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whatnot's avatar

For a college-level class on the 1980's in the USA, what content should the syllabus cover?

Asked by whatnot (589points) July 9th, 2010

Hypothetically speaking:

Students taking the class were born after 1990. The class covers pop culture, literature, fads, important people, little-known but important data, significant news events, etc. This would be from the perspective of those who either grew up during the 80’s or were adults who experienced it, not from the perspective of Wikipedia or other encyclopedic reference.

What would you want to see taught to those who didn’t experience the 1980’s?

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7 Answers

Dr_Dredd's avatar

The end of the Cold War and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

Kayak8's avatar

HIV/AIDS first reared its head in the public imagination in the mid 80s and fear spiraled wildly for a number of years after. This alone had a huge impact on pop culture with impacts on art, fashion, and music as we lost many talented contributors. There were speculations about the deaths of famous people (and relative assumptions about sexual orientation however misguided). It was a frightening and fearful time particularly in the gay community. We had a president (Ronald Reagan) who never even mentioned the word AIDS as the epidemic made its way across our country. The early epidemic decimated those with hemophilia, people who had received blood transfusions were freaked out (and some ultimately died), Haitians were viewed as a “high-risk group.” People were afraid that mosquitoes transmitted HIV and there was a huge study done in Belle Glade, FL as it was the city with the highest infection rate at the time.

the100thmonkey's avatar

Have you considered what the outcome of such a course might be?

It sounds like you have an idea that is simply unworkable.

What do you want the students to understand about the 80s?


I see that this is a hypothetical question. It still doesn’t really change my answer much – it all depends on what the purpose of the course is. This is why you don’t really see courses based purely on a decade in universities – there is almost always a clear goal to the course; i.e. social and demographic changes in 60s America.

Without the focus, there is nothing to a course.

Personally, I’d like to see Breakdancing: a history of Brazilian favelas as told by Jean Jacques Rousseau.

aprilsimnel's avatar

The 1980s in the US is too big of a subject by itself. However, I would say the overarching event of that decade was the election of Ronald Reagan as President in 1980.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

I’m throwing out names…ideas and subjects….randomly in no order…..

Ronald Reagan
Berlin Wall/Cold War is Over (or is it?)
Death of John Lennon
Crazies like Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley
John Hughes movies (Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles)
The Brat Pack
Andy Warhol
The rise of designer drugs and the club culture
Advent of MTV——Madonna/Michael Jackson
The rising cult of celebrity (see above)
The rise of New Age religions
Fundamentalist Christianity and the rise of TV evangelists (Tammy Faye Bakker, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson)
Ripped Jeans
U2, Duran Duran, Flock of Seagulls
Boom Boxes
Just Say No to Drugs
Studio 54 and Disco (though it started in 1977, it lasted till mid 80’s)
A fairly difficult recession

FutureMemory's avatar

Challenger explosion

Dr_Dredd's avatar

Foreign debts, homeless Vets, AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz. Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law, Rock and Roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore!

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