© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Teaching Guide

Teaching The Reagan Era

You got this, Gipper.


Ronald Reagan might be the most influential celebrity-turned-politician ever…sorry Bono. But while teaching his era, you'll want to focus on actual issues instead of Reagan's Hollywood roots.

In this guide you will find

  • activities analyzing documents, quotes, and political cartoons of the Reagan Era.
  • essay questions exploring free market policies and Regan's diplomatic strategies.
  • historical resources from the Red Scare to the War on Drugs.

And much more.

What's Inside Shmoop's History Teaching Guides

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring history to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 3-5 Common Core-aligned activities (including quotation, image, and document analysis) to complete in class with your students, with detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes to be sure students are looking at the material through various lenses.
  • Resources to help make the topic feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the topic and how you can overcome the hurdles.

Instructions for You

1. Direct your students to this site where they can read President Reagan's "evil empire" speech delivered before the National Association of Evangelicals in 1983. The following questions can guide their reading and the following discussion.

  • What, at bottom, makes the Soviet Union the evil empire? What is the core of its "totalitarian darkness?"
    • Is it the Soviet's military power?
    • Their communist economy?
    • Their "godless" ideology?
  • What, in contrast, is the source of America's strength?
    • Before what group was Reagan delivering this speech?
      • Do you think he was just pandering?
      • Or are these his convictions?
  • Is the Soviet evil empire the only threat to the United States?
    • What is the threat from within?
  • What exactly is "modern-day secularism?"
    • Where does it place its strength?
      • What, according to Reagan, is the relationship between secularism and big government?
    • What are some of the "well-intention" but misguided results?
  • Overall, what two "empires" are engaged in battle?
    • To what extent is this a battle between communism and capitalism?
  • Based on this speech, what are Reagan's primary goals?

Instructions for Your Students

President Ronald Regan revitalized the Cold War by reviving some of its rhetoric. In this speech delivered in 1983, he declared the Soviet Union "the focus of evil in the modern world." You can read the speech here. As you do, think about Reagan's view of the world, and the forces that he believed were doing battle in the cold War.


Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary & Analysis    Timeline    People    Facts    Photos    Best of the Web    Citations    
back to top