This section is broken down into two topics: 1) Domestic and Foreign Policy, 1960-2000; 2) Presidential Candidates and the Changing American Scene, 1960-2000.

Glossary items, student activities, and teacher resources deal with and raise questions about some of the domestic and foreign policy issues that have arisen in the presidential debates over the last forty years.

The learning goals and objectives for each topic below have been adapted from the Illinois Learning Standards for the Social Sciences, which were adopted in 1997 (visit www.isbe.state.il.us/ils for more information). These standards are easily adaptable to learning standards in other states.

Social Science Goals:

  • Apply the skills of historical analysis and interpretation.
  • Understand the development of significant political events in United States history.
  • Understand the development of economic systems.
  • Understand United States social history.
  • Understand United States environmental history.

United States Domestic and/or Foreign Policy, 1960-2000.

The starting place for lessons in the area of US domestic and foreign policy over the last forty years is the presidential debates themselves. After viewing debate clips and/or reading debate transcripts (available in their entirety at www.debates.org), students can pursue issues in greater depth by investigating primary source documents, news accounts, and other materials. Similarly, students can trace perennial domestic and foreign policy issues through their continued occurrence in debates (for example, students can compare how civil rights were discussed in the 1980 debate to how they were discussed in the 1996 debates). Using the presidential debates as a point of departure, students can:

  • Ask questions and seek answers by collecting and analyzing data from historic documents, images and other literary and non-literary sources.
  • Analyze and report historical events to determine cause-and-effect relationships.
  • Compare competing historical interpretations of an event.
  • Identify political ideas that have dominated the United States over the last forty years.
  • Describe how modern political positions are affected by differences in ideologies and viewpoints that have developed over time.
  • Describe how historical trends in population, urbanization, economic development and technological advancements have caused changes in United States economic policy.
  • Describe basic economic changes in the United States over the last fifty years.

Presidential Candidates and the Changing American Scene, 1960-2000

Each of the presidential debates occurred within a specific historical context. The values, assumptions, and expectations of journalists, politicians, and the public in 1960 were quite different from the values, assumptions, and expectations in 1996. How have social contexts changed? How have they remained the same? How have social and cultural contexts shaped the way presidential debates have been presented and received? Given the fact that social contexts change, how will presidential debates in the future be different from the debates of today? As they explore these and other questions through inquiry-based projects, students can:

  • Ask questions and seek answers by collecting and analyzing data from historic documents, images and other literary and non-literary sources.
  • Describe unintended social consequences of political events in United States history.
  • Analyze the relationship between an issue in United States social history and the related aspects of political, economic and environmental history.
  • Describe the influence of key individuals and groups in the United States over the last forty years.