Was Social Security revolutionary or a program designed to appease Americans who wanted more profound change? In this lesson, students address this question as they analyze historical documents and evaluate competing interpretations by two historians. Topics discussed include the role of government in social welfare services, taxes, business interests, and race.
[Original Documents filed updated 1/06/15.]

Image: Photo of President Roosevelt Signing the 1935 Social Security Act. From the Wikimedia Commons.


I like the investigation into the long term role of the New Deal in American History. My regular level 10th grade students struggled a bit with wrapping their minds around all of the text. I also did it on a shortened period (53 minutes), and I think I would have gotten better products on a regular (67 minute) period. Older or more advanced kids would be challenged by this, I think.
This is a great lesson for all if you drop the historian interpretations and change the essential question to: How did Americans feel about Social Security? My EL students still struggled. I gave the historian interpretation to my honors level kids and had them present it to the class. This seemed to go fine, but the rest of the class didn't care about it much. If you do this, make sure they have the background first. This can become lengthy and dry if they have to do background reading or lecture with it.
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