Lesson 2

INTERPRETING THE PAST; ASSESSING ITS IMPACT ON THE PRESENT
Meeting National Standards Objectives (Grades 9-12)

 

Standard 3: Historical Analysis and Interpretation
Students are invited to study events, access evidence, build an argument, and defend their position. Students draw comparisons across eras and hypothesize the influence of the past.
Civics: National Standard 3
Students will learn how power and responsibility are distributed, shared, and limited in the government established by the United States Constitution.

Learning Objectives:
1. Students explore a variety of sources, points of view in accessing evidence pertaining to an issue or problem.
2. Students draw comparisons across eras, noting similarities and differences in issues of the early 20th century and the early 21st century.
3. Students build arguments supporting their thesis based upon their research.
4. Students understand the power, responsibilities, and limitations on Presidential powers.


Introduction:
Historians point out the similarities between the early 20th century and the early 21st century. Many of the same issues, often with the same arguments and opposition, challenge Americans in areas such as immigration, conservation, balancing labor with big business and consumerism, anti-trust issues, and defining America's role in the world.

Lesson 2 Activities:

New Century; Same Issues:
In preparation for this exercise, have students read the portion of the U.S. Constitution regarding the powers of the executive branch. As noted in the introduction to this lesson, many of the same issues, arguments and opposition faced by Americans at the dawn of the 20th century, are major issues one hundred years later. Ask students to select one of the issues listed above; then using a variety of sources, draw a comparison as a report or a chart showing a critical question within the issue (listed below); then identify opposing arguments as well as individuals/groups on both sides of the argument. Finally, have students address the question on these issues as to whether the action taken by the President in addressing the issue moved beyond the executive powers as defined by the Constitution.

Issues:

Immigration:
TR's era - Influx of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe.


- Gentleman's Agreement dealing with Japanese immigration

Today - Influx of immigrants from Mexico


- Various proposals for amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Conservation:

 

TR's era

 

- Resistance to presidential efforts to set aside western lands for National Forests, Reclamation Projects, Game & Bird
Preserves, etc.

Today - Efforts to reopen western public lands to development.
Balancing Labor with Big Business and Consumerism:
TR's era - Mediating Anthracite Coal Strike


- Addressing consumer concerns for safer food.

Today - Balancing American labor demands with corporate need
to keep down labor costs by sending jobs overseas.


- Renewed concerns for food, especially meat, safety.
Anti-Trust Issues:

TR's era - 45 suits to break trusts that set prices/stop competition.

Today - Concerns and lawsuits, especially directed toward tele-
communications and computer technology corporations to
oppose domination of industry by a few companies.
Defining America's Role in the World:

TR's era - Presidential use of mediation, international arbitration and
courts in dealing with international problems.

Today - America's relationship with the international community,
especially with regard to the United Nations, the
World Court, the international arbitration of problems, etc.

Tracing TR's Vision:
Theodore Roosevelt's vision for the United States is reflected in his Progressive Platform for the 1912 presidential election. Although Roosevelt lost that election to Woodrow Wilson, many of TR's platform goals were enacted into law under various administrations over the next fifty years. Ask students to use various sources to determine if/when (and under whose administration) the following 1912 Roosevelt platform articles were enacted.

Selected Platform Goals:

  • Direct primaries for nomination of state and national officers.
  • Effective legislation looking to the prevention of industrial accidents, occupational diseases, overwork, involuntary unemployment and other injurious effects incident to modern industry.
  • Fixing of minimum safety and health standards for various occupations and the exercise of the public authority of State and Nation, including Federal control over inter-State commerce.
  • Prohibition of child labor.
  • Minimum wage standards.
  • Establishment of the eight-hour day for women and young persons.
  • Publicity as to wages, hours, and conditions and labor; full reports upon industrial accidents and diseases; and the opening to public inspection of all tallies, weights, measures, and check systems on labor products.
  • A system of social insurance adapted to American use.
  • Organization of workers…as a means of protecting their interests and promoting their progress.
  • National regulation of inter-State corporations.
  • The natural resources of the nation must be promptly developed and generously used to supply the people's needs, but we cannot safely allow them to be wasted, exploited, monopolized or controlled against the general good.
  • It is the National obligation to develop our rivers, and especially the Mississippi and its tributaries under a comprehensive plan … designed to secure its highest usefulness for navigation, irrigation, domestic supply, water power, and the prevention of floods.
  • Completion of the Panama Canal, built and paid for by the American public.
  • Securing equal Suffrage to men and women alike.
  • Legislation compelling the registration of lobbyists, publicity of committee hearings, except foreign affairs, and the recording of all votes in committees.
  • Establish a Department of Labor.
  • The construction of national highways.
  • A graduated income tax.
  • The ratification of the pending amendment to the Constitution giving the Government power to levy an income tax.
  • We pledge our party to use its best endeavors to substitute judicial and other peaceful means of settling international differences.

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