceiling, what has changed to make debt ceiling debates so partisan?
What motivates Republican arguments for tax and spending cuts given that deficits and the national debt increased under the Reagan administration’s similar policies?
How does the current economic crisis compare to others faced by the United States in the past?
Given widespread hostility to taxes after Reagan, how and why had tax rates and government spending reached such high levels by the time Reagan took office?
Politics and Partisanship
Though suffrage has been granted to everyone over the age of 18 after long political issues, when and why has voter turnout declined? Has political apathy increased over time, and if so, what/who is to blame?
How have events such as Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal and Bill Clinton’s impeachment affected citizens’ levels of trust in the government? Does this mistrust have any impact on the political gridlock the government deals with today?
Has the power of the President increased or decreased since 1848?
How have past American interventions in the Middle East affected the U.S. relationship with the region today?
In what situations in the past 150 years has America acted as the “world police” and in what situations have we been more isolationist, and how have our actions affected those countries’ attitudes towards us?
How has the United States’s relationship with China changed over time?
How has the world’s view of the United States changed since World War 2?
Crime and Criminal Justice
How has the history of the “war on drugs” affected the US prison system and incarceration rates?
What explains why some states have legalized marijuana while others have not?
Why do some states have a history of enforcing the death penalty, and not others?
Why was marijuana made illegal in the first place?
How has public perception of marijuana and other drugs evolved over time? What are the differences between modern views and that of the early 20th/late 19th centuries?
How have views on the death penalty changed over time?
How have changes in the main countries of origin of immigrants to America contributed to changes in immigration policy?
How did events in the 1970s affect the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade?
How have legislation and attitudes towards women’s health and reproductive rights changed since Roe vs. Wade?
Given that computers were being used extensively by university and the government by the mid-twentieth century, why did it take so long for personal computing to become marketable?
Has the advent of the Internet stimulated unusual levels of concern about the protection of copyrights?
Energy and the Environment
How has the oil industry changed since 9/11?
How have perceptions of nuclear energy as an alternative energy source evolved since the mid-20th century (when atomic bombs were first used)?
If space exploration was considered so important earlier in time, why has its budget been cut in recent years? Did the end of the Space Race with the Soviet Union contribute to this shift in the funding of NASA and the space program?
How have Americans’ views of being under surveillance by the government changed over time?
How has the role of religion in the United States changed since 1848?
How have views of race and/or methods of racial discrimination changed over time?
How have strategies of combat and means of warfare changed since the advent of nuclear weapons, and what role have nuclear weapons played in those changes? How have changes in combat affected American society?
How has popular music evolved, and how have changes (e.g., in the content of lyrics) affected crime rates or social values?