The New Deal

ROLE-PLAYS

The New Deal role-play focuses on the Second New Deal of 1935, after the Supreme Court struck down key legislation from FDR’s first 100 days. As students respond to the Great Depression and the failures of the First New Deal, they must tackle the question: How big a role should the federal government play in improving people’s lives?


Students then debate and vote on three key issues:

Finance - How should we support people's financial security?

Employment - What's the best way to support American workers?

Stability - How can we ensure stability for everyday Americans?


At the end of the VOXPOP, an epilogue video lays out what actually happened.

GET STARTED

Role-plays take roughly 60-90 minutes for a class to play through. To run the role-play over multiple days, use the link VOXPOP will send you to re-open your session.

Create a different session for each class that you intend to use this role-play with.

Not sure how sessions work? Feel free to create a session and step through it to get a feel for the role-play. You can create as many sessions as you need.

PREPARE TO LEAD THE ROLE-PLAY BY REVIEWING THIS OUTLINE

OUTLINE

The VOXPOP software will deliver this content to students during the role-play. Use this outline to familiarize yourself with the content of the scenario, the roles students will be assigned and the choices they will be asked to make.

DETAILS

Students: 6 to 50

Running Time: 60-80 minutes (the role-play can be broken into multiple sessions)

FACILITATION GUIDE

BACKGROUND

This video provides historical context.

ROLES

Students are assigned to the following groups:

Federal Advisors

Federal Advisors include Cabinet members, Black community leaders in D.C., and prominent academics. Although their personal priorities differ, they agree that the federal government should play an active role in the country’s recovery.


State Reps

Many state governments have no money with which to help their people. Governors, members of Congress, and other state reps need help helping their voters. But many fear that the administration will use this crisis to expand federal power.


City Workers

Many workers, especially women and minorities, were fired when the Depression hit. Those lucky enough to keep their jobs had their pay cut. Workers have little bargaining power, because they can easily be replaced.


Small Farmers

While the first New Deal helped big farms, it did so at the cost of small family farms, tenant farmers and sharecroppers across the country. Most small farmers were already living in poverty before the Depression.

THE ISSUES

These videos will provide students with more detailed background on specific issues.

Finance
How should we support people's financial security?
Proposals students consider:

Deposit insurance

Banks must contribute to a pool of money that insures everyone's personal bank accounts.


Wealth tax

Raise taxes on the wealthy. It won't raise a lot of money, but it sets a precedent that wealthy people pay more taxes.

Employment
What's the best way to support American workers?
Proposals students consider:

Recognize unions

Businesses must let workers form unions, engage in collective bargaining, and take collective action such as strikes.


WPA: Public works

Fund new state and local infrastructure such as public roads and buildings.

Stability
How can we ensure stability for everyday Americans?
Proposals students consider:

Social Security

A nationwide unemployment and retirement plan. Tax working people now and distribute the money to retired people.


National healthcare

Fund new and existing hospitals around the country, and fund states so they can run statewide insurance.

EPILOGUE

A short video that lets students know what really happened.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Here are a few suggested discussion questions to pose at the end of the role-play.  Please feel free to use your own.

  • Should the federal government wield extra power during a national crisis?

  • How big a role should the federal government play in improving people’s lives?

CREDITS

Production

Jenny Lim

Mattia Romeo

Greg Trefry


Sources

Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945, by David M. Kennedy (Oxford University Press)


The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, Jonathan Alter (Simon & Schuster)


The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, by Timothy Egan (Houghton Mifflin)


Media

Calisphere, University of California

Explore UK

Library of Congress

National Archives and Records Administration

New York Public Library, Digital Collections

UCLA Library Digital Collections

Wikimedia Commons


Special Thanks

Mordecai Moore

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