Revolutions and Social Change

Jill Bass

Social Studies (Global Studies / American Studies)

Topics: This course will examine the nature of power and attempts to bring about change in history. Students will examine current problems in the world, and generate strategies to bring about change. Students will explore historical examples of change to fuel their ideas. Students will compare and evaluate the effectiveness of revolutionary change and reform.

The American Revolution will be utilized as a case study to examine the essential question: what makes change meaningful and long-lasting? Students will analyze the demands of the Declaration of Independence while studying the people who were not included in it's concepts of freedom and equality, notably -- women, African-Americans and Native Americans. Students will evaluate whether the American Revolution brought about meaningful and long-lasting change, using evidence to support their views.

Students will also examine the Russian Revolution as a case study of revolutionary change. Students will become familiar with communist ideology and address the essential question: why didn't it "work?" Students will examine not only the economic theory of communism but the practice of bringing about such a system, in the Soviet Union as well as other former communist nations. This case study will lead to a deeper study of the nature of power, examining the question of whether all power corrupts and how power can possibly be shared or distributed in an egalitarian manner.

Lastly, students will have a choice for a final unit of study. They may opt to conduct an in-depth investigation and analysis in a current problem in need of change, identifying strategies and tactics to achieve this change OR examine another historical example of revolutionary change in history and analyze the success of the movement.

Skills for this course include developing a working vocabulary to discuss the topics listed above. Students will discuss and evaluate primary source documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Communist Manifesto. Students will have a working knowledge of world geography. Students will be familiar with the major causes and consequences of the American and Russian Revolution and will be able to transfer information to issues to the world today. Students will be required to generate ideas on how change could effectively occur to address our nations ills. Students will be expected to express their views verbally and in writing.

Assessment: Students will be expected to participate in class discussions/seminars, write essays, participate in debates, create a portfolio that demonstrates their growth and learning in this course over the semester, and take vocabulary quizzes and some tests.

Primary source documents:

Black Panther Party Platform

Declaration of Independence

Communist Manifesto

Abigail Adams letter to her husband

Chief Logan's Lament

Frederick Douglass on the Fourth of July

Gorbachav on the policy of Glasnost


Instructional strategies will include cooperative group work, personal reflections, debates, seminar discussions, group and individual reading.