Freshman Clusters



Cluster 60A,B,CW
America in the Sixties: Politics, Society and Culture, 1954-1974

Lecture Schedule: Tuesday and Thursday | 9:30 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.

Faculty: Jeff Decker | English, Coordinator
Robert Fink | Musicology
Jan Reiff | History
Lynn Vavrek | Political Science

Librarian:Miki Goral | Powell Library

Forty years ago, a major social revolution arguably began on a University of California campus, with the Free Speech Movement. It spread through, and transformed, the America in which many of your parents were raised. This course focuses on the turbulent period from the election of President Kennedy to the resignation of President Nixon, in order to explore how the cultural character and political choices of our 21st century society were framed, and also how such frames can and cannot be broken.

A better understanding of this period becomes all the more crucial as Sixties counter-culture becomes a code-word in the political arena, with reactionaries vilifying the youth movements as the irresponsible root of all modern troubles, and revolutionaries sentimentalizing those movements as the perfect expression of truth and freedom. We will push past the familiar montage of Sixties images and the accompanying clichés, in order to ask hard questions about a variety of topics, from the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam war, to movies, television, and (of course) rock music; from campus takeovers on the political Left to the Goldwater and Wallace campaigns on the political Right; from the Cold War to Watergate, from pro sports to the Supreme Court.

Faculty from a variety of academic disciplines will bring multiple perspectives to these topics. An Alice Walker novel, a Francis Ford Coppola film, a Gallup poll, and an African-American oral-history collection may tell very different stories about the same moment, and our task will be to analyze and integrate those perspectives. It will be hard work, requiring extensive and attentive reading, a mind open to new ideas and various modes of information, and careful writing that reflects independent thought, rather than merely a dutiful echo of the facts and views presented by your teachers.

Course Format

During fall and winter quarters, the course meets twice a week for lectures and once a week for a two-hour section discussion. In addition to these regular class meetings, students will also attend a series of film screenings that highlight a number of movies that are of special significance for the study of the Sixties, e.g. The Graduate, In the Heat of the Night, Hearts and Minds, Woodstock,and The Godfather.

Spring Seminars – Previous seminars titles have included:

  • Consuming the Sixties: Buying and Selling Cultures and Countercultures
  • Music from the Beatles to Jimi Hendrix
  • Global Protest in the 1960s
  • Changing Conceptions of Rights: the Warren Court and Beyond
  • California, 1960 to 1973
  • Presidential Nomination Process of the 1960s

Writing II and Foundation Area General Education Credit

Upon completion of the yearlong cluster, students will fulfill the Writing II requirement and satisfy 4 GE course requirements:

  • 2 in Foundations of the Arts & Humanities (1 in Visual and Performance Arts Analysis and Practice; 1 in Literary and Cultural Analysis)
  • 2 in Foundations of Society & Culture (1 in Social Analysis; 1 in Historical Analysis)

Diversity Requirement

Upon completion of all three quarters of the cluster, students will satisfy the diversity course requirement.