Log in
You are here: Home History Standards US History Content Standards United States Era 8

United States Era 8

The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)

Standard 1: The causes of the Great Depression and how it affected American society

Standard 2: How the New Deal addressed the Great Depression, transformed American federalism, and initiated the welfare state

Standard 3: The causes and course of World War II, the character of the war at home and abroad, and its reshaping of the U.S. role in world affairs

Participants of this era are still alive, and their common memories of cataclysmic events--from the Crash of 1929 through World War II--are still common points of reference today. Our closeness to this era should help students see how today’s problems and choices are connected to the past. Knowledge of history is the precondition of political intelligence, setting the stage for current questions about government’s role and rule, foreign policy, the continuing search for core values, and the ongoing imperative to extend the founding principles to all Americans.

The Great Depression and the New Deal deserve careful attention for four reasons. First, Americans in the 1930s endured--and conquered--the greatest economic crisis in American history. Second, the Depression wrought deep changes in people’s attitudes toward government’s responsibilities. Third, organized labor acquired new rights. Fourth, the New Deal set in place legislation that reshaped modern American capitalism.

In its effects on the lives of Americans, the Great Depression was one of the great shaping experiences of American history, ranking with the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the second industrial revolution. More than Progressivism, the Great Depression brought about changes in the regulatory power of the federal government. It also enlarged government’s role in superimposing relief measures on the capitalist system, bringing the United States into a mild form of welfare state capitalism, such as had appeared earlier in industrial European nations. This era provides students with ample opportunities to test their analytic skills as they assay Franklin Roosevelt’s leadership, the many alternative formulas for ending the Great Depression, and the ways in which the New Deal affected women, racial minorities, labor, children, and other groups.

World War II also commands careful attention. Although it was not the bloodiest in American history, the war solidified the nation’s role as a global power and ushered in social changes that established reform agendas that would preoccupy public discourse in the United States for the remainder of the 20th century. The role of the United States in World War II was epochal for its defense of democracy in the face of totalitarian aggression. More than ever before, Americans fought abroad, not only winning the war but bringing a new cosmopolitanism home with them. As before, the war was an engine of social and cultural change. In this war, Americans of diverse backgrounds lived and fought together, fostering American identity and building notions of a common future. Similarly, on the homefront, public education and the mass media promoted nationalism and the blending of cultural backgrounds. Yet students should learn about the denial of the civil liberties of interned Japanese Americans and the irony of racial minorities fighting for democratic principles overseas that they were still denied at home as well as in military service itself.

Students will need to assess carefully the course of the war, the collapse of the Grand Alliance, and its unsettling effects on the postwar period. Also, they should evaluate the social effects of war on the homefront, such as internal migration to war production centers, the massive influx of women into previously male job roles, and the attempts of African Americans and others to obtain desegregation of the armed forces and end discriminatory hiring.

Each standard was developed with historical thinking standards in mind. The relevant historical thinking standards are linked in the brackets, [ ], below.

Standard 1

The causes of the Great Depression and how it affected American society.

Standard 1A

The student understands the causes of the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression.

GRADE LEVEL
THEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
9-12 Assess the economic policies of the Harding and Coolidge administrations and their impact on wealth distribution, investment, and taxes. [Analyze multiple causation
5-12 Analyze the causes and consequences of the stock market crash of 1929. [Compare competing historical narratives
5-12 Evaluate the causes of the Great Depression. [Analyze multiple causation
9-12 Explain the global context of the depression and the reasons for the worldwide economic collapse. [Evaluate major debates among historians
7-12 Explore the reasons for the deepening crisis of the Great Depression and evaluate the Hoover administration’s responses. [Formulate a position or course of action on an issue]

Standard 1B

The student understands how American life changed during the 1930s.

GRADE LEVEL
THEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
5-12 Explain the effects of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl on American farm owners, tenants, and sharecroppers. [Analyze multiple causation]
7-12 Analyze the impact of the Great Depression on industry and workers and explain the response of local and state officials in combating the resulting economic and social crises. [Analyze multiple causation
7-12 Analyze the impact of the Great Depression on the American family and on ethnic and racial minorities. [Consider multiple perspectives]
9-12 Explain the cultural life of the Depression years in art, literature, and music and evaluate the government’s role in promoting artistic expression. [Draw upon visual, literary, and musical sources]

Standard 2

 

How the New Deal addressed the Great Depression, transformed American federalism, and initiated the welfare state.

Standard 2A

The student understands the New Deal and the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

GRADE LEVEL
THEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
5-12 Contrast the background and leadership abilities of Franklin D. Roosevelt with those of Herbert Hoover. [Assess the importance of the individual in history
7-12 Analyze the links between the early New Deal and Progressivism. [Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas]
9-12 Contrast the first and second New Deals and evaluate the success and failures of the relief, recovery, and reform measures associated with each. [Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas
7-12 Analyze the factors contributing to the forging of the Roosevelt coalition in 1936 and explain its electoral significance in subsequent years. [Examine the influence of ideas]
9-12 Analyze the involvement of minorities and women in the New Deal and its impact upon them. [Assess the importance of the individual in history]
7-12
Explain renewed efforts to protect the environment during the Great Depression and evaluate their success in places such as the Dust Bowl and the Tennessee Valley. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]

Standard 2B

The student understands the impact of the New Deal on workers and the labor movement.

GRADE LEVEL
THEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
5-12 Explain how New Deal legislation and policies affected American workers and the labor movement. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
7-12 Explain the re-emergence of labor militancy and the struggle between craft and industrial unions. [Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas]
7-12 Evaluate labor union positions on minority and women workers. [Consider multiple perspectives]
9-12 Explain the impact of the New Deal on nonunion workers. [Formulate a position or course of action on an issue]

Standard 2C

The student understands opposition to the New Deal, the alternative programs of its detractors, and the legacy of the New Deal.

GRADE LEVEL
THEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
7-12 Identify the leading opponents of New Deal policies and assess their arguments. [Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas and values
9-12 Explain the reasoning of the Supreme Court decisions on early New Deal legislation and evaluate the Roosevelt administration’s response. [Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas]
5-12 Evaluate the significance and legacy of the New Deal. [Evaluate the implementation of a decision]

Standard 3

 

The causes and course of World War II, the character of the war at home and abroad, and its reshaping of the U.S. role in world affairs.

Standard 3A

The student understands the international background of World War II.

GRADE LEVEL
THEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
7-12 Analyze the factors contributing to the rise of fascism, national socialism, and communism in the interwar period. [Analyze multiple causation
7-12 Explain the breakdown of the Versailles settlement and League of Nations in the 1930s. [Challenge arguments of historical inevitability]
9-12 Analyze hemispheric relations in the 1930s, as exemplified by the Good Neighbor Policy. [Draw upon data in historical maps]
5-12 Analyze the reasons for American isolationist sentiment in the interwar period and its effects on international relations and diplomacy. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
5-12 Evaluate American responses to German, Italian, and Japanese aggression in Europe, Africa, and Asia from 1935 to 1941. [Formulate a position or course of action on an issue]
7-12
Analyze the reasons for the growing tensions with Japan in East Asia culminating with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. [Marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances]

Standard 3B

The student understands World War II and how the Allies prevailed.

GRADE LEVEL
THEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
5-12 Explain the major turning points of the war and contrast military campaigns in the European and Pacific theaters. [Draw upon data in historical maps
7-12 Analyze Hitler’s “final solution” and the Allies’ responses to the Holocaust and war crimes. [Interrogate historical data]
9-12 Evaluate the wartime aims and strategies hammered out at conferences among the Allied powers. [Hypothesize the influence of the past
7-12 Evaluate the decision to employ nuclear weapons against Japan and assess later controversies over the decision. [Evaluate major debates among historians]
5-12 Explain the financial, material, and human costs of the war and analyze its economic consequences for the Allies and the Axis powers. [Utilize visual and quantitative data]
7-12
Describe military experiences and explain how they fostered American identity and interactions among people of diverse backgrounds. [Utilize literary sources including oral testimony]
7-12
Explain the purposes and organization of the United Nations. [Marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances]

Standard 3C

The student understands the effects of World War II at home.

GRADE LEVEL
THEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
5-12 Explain how the United States mobilized its economic and military resources during World War II. [Utilize visual and quantitative data
7-12 Explore how the war fostered cultural exchange and interaction while promoting nationalism and American identity. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
7-12 Evaluate how minorities organized to gain access to wartime jobs and how they confronted discrimination. [Formulate a position or course of action on an issue]
5-12 Evaluate the internment of Japanese Americans during the war and assess the implication for civil liberties. [Evaluate the implementation of a decision]
7-12 Analyze the effects of World War II on gender roles and the American family. [Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas]
9-12
Evaluate the war’s impact on science, medicine, and technology, especially in nuclear physics, weaponry, synthetic fibers, and television. [Utilize quantitative data]
9-12
Evaluate how Americans viewed their achievements and global responsibilities at war’s end. [Interrogate historical data]