Posted by: jzinn3 | November 29, 2009

Discussion for the week of November 30th

As we are quickly winding down our work for the semester and we recover from all of that turkey, there are just a few simple questions for this week and for next week.  Several of you have started making comments on the presentations.  Keep them going!  Be sure to post your questions and comments on Voice Thread.  If you have any questions about how to do this, please let me know.

For our class discussion on the blog this week, please share one or two things you learned about the Great Depression that will stick with you.  What surprised you?  What idea or issue have you shared with your friends or family?  What lesson from history has been most interesting to you?

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Responses

  1. The number of programs that were created and we have discussed surprised me during our class time.

    • The Tennessee Valley Authority was something I knew nothing about before this class. I am surprised that the project still exists today. The TVA is environmentally friendly and continues providing jobs. A provider of flood control, navigation, fertilizer and electricity has been perfected since its beginning. A beginning that almost didn’t happen. I am pleased to know there is a company like the Tennessee Valley Authority.

      Riding the Rails was my favorite book of the three. Learning about the runaway children and how they lived was interesting. They thought there would be a better life outside of their homes. Some left for adventure and some left to relieve their parents of financial burdens. Eventually, all of the children realized that life on the run was no fun. Boxcar children were as young as thirteen-years-old. Sad, but I liked the history on this. When people talk about the Great Depression, they talk about the stock market, Dust Bowl, unemployment and family despair. I don’t remember people talking about the boxcar children.

  2. Between this class and the Social Analysis class i learned to pay more attention to headlines in order to discuss it intelligently. I received an email from a friend that shows on a visual map what the current rate of unemployment looks like. It is not a pretty picture, see for yourself….
    http://cohort11.americanobserver.net/latoyaegwuekwe/multimediafinal.html

    • Wow! They say a picture is worth 1000 words and that one does it. Thanks for sharing. Very powerful!

    • Loved this!! One can’t help but feel a bit panicked watching the darker colors multiple.

    • OMGosh…well, this really drove all the cold, hard facts home. I mean, we all know someone (or 2 or 3) that’s out of work, but that’s just in our own small world. This is our entire country, and the big picture is overwhelming. Thx for sharing.

    • WOW!! 31 Million people currently unemployed. This is horrible!!

      • Remember, this doesn’t include discouraged workers (those who have given up looking for a job) or those of us who are under-employed.

    • Thats a different perspective for sure. I wonder why the midwest held out so long before starting to change. Is it because of lack of population or lack of industries that failed? Very good site. Thanks for sharing.

    • Wow! That is as amazing as it is scary!

    • Northern Virginia and the Norfolk area seem to be trying to stay afloat. My son had mentioned over Thanksgiving break that Virginia’s unemployment rate was better than most areas on the East coast.

    • This map just reinforces that I should be happy to be employeed.

  3. Reading the book, “Riding the Rails” is something that will stick with me for a long time. I enjoyed the several stories of individual’s lives and how they survived through the Great Depression. I was very surprised to read that such young children left home because they felt as though they were a burden to their families. I could not imagine leaving home at some of the ages they were and attempting to survive on my own, and I “definitely” could not imagine letting my child leave home at all!!!

    I shared the “Riding the Rails” with my ten year old son, some nights I would read certain pages to him and he told me, “Mom, I do not care how poor we could ever be, I would NEVER leave home”. That comes from my point that children these days are spoiled. The one lesson I have learned in history is that we as a nation regardless of what economic situation we are in, we are truly blessed now with all the new technology and other options that we currently have available to us. A lesson to me is that things may not seem as bad as you think, but I guess if I was trying to survive during that time it would seem normal to me, but looking back in history should reflect on how I live today.

    • Kim – I will agree with the comments that you have made regarding, when we were reading “Riding the Rails”.

      I have known people that went through the Great Depression and lived through the problems and trials. We can see the pictures, read the books, but they lived it.

      We are fortunate for what we have today.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed Riding The Rails. I wanted to include something that would lend a first-hand experience to the course.

    • I enjoyed this book also. The first hand experiences really drove home the impact of the Great Depression. Which brings me to a thought: Why do we call it the Great Depression? We usually reserve the term great for something good.

      • 1soxnut:

        Very good point!! Maybe the word “Great” was used due to the size of people that it affected???

      • 1soxnut:

        I need to rephrase my comment: Great may have been used due the size of the depression and the number of people it affected.

      • Kim:

        You are probably right. It strikes me as a contradiction. Like military intelligence.

    • I, too, think that children have a deep empathy for people that are suffering. If they are given the chance to hear about people in other situations, like the children in “Riding the Rails,” it can really get them thinking about how much they have. It’s so difficult in a society where we have so much to truly appreciate how blessed we are. I will also take from this class a deep sense of satisfaction with all that I do and do not have. First step is making Christmas a memorable time for being with family and friends instead of buying stuff. (And my family can’t afford any extravagance this year.)

      • Rachel:

        Your comment is so true and I have learned through this economic hardship and as well as this class to be more appreciative of what I do have and so much focus on what I don’t have. I agree with you 100%.

    • Kim-I like you couldn’t conceve of leaveing home as young as many of the children in Ridding the Rails did. In addition to the economic situation being far worse than we could imagine, the family structure was much different back then. I don’t think that there was a lot of open communication between children and parents in the days of the Great Depression. Now most families have a stronger line of communication and this would hopefuly would result in children not feeling like such a burden if our situation was worse.
      Sometimes we get consumed with how we are coping with our own situation, whether it is personal or finacial difficulty, that we don’t consider that it could be much worse. While our current recession is difficult for many families there have been times in our history where things were much, much worse.

      • meaganrae:

        I agree that many families do have a stronger line of communication and that we get consumed with our own situations that we neglect others.

        Good Point!!!

  4. I have shared a lot of the information we have read and studied with family and friends. Needless to say, some of them were aware of some of the information, but they have also learned a lot.

    • I’ve had many opportunities to share with family and friends what I have learned also. So more were educated than just the class.
      The perspectives i have learned have filled in the gaps and helped me to understand the big picture. The discussions relating the course material to current situations gave a new meaning to learning. If we can understand the why’s and reasons from the depression maybe we can avert the same mistakes. if not we can at least be part of the informed public. This is the biggest boost for me from this course. I always tried to keep up with current events even though i didn’t understand it.
      Now I recognize the terminology, and can take part in conversations not always to argue a point but with the knowledge and understanding to be part of the conversation. Before this I shied away because I could not argue my point. I have used what I have learned to help other students at other colleges understand current events.

      • Catstd:

        You are absolutely right in your comments about, “If we can understand the whys and reasons from the depression maybe we can avert the same mistakes- if not we can at least be part of the informed public.” I also tried keeping up and then I became less interested because some of the issues just did not make sense to me, but now with the help of this course and posting with comments and added websites it has increased my interest and also made me realize I need to be more aware of what is going on because it not only affects others but myself as well.

      • Kim:

        I couldn’t agree more with your statement. I am also now more aware of what is going on and a little more concerned we are heading in the wrong direction.

      • Understanding current events is so important. And with the internet, it is easier than ever to keep up with the news. Last weekend I was with my parents and I had another interesting debate with my step-mother. She is green this and green, that. Waste not, want not. Recycle. So I couldn’t resist asking when she walked in with THREE newspapers exactly why is it that she doesn’t take her news online. I explained how she can set up Google Reader and have all of her news sorted and ready for her at any point in the day. Of course, she was quite taken aback and explained that she needs to ‘hold’ the newspaper in her hands. Oh well, I should get an “A” for effort. . .

      • I can somewhat understand your step-mothers preference to hold the newspaper. I get tired of reading “screens” all the time. Computer screens, Blackberry, phones, televisions. It is nice, sometimes, to hold a book (or newspaper?).

      • Here’s my personal take on holding and reading an actual newspaper or book…it’s kinda like a nice glass of wine or listening to really good jazz or taking a walk in autumnal mountains….some things in life we just need to savor and enjoy for themselves. Turning a paper page, or hearing notes from an old Armstrong album….there are pleasures in life that give us enjoyment simply for what they are.

      • I think it has to do with age and what we grew up with. The younger generation grew up reading online and their brains are wired for this type of learning. Us old folks who learned to read from REAL PAPER, in the form of a book, magazine, or newspaper have brains wired for reading from a tangible object. Much as I try the information I read online does not stick into permanent memory. I have to have a hard copy of the research or articles that I can read, highlight, and mark up. This works for me. I have talked to many of my friends and they are the same way. Do you agree?

      • jzinn3:

        I am sorry, but I had to laugh at your comment. I think you “surprised” her with that statement. My father is the same way always talking about “GO GREEN”, but he will NOT take online statements he wants them all mailed to him because he said that he needs have them “in his hands”. Yes !! You deserve a A+ for that one!!!

  5. What I’ve learned from this course is that history has been far too kind to FDR and his administration.

    While some of the New Deal programs and thinking did have lasting benefits it was all the other misdirected and destructive mountains of legislation and stereotyping of industry done in the name of the lesser American that was truly amazing. I’m thinking of the examples of the court cases brought before the Supreme Court, specifically the AAA and NIRA of 1933 (http://www.chuckallan.com/fccj/amh2020/NewDealPrograms.html).

    I also resent how FDR’s administration set in motion the “big” government model. There are facets of American society that have been handicapped due to government intervention, and the “face” of this are the numerous, ever-expanding bureaucracies.

    After going through most of the reading I have a hard time thinking along the lines of what Professor Morgan has said in more than one of my classes: “politicians have the best intentions. They don’t mean to do harm.” I think FDR hypocritically attacked the wealthy and private industry because he was angry (as were most of Americans), but instead of leading by example of being the better person and work diplomatically to find a solution for the betterment of all he, in his Napoleonic way, dictated what would happen. He was lucky his administration could spin it so the public would go along with the bulk of things. FDR really couldn’t play well with others.

    While some people see a kind smiling face, the “savior”, when they watch newsreels of FDR all I see now is a hyena, waiting for the lion to tire so that he can go in for the kill.

    **Disclaimer: I reserve the right to change my mind if evidence is found to change it, but I doubt it.**

    • The history books I had in high school and college all presented FDR and the New Deal as the ‘savior’ to the crisis. I seldom heard or read a critical comment.

      • Exactly!! Even on more up to date specials, say PBS, the only thing talked about is how wonderful he was, but you know even King Arthur had foibles and chinks in his armor.
        I continually find it interesting, and sometimes upsettings, how writers of history shellacked over the controversial and downright rights-squashing decisions made by his administration and then enacted by Congress. ‘FDR’s Folly’ and ‘The Forgotten Man’ both offered these view points. ‘FDR’s Folly’ tried to explain both sides of the coin a bit more than ‘The Forgotten Man’. Shlaes’s is a persuasive piece in that she presents her thesis of who the forgotten man really was during the depression and has mountains of defending material. Evidently I agree with her findings 😉

      • So “The Forgotten Man” was a good book for our course?

      • “It is my contention that no one should be allowed to write about FDR who did not experience that era. It really is one of those cases of you had to be there. Roosevelt may be a myth…today, but 60 years ago that myth looked more like hope. In his fireside chats, he turned our Philco radios into shrines, and when he said that America could not afford to live with one-third of a nation ill-housed and ill-fed, we thought he would do something about it. And he did” (Daniel Schorr, “The FDR ‘Myth’: You Had To Be There,” Christian Science Monitor, 25 October 1996, 19).

      • I would recommend book with alternating viewpoints on FDR and the causes of the Great Depression to give both sides and then leave it to the student to discuss and compare.

    • I couldn’t agree more. I always thought FDR was this great hero of his time, but this class has given me a whole new perspective, and admiration for Hoover the Engineer. FDR was the consummate politician…showing lots of smiling teeth but rabidly inconsistent and constantly aware of his image. Hoover, on the other hand, was not a professional politican (for which he paid a high price) but a humanitarian. And I very much respect the fact that President Hoover focused his lasers on reducing gov’t. waste, and increasing business efficiency. “As secretary and later as President, Hoover revolutionized the relations between business and government. [H]he sought to make the Commerce Department a powerful service organization, empowered to forge cooperative voluntary partnerships between government and business.”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Hoover

    • Megamuphyn:

      Very good point concerning FDR and your view has also opened an interest in my thoughts as well. I do agree with your comment about “politicians having the best intentions”, but overall some do and some don’t, but there is always an agenda behind it (in my opinion)

      Prof: jzinn3

      Yes, I would agree that “The Forgotten Man” was a good book for this course.

      • We have to remember that politicians are self-interested, economic beings just like the rest of us. With a system that creates and encourages career politicians, they very quickly get into the mind-set that they must maximize their chances of staying in office. This may or may not be in the self-interest of their constituency.

      • I think they start out with good intentions but then the system breaks them down and they have to choose who they will serve the people or the machine.
        My son’s teacher(an excellent one at that). Ran for our district by going door to door to talk to his people. He won and went on to Vice mayor. I watched the meetings on cable as became very frustrated as he tried time and again to do what the people wanted. He was voted against so many times. He tried to play the game but his constituents meant more to him then the good ole boy network did. when the mayor stepped down it was a standing tradition that the vice mayor became mayor. well, needless to say he was looked over for the mayor and it was given to another council member. He served out his term and then left politics to return where he thought he could do more good in the education field at the policy level.
        This was a big lesson for me for I saw how much he cared and tried to fight the system and could not. I’m sure many just give in and become part of the pack mentality. It takes a string person to stand up for their beliefs.

    • I agree with your statement about big government handicapping segments of our society. It seems like a way of life for some people just to get by with receiving aid from the government. This, like all forms of socialism, inhibits an individual’s motivation to excel.

      • meaganrae:

        I agree with you on how some people just want to get by the receiving Goverment assistance, but in all honesty I feel that the goverment “handicaps” these people. I can explain why, but I think we all know how.. 🙂

  6. Riding The Rails was a killer sidedish for this class’s full meal. RTR was heart-rending, personal, intimate, and more than anything else, gave me such a deep insight into this period of time. The human stories shared in RTR were unforgettable and offered a different, yet valuable Depression perspective. An extra third book, but so worth it.

    • I too enjoyed the stories in this book. My father entertained us with hobo stories. we thought he had made them up but after reading so many of the same facts in the book they matched my dad’s stories. We had to endure black bean and “hobo” soup as he called it. we hated it but i understand better now, back then there was little to nothing to work with. All three of the textbooks were great. i was enlightened about other viewpoints than what i was taught in high school.

      • catstd:

        The stories had to be interesting!!

    • Slrhbdavis:

      I agree with you 100% about the insight of the book of Riding the Rails, I was in shock and just reading the stories still feel personal and intimate and many of them touched me as I wondered how did they survive this lifestyle, but many did.

      • Kim,
        I think many more people should read RTR, and then maybe they could understand how cushy a life we live. Too many feel entitled and do not want to pay the price for what they have. The instant society has gotten way out of hand. Children need to learn that hard work pays off. Sure the world is a tuff place and we all get bad breaks but on the whole I believe we have lost the good old fashioned hard work ethic that helped our forefathers persevere through these tough times.
        It is a little frightening to think about how this generation would survive if anything like the depression would happen again. Could we do without and make do? I’m not so sure. Look at the looting and crime from the disaster areas. We must take responsibility for our own lives.

      • Well I’m very glad to have included “Riding the Rails” for our course. Initially I was concerned about requiring three books and this was the one I had initially thought about removing from the course. What was attractive to me was the personal, first-hand experiences it shares.

      • I really liked the personal approach “Riding the Rails” showed. I had no idea that people left home so young to seek out new lives and opportunties. It was really inspiring to think of the hardships these American boys and girls faced and how many overcame their circumstances. Very motivational.

      • Catstd:

        You are so right!!! Children do need to learn that hard work pays off and I am not sure that if the new generation could survive. I am not sure if many could do without.

        My husband and I use to take the children out to eat every Thursday and that was my night “off” from cooking, but now we are watching how we spend money & we cook something at home that the children would like, which is always home made Tacos-but our oldest son actually complains about not eating out like we use to. We are so upset with him about that and I told him that some children do not eat every night- so something this small imagine if something “big” happened

  7. Someone once said unless we know our history we are doomed to repeat it. This course has brought that to a new level. I loved the history presented in this course but it is the comparisons to the countries current state that will stick with me the most.

    I shared a lot of what we discussed with some of my “politically charged” co-workers. They were amazed at the significant comparisons we made and the way the current administration is almost mimicing FDR’s.

    • That’s what struck me the most too. How similar the policies, theories for change, and even the current administration are reenacting the depression era all over again.

    • The current administration’s playbook does seem to be a dusted-off version of the New Deal era. Let’s hope that we can benefit from the positive programs and avoid those which actually cause more harm than good.

      • Or is the agenda politically based (as with FDR) rather than economics being the prime agenda? I am not convinced that we learn from the past, and it depends on one’s perspective. People (and countries) will view the same historical events differently.

        How long has it been since Congress listened to the people they represent? I would like to think that they start out wanting to serve, but the power seems to make them crazy, and they argue with their constituents instead of representing them.

      • I don’t think the current political agenda is as politically based as FDR’s…FDR had such a massive ego and an inflated sense of his own importance, and I don’t feel that’s the case with our current President. I get the sense that this administration is not only composed of very intelligent people, but compassionate humans as well. When you get smart, caring people together, great things can be accomplished, but progress is not going to be “overnight”. We are such an impatient people…we want everything right now, right away. Our expectations are too high and we are too simplistic in our thinking…plus many of us are not willing to put forth the effort it will take to help our leaders, our country and ourselves.
        Oops…. Talk about needing to step down from the soapbox….

      • Slrhbdavis:

        I like your soapbox rant. More Americans should be aware that there is no get rich quick scheme that actually works and that progress takes time to develop. Not every program works perfectly in an instant and sometimes reform and revision are necessary. I think you made a valid point that it takes effort on the part of the people in addition to leaders in order to advance. This has become a country of people that feel entitled instead of a country of people that are engaged. We have to learn to judge our leadership by effort and not the immediate instant gratification results. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Evolution took millions of years or if you want to view it from the other side, it took God 6 days. Even perfection isn’t overnight.

      • That’s very true. Even for important things to happen, such as camps for the huge numbers of migrants coming into California, those didn’t get built until the late 30’s, so 1936, 1937. That’s 5 years in to the Dust Bowl, and 5 years that people spent wandering looking for new homes and jobs. Can you imagine the fallout if the US took that long to mobilize for something like..Hurricane Katrina? If the US waited 5 years before sending aid? Just a thought.

  8. I, too, was surprised at FDR’s behavior and motivations. Decisions were focused on getting him re-elected and maintaining the strength of the Democratic Party. I thought it most interesting how he used a large number of different programs started all at once as a way to divert attention away from those programs that failed. I have heard Obama frequently refer to FDR and so many people have the misconception that he saved the nation. Surely there is a large percentage of the population that realizes the truth of those years.

    I liked all three books. I enjoyed the way FDR’s Folly and The Forgotten Man frequently gave a different perspective on the same issue. At times the readings somewhat played off of each other; at other times the readings seemed in agreement. Riding the Rails was a break from all of that and offered personal views and experiences….a fun read.

    • I see FDR’s legacy in a different light. I truly believe he made a concerted effort to get the country out of the mess. He implemented some of the most ingenious programs ever developed by the government. All politicians want to get re-elected. The way to get re-elected is to what’s right for the American people. Sometimes circumstances pull the wool over the public’s eyes. His efforts were humanitarian in the best way. He attempted to help the poor and those that were suffering most during this crisis. Many programs and initiatives he implemented are still enjoyed today. Did his answers solve all the problems overnight? Of course not. Did he try? Yes. It’s more than can be said for many leaders.

      Here is an article I feel highlights the efforts of FDR:

      http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/48936/the_new_deal_franklin_d_roosevelts.html

      • You both are correct in your evaluations of FDR, it seems. He seemed very sure of himself and his programs, but when it came down to it, he was genuinely interested in helping the country get back on its feet. How he went about that was fraught with politics and perhaps even person motives, so it’s fair to say that change simply for the sake of change is not beneficial change. We are looking at the same scenario with health care right now. Change just to say we did something is not beneficial, it’s careless.

  9. One of the most disturbing facts I learned about the Great Depression was how far reaching the crisis in the United States became. It literally impacted virtually every family from every class of society. From Wall Street brokers to Main Street families to Corn Belt farmers no stone was left unturned. This economic downturn was like a Tsunami that swept across the nation wreaking havoc in every nook and cranny. Reading the personal accounts of the negative impacts really left a lasting image that’s hard to forget. I think the important thing is to not try and forget how devestating this really was and to try and learn the valuable lessons so we don’t get ourselves into this mess again. I hope our leaders really know their history because this is too unfortunate to revisit.

  10. For those that contend the New Deal and all of FDR’s attempts to rebuild the American economy were failed attempts, read this article. It comes from Charles W. McMillion (great name to be an economist):

    http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2009020603/fdr-failed-myth

  11. One of the best things about this class is that there are so many differing viewpoints, opinions and even facts. It’s amazing how we can see the same things from different lenses. I truly enjoy a good discussion with opposing viewpoints that are lucid and logically based. It’s always a good thing to be open-minded and this class really helps to spark fun debate.

  12. My favorite part of this class was understanding how the United States has handled tough economic times, and what precedents were set for us to follow later in history. Knowing more about how people lived and handled difficulty helps me to appreciate how far we have come in a very short time. Our country is a toddler compared to the long histories of countries like Japan, China, Korea, Italy. Only by learning from our past mistakes can we hope to move forward and get to 500 years, even 1000 years.

  13. I have learned many things about the Great Depression this semester. Prior to the start of this class I didn’t know much about the Great Depression. One aspect that will stay with me is the resilience of the American people. After the Great Depression the citizens had a resolve that can’t be compared to today’s generation. During the Great Depression the American people stood up and decided that they would do whatever it takes to survive the economic downturn. During our most recent recession people are more interested in what is owed to them. What kind of bailout are they due. Druing the course of this class I have also learned the similarities between FDR and our current president Obama. If not for my classmates I don’t know if I would have discovered this.
    Probably the most astonishing aspect of the New Deal policies that I have discovered is the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA). Through the AAA , the federal government paid farmers to produce less livestock and crops. I do understand that this was an effort to increase price point of these products, however it is overwhelming to think that during a time of extreme hunger in our country our government would destroy agricultural goods.
    I have shared all of these topics with my friends and family and it has sparked some interesting discussion.


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