- What should be the role of government in solving a national crisis?
- How effective were the responses of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration to the problems of the Great Depression?
- Write a Document Based Essay that demonstrates proper writing skills.
- Critically analyze primary source documents to explore the role of government during a national crisis.
- Develop a thorough understanding of how FDR politically and economically approached the vast problems of the Great Depression.
- Develop an understanding of the New Deal and be able to discuss both positive aspects and criticisms of this plan.
Teach the students how you expect them to write the DBQ essay. Use the attached list of guidelines. (Writing a Document Based Essay: A 10 Step Approach) and hand out the Document Based Essay: A 10 Step Approach
Teach through the Historical Context, Directions and Task (attached) for the DBQ and model how students should get started with this task. Break down each of the ten steps so they see what is expected.
Have them write their thesis paragraph in class in groups of three and swap papers to look for the three guiding principles:
- Did you take a position?
- Did you offer an interpretation of the question?
- Did you offer organizing or controlling ideas which will form the paragraphs of the body?
- Have them complete the rest of the work on the essay at home
Have the students create Document Based Essay. Use the attached list of directions (Creating a Document Based Essay) as a guideline to develop their own DBQ.
Prompt: How “revolutionary” was the New Deal? Evaluate the significant changes that it brought and determine how different the nation became because of it.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” was the ultimate reform movement, providing bold reform without bloodshed or revolution. Although many Americans criticized President Roosevelt for his “try anything” approach and wasteful spending, Roosevelt saved the American system of free enterprise by stepping in and actually doing something to help the unemployed, starving masses during the Great Depression. Before Roosevelt was elected, the gap between the haves and have-nots was ever-widening and the country probably would have experienced a revolution if another laissez-faire president like Hoover had been elected in 1932. When Roosevelt was elected, he created a series of reforms to deal with the countless problems in American society; many failed, though some achieved long-lasting success and exist to this day. The New Deal was the ultimate “revolution” providing lasting reforms like Social Security and the Fair Labor Standards Act, and establishing precedents that continue to shape the lives of millions of Americans to this day.
Roosevelt was a radical president in many ways, expanding Federal power and establishing numerous precedents that have served to empower the federal government ever since. Unlike previous presidents, Roosevelt believed that the American government had an obligation to help its citizens in a crisis. Roosevelt also felt that doing anything was better than doing nothing and he was criticized frequently for this. Nonetheless, most of his “alphabet agencies” served their purposes and provided immediate rather than long-term relief to over nine million desperate Americans. He started by creating the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, which provided employment in government camps for three million young men. These men served doing useful, but (some would say) unnecessary tasks like reforesting, firefighting, draining swamps, and controlling floods. The Works Progress Administration, or WPA, was another extremely helpful agency during the Depression, putting $11 million dollars into public buildings, bridges, and hard-surfaced roads, creating millions of new jobs. To the American people who were used to coming into contact with the government only at the post office and on other infrequent occasions, Roosevelt’s system was ground-breaking; never before had the government intervened to help farmers in need (AAA), or homeowners struggling with mortgages (HOLC), or families starving during the winter (CWA). Roosevelt had no uncertainties or misgivings about the use of Federal money to help Americans. If the U.S. government would not help its own citizens, then who would? Roosevelt also made other revolutionary changes with his New Deal.
The plight of the worker had always been of concern to Roosevelt, and he did much during his time as president to improve overall working conditions. Firstly, Roosevelt set up the National Recovery Administration, or NRA, to assist labor unions in their struggle against greedy corporations. The NRA, for the first time in American history, guaranteed the right for labor union members to choose their own representatives in bargaining. The Fair Labor Standards Act, or “Wages and Hours Bill”, established maximum hours of labor, minimum wages, and forbid children under the age of sixteen from working. By limiting the number of hours a single worker could work, Roosevelt created new jobs and improved the working conditions for existing workers. Roosevelt was one of the first Presidents to earnestly fight for the rights of the average worker. The Fair Labor Standards Act is still in use today (though the monetary values have been increased to account for seventy years of inflation), and unions still have the rights that Roosevelt guaranteed to them with the NRA. Roosevelt, it seemed, went out of his way to ensure that workers were treated fairly and given their due rights. Roosevelt’s crowning achievement to Americans was the Social Security Act, which he signed in 1935, creating the pension, insurance for the old-aged, the blind, the physically handicapped, delinquent, and other dependents by taxing employees and employers; in essence, Americans were providing for their own futures. Social Security still exists today, and though some people oppose it, it no doubt provides a valuable service to people unable to care for themselves—which was Roosevelt’s strong point: appealing to the “forgotten man”. However, he had yet another lasting achievement that truly revolutionized America.
After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, it became apparent that speculation and overselling stocks and bonds were key causes of the crash. Roosevelt passed the Federal Securities Act to encourage honesty during the sale of stocks and bonds; promoters were required to transmit to the investor sworn information regarding the soundness of their investments. While many crooked businessmen hated Roosevelt for this, many historians argue that his wise actions saved the American system from untimely demise. With the passage of this Act, Roosevelt encouraged fairer trading and less speculation, which ultimately revitalized the American economy.
Roosevelt was a revolutionary for his time. He challenged the accepted role of government in society by intervening to improve the quality of life for countless Americans. Though his actions were controversial, it is clear that they had a positive effect on American society. Ultimately, though, it would take World War II to lift the American economy out of the Great Depression; Roosevelt’s New Deal served to satisfy the American people’s demands for action until America joined the war in 1941.
Aboukhadijeh, Feross. "Roosevelt and the Revolutionary New Deal" StudyNotes.org. Study Notes, LLC., 05 Jan. 2014. Web. 10 Mar. 2018. <https://www.apstudynotes.org/us-history/sample-essays/roosevelt-and-the-revolutionary-new-deal/>.