Historians have offered varied interpretations on the successes and shortcomings of the New Deal. In this structured academic controversy, students analyze different types of evidence, take sides, and attempt to reach consensus on whether or not the New Deal was a success. 
[Lesson Plan updated on 9/23/14.]

Image: Photo of unemployed lumber worker with social security number tattooed on his arm taken by Dorothea Lange in 1939. From the Library of Congress.


I spent two 55 minute class sessions on this lesson. My college prep students needed additional time to analyze the documents. We spent day 1 reviewing opposition to the New Deal, reading the documents, and getting pairs of students to complete their initial 5 arguments. Day 2 was devoted to listening to the opposing sides 5 arguments and transcribing them, followed by an impromptu debate, and we ended with completing the writing prompt.
I used this lesson for an observation. My Department Chairperson loved it! Your lessons (even modified) are great. They save me a lot of time looking for primary source documents because that has already been done! Thanks again.
Hi cwingster - This lesson could take anywhere from 1-3 days depending on the grade level of students and their familiarity with the subject. We encourage you to adapt the lesson to suit your class schedule and the needs of your students.
So, how much time should I spend on this lesson?
Fantastic lesson!!! I'm teaching an Accelerated US II history class over the summer and the students loved this lesson! They debated this topic and didn't want to stop. Each student -- which we all know is a rarity -- lent their voice to the discussion, citing text as they made their points. At first, I asked them to stay with the text, and after 15 minutes, I told them to include outside information. Wow -- what a joy it was for this teacher to sit back and see these scholars infused with excitement about whether the New Deal was a success or failure.
A simple question about the successes and failures of the New Deal can be a little chaotic if you don't have a structure to scaffold student arguments. With this lesson plan, my students really enjoyed arguing whether or not the New Deal was a success using the documents provided, and it was especially useful coupled with a few short contemporary articles about how Bush and Obama dealt with the current recession. Bonus: the song, "No Depression in Heaven" from Document F, is available to stream for free to your students using many online music streaming services.
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