Teaching Students About Teapot Dome Scandal
The Teapot Dome Scandal is a striking example of political corruption and bribery, which took place during the early 20th century. As educators, it is our responsibility to ensure that students understand this event and its significance in American history. In this article, we will explore key elements and resources for effectively teaching the Teapot Dome scandal to students of various ages.
The Teapot Dome Scandal occurred in the 1920s during President Warren G. Harding’s administration. It involved the secret leasing of government-owned oil reserves in Wyoming (Teapot Dome) and California (Elk Hills and Buena Vista) to private oil companies without competitive bidding. At the heart of the scandal were then-Secretary of Interior Albert B. Fall and several prominent businessmen who bribed Fall with cash, gifts, and no-interest loans. The scandal rocked the Harding administration, leading to investigations, trials, and eventually prison terms for those involved.
Understanding Key Themes
1. Political corruption: The scandal illustrates how individuals within positions of power can abuse their authority for personal gain.
2. Checks and balances: The congressional investigations into the scandal demonstrate how different branches of government must hold each other accountable.
3. Free press: Media coverage played a crucial role in revealing the cover-up; hence, the essential role of a free press is highlighted.
4. Impacts on political careers: The involvement in this scandal had long-lasting effects on influential individuals’ careers and reputations.
Teaching Strategies and Resources
1. Start by providing students an overview of the scandal – introduce key figures like Harding, Fall, Sinclair, and Doheny before delving into specific details.
2. Discuss reasons behind actions taken by these individuals (e.g., why Fall accepted bribes or Sinclair participated), emphasizing how human motivations play a critical role in history.
3. Use primary sources such as newspaper articles and political cartoons from the era to give students a taste of contemporary public opinion. The Library of Congress’s Chronicling America program is a useful starting point.
4. Analyze the timeline of events – utilize visual aids like flowcharts, diagrams, or infographics to help students understand the unfolding of the scandal and its resolution.
5. Engage students in debates or discussions on contemporary parallels, such as whether similar corruption cases still occur today.
6. Incorporate multimedia resources into your lessons – this might include documentaries on the scandal, video interviews with historians, or even popular fictionalized accounts that reference it, like HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.”