November 29

Blog #92 – Pivotal Moment of Reagan Presidency

After reading your short answers comparing Reagan’s 1st and 2nd terms regarding foreign policy, and it made me wonder what you think is the turning point of Reagan’s presidency, especially with regards to the Cold War and the Soviet Union.

Schools of history fall into a couple of areas regarding the end of the Cold War:

  1. Gorbachev is the main reason why the Cold War ended.  It was his reforms (glasnost and perestroika), different from the previous Soviet leaders, that prompted Reagan to renew negotiations over reducing / eliminating nuclear weapons;
  2. Gorbachev was the reason why Reagan considered the Zero Option in Europe – Gorbachev proposed the Zero Option (for all nuclear weapons) at the Reykjavik Summit which eventually turned into the INF Treaty in 1987 that eliminated all intermediate range nuclear missiles (especially those in Europe).
  3. It was Reagan playing hard ball with the Soviets / Gorbachev over SDI when Gorbachev proposed the Zero Option at the Reykjavik Summit in 1986, that Reagan refused to abandon SDI, which led to the INF Treaty (in a roundabout way).
  4. SDI’s introduction was the pivotal moment of the Reagan presidency because it forced the Soviets back on their heels, wondering how to counter it, and if there could be anything done about it.
  5. Reagan’s refusal to entertain detente and cast the Soviet Union as the “evil empire”, plus a massive increase in military spending caused the Soviets to match us or risk losing the edge it had in conventional and nuclear weapons.

But there is also some unconventional thinking about the Reagan / Bush administrations and how they helped end the Cold War:

  1. The CIA’s aid to the mujahideen in Afghanistan helped sink the Soviets deeper into an unwinnable war, forcing the Soviets to use their best troops, and spend oodles of money that it didn’t have.
  2. While the Berlin Wall collapsed and the Eastern European countries and Soviet Republics broke away (1989-1991), President Bush did everything he could to encourage them to put democracy first and Communism second.  He did not ask for military aid to be sent to these countries, but he supported their break w/ the Soviets.  Even during the hard-line coup in the Soviet Union in August 1991, President Bush and his administration fought hard to support Russian President Boris Yeltsin in his resistance to the Communists.

So which event or person or concept was the most pivotal to ending the Cold War and why?  

Explain your answer in 300 words or more.  Due Thursday, Dec. 1 by class. 

November 7

1980s Google Docs

1st Hour –

2nd Hour –

3rd Hour –

4th Hour –

DUE TUESDAY NIGHT, 11/15 @10PM (Google Docs only, not The Breakfast Club).  

Image result for 1980s fashions  The Breakfast Club (best movie of the 1980s, sorry, I’m biased.)

Crash Course John Green, Reagan Revolution –

Crash Course John Green, George HW Bush and End of the Cold War –

CNN Cold War: Star Wars –

CNN Cold War: Soldiers of God –



My fave photo of President Reagan:

Image result for ronald reagan bald

October 25

Bridge of Spies

So, you saw Bridge of Spies, the latest film by Steven Spielberg.  This Cold War film looks at a lot of issues by taking real life events (the arrest of Rudolf Abel for spying, the U-2 plane shot down in 1960, the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961) and weaves them into a story about one man, Jim Donovan, played by Tom Hanks, who brilliantly negotiates the release of two Americans for Abel. Choose from the following questions / observations and complete at least three (all answers must include a response to #1).

1. How did the film portray Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union?  In what ways did the film humanize these tensions with the portrayals of Abel, Donovan, East German lawyer Vogel, Judge Byers, and the KGB minister (who helped negotiate the deal, whose name escapes me right now)?  Use specific examples from the film.  

bridge 12. Do you think Rudolf Abel was given a fair trial by the court of Judge Byers or was there a rush to judgement and conclusion?  Why or why not?

3. Should America have been spying on the Soviets like they had with the U-2 planes?  Why or why not?

4. What kinds of political and social pressures was Jim Donovan under at home for defending Rudolf Abel?  Why do you think he took the job in the first place?

5. What would make / drive someone to become a spy for their country?  It seems like dangerous work and there’s always the chance that your country could betray you or want you dead if you were captured (use Powers and Abel as examples).

I may come up with additional questions as I go along.

300 words minimum for your total answer.  Due by Friday, November 13. 

April 15

Eisenhower Debate Research Google Docs

Using the link below, you can share research info for your debate on whether or not Eisenhower was a good president.

1st Hour – Pro – Ike –

Alex S., Quinn, Zoe K., Ky, Zoe B., Alex B., Amy, Natalie, Clare C., David, Lilah, Paige, Deja.

1st Hour – Anti – Ike –

Dana, Alex V., Rachel, Claire, Amanda, Coco, Jonah, Jamie, Emma, Annie, Kelsey, Joey, Zach, Colin

2nd Hour – Pro – Ike –

Dan, Lizzy, Timmy, JayMocha, Josh, David, Angelica, Brenden, Grant

2nd Hour – Anti – Ike –

Liam, Colin, Imani, James, Adam, Hannah, Jill, Abby

3rd Hour – Pro – Ike –

Brendan, Ian, David G., Kris, Griffin, Vince, Madi, Kara

3rd Hour – Anti – Ike –

Victoria, Audrey, Blake, Katie, Dylan, Lilli, David S., Karlie

5th Hour – Pro- Ike –

Sarah, Ethan, Fayth, Ross, Christina, Kory, Leo, Jasmine, Nick

5th Hour – Anti – Ike –

Ashley, Emily S., Jack, George, Olivia, Nathan, Seth, Emily L., Rebekah.

On Thursday, after the Sputnik and Blast from the Past quizzes, we will devote ourselves to scouring the Interwebs for info on President Eisenhower and all aspects of his presidency.  Bring your laptop or other device, but if you can’t, we will have at least a dozen computers in the room for you to work on.

Each of you must find at least one usable piece of evidence on Ike’s presidency (there will be no group info or shared info).  I define usable as something covering his achievements (foreign, domestic, social, legislative, etc.) or his weaknesses.  Even if you’re on the pro / anti side, you can find research that helps support your views and knocks down what you anticipate the other side’s arguments to be.  You must cite the website properly using or another online citation source.  This work is due by Saturday, April 19 @ noon. 

Also, don’t just limit yourself to online sources.  If you find a certain passage in a book, quote it and share it with your team.

Debate is Monday, April 21.

March 31

Blog #61 – Who started the Cold War?

One of the main topics for post-war history has been who’s responsible for the beginning of the Cold War – U.S., Soviet Union, or both?  I’d like to throw a fourth option into the mix: Britain.

The U.S., according to revisionist historians, is said to have started the Cold War because of the following actions:

1. During World War 1, an Allied invasion of Russia during their revolution was aimed at stopping the Bolsheviks and restoring the Tsar to the throne.  We also withheld recognition of the Soviet Union until 1933;

2. At the Potsdam Conference, Harry Truman withheld the information about the atomic bomb from Stalin but not Churchill.  Even though Stalin knew about the bomb from spies, the atomic secrets were withheld from the Soviets and not the British;

3. George Kennan, an American diplomat, stated early in 1946 that the Soviet Union has only one concern: world domination, and that they understand power and strength and don’t respect weakness.  This sets up the Cold War policy of containment – keeping the Communists from taking over other countries.  This also became the Truman Doctrine in 1947;

“One way of life is based upon the will of the majority, and is distinguished by free institutions, representative government, free elections, guarantees of individual liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from political oppression.

The second way of life is based upon the will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. It relies upon terror and oppression, a controlled press and radio; fixed elections, and the suppression of personal freedoms”  – Harry Truman, 1947.

4. When the Soviets blockaded West Berlin in 1948, the British and U.S. violated the blockade by sending in thousands of supply flights to help save the West Berlin people;

5.   In 1949, western European powers and the U.S. and Canada formed NATO in order to defend themselves against Soviet or Eastern European attack;

6. In 1952, we detonated a hydrogen bomb before the Soviets, escalating the arms race.

The Soviets, on the other hand, had started the Cold War, according to consensus historians, because:

1. They violated the Yalta Agreement by not allowing free elections in Eastern Europe after the war.  Many of the Communist parties in those countries got financial support from the Soviet Union;

2. The Eastern European countries were controlled by the Soviets after World War 2;

3. The Soviets put down a democratic revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1948;

4. The Soviets blockaded West Berlin when the British, French, and American parts of West Germany formed to make their own government;

5. Stalin made a speech in 1946 in which he stated that Communism and capitalism are incompatible –

“Our Marxists declare that the capitalist system of world economy conceals elements of crisis and war, that the development of world capitalism does not follow a steady or even course forward, but proceeds through crises and catastrophes…” Joseph Stalin, 1946.

6. The Soviets backed North Korea’s invasion of South Korea in 1950, sparking the Korean War;

7. The Soviets detonated their own atomic bomb in 1949 (with stolen secrets from the American bomb) and their own hydrogen bomb in 1953 furthering the arms race;

But then there’s the British:

1. Churchill knew from the outset of his reign as Prime Minister that the British would be willing to sacrifice its empire and its influence in Europe in order to save Britain, so he molded FDR and American interests in taking over for Britain as a counter balance to the Soviet Union;

2. Churchill gave the Iron Curtain speech in Fulton, Missouri in early 1946, describing how Europe had been divided into two camps: Communism and freedom;

“Mr Churchill has called for a war on the USSR” – Joseph Stalin, 1946.

3. The British had gone broke fighting World War II and could no longer support countries from Communist infiltration, so it got the U.S. to do that for them – example, Greece and Turkey in 1947 and 1948;

4. The British helped America with the Berlin Blockade in flying 275,000 flights to the city in a year’s time, bringing 1.5 million tons of supplies;

5. Because Iran had nationalized its oil producing company (formerly a British company), the British asked America for help in overthrowing the Iranian leader, Mossadegh, who had democratically elected.  In 1953, Mossadegh was out of power and replaced by the Shah.


After reading all of these accounts, which do you think is the most convincing argument for starting the Cold War and which is the least convincing?  Explain why in a minimum of 250 words. 

Due Thursday by class, April 3. 

June 4

X-Men:First Class E.C. blog

All of your HW needs to be turned in to receive credit for this blog. 

I saw the movie this afternoon and was happy to see that the historical content wasn’t too battered and bruised.  In fact, I was glad to see that the X-Men played such a pivotal role in preventing World War 3.  However, there were a few things that I noticed that struck me as odd:

1. There was no civilian control of the military in either the Soviet Union or the United States.  Sure, if you believe in conspiracy theories, this might be plausible.  And yes, the military, especially under General Curtis LeMay was pretty much a war monger.  But, I highly doubt that the American military decided to go to war by a show of hands.  There was no sign of Kennedy or Khrushchev except in newsreel or TV footage. 

2. Where was Castro’s role in any of the missile crisis stuff?  Even when the sub and the Mockingbird crashed on the Cuban shore, even when both the Soviets and U.S. warships fired at the X-Men on the Cuban coast, the Cubans were invisible. 

3. This was something I noticed right away (so sue me!): the mini skirt hadn’t been invented yet by 1962.  According to several sources I checked, it didn’t become popular until 1966.  One of the main reasons I remember this was b/c I had associated the mini-skirt with the TV show, The Brady Bunch, which I had watched over and over as a kid growing up in the late 70s (and I knew the show had debuted in 1969, the year after I was born). 

4. I was disappointed that the character named Darwin was killed off so quickly.  It seemed that he was offed before he even got to develop – leaving a noticeably paler group of X-Men behind after Shaw’s attack.  I wondered if this was some kind of attempt at irony – Shaw’s master race, Homo Superior, triumphant over a fellow mutant, and killing a number of other Homo Sapiens, in the attack on the CIA’s “secret HQ.”  It was a pretty lame attempt at irony, and it just left the X-Men w/o a strong minority character. 

Questions (choose 4 of 5):

1. How did Erik’s Holocaust figure into his quest to stop both the Soviet and American governments from destroying mutants?  Explain.

2. Where did the movie deviate from history?  At what point did you see fiction begin and non-fiction end (besides at the theatre door – suspend your disbelief in this case)?  How many instances did you find?  Explain. 

3. What role did sexism play in the movie, both intentional and unintentional (maybe unintended by the filmmakers)? Use examples with Emma Frost, Moira MacTaggart, Angel and Raven.  File:X-MenFirstClassMoviePoster.jpg

4. The mutant persecution has been a recurring theme throughout the X-Men series, both the films and comics.  What could this discrimination be a metaphor in our society? 

5. How do Erik and Charles’ different paths at tackling mutant discrimination resemble the two paths of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s?   “I’m mutant, and I’m proud.” Explain.

Due Monday, June 13 before class.