Teaching Students About the New Deal’s Public Works Administration: A Historical Insight
The Public Works Administration (PWA) was a significant aspect of the New Deal, a series of programs implemented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression. To equip the next generation with a better understanding of the New Deal, it is vital to include the PWA in educational curricula. This article will explore ways to teach students about the importance of the PWA and how it impacted American society during the 1930s.
The Need for Contextual Background
Before diving into the specifics of the PWA, students need a clear understanding of the broader context in which it operated. Provide a brief overview of the Great Depression, its causes, and its impact on American society. Discuss President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election and his goals while introducing the New Deal as a collection of programs aimed at addressing various issues arising from the economic crisis.
Introducing Public Works Administration (PWA)
The PWA focused on providing funding for large-scale infrastructure projects across America, which served multiple purposes:
1. Boosting employment opportunities during a time when many Americans were out of work.
2. Revitalizing a decaying infrastructure network and promoting modernization.
3. Encouraging economic growth through increased consumer spending resulting from new jobs.
Ensure that students understand these objectives when discussing PWA projects.
Examples of PWA Projects
Now that students have an overview of what PWA aimed to do, provide specific examples to illustrate its real-world application. Explain how projects such as:
1. The Hoover Dam – generating hydroelectric power and controlling floods.
2. The Triborough Bridge – connecting various parts of New York City.
3. The Lincoln Tunnel – easing traffic congestion between New York and New Jersey.
These projects created jobs for thousands of people while fostering economic growth through improving transportation and increasing access to electricity.
Critiques and Analysis
Encourage critical thinking by presenting critiques of the PWA and discussing both the positive and negative effects it had on society. For example, illustrating:
1. How some critics argued that the PWA was an intrusive expansion of government power or that it didn’t do enough to address unemployment.
2. How supporters point out the lasting legacy of PWA projects, many of which remain in use today and are integral to modern American infrastructure.
Assignments and Activities
To reinforce learning and engage students further, assign tasks or hands-on activities that promote a deep understanding of the PWA:
1. Have students research other PWA projects in their local area.
2. Organize debates on the effectiveness and drawbacks of the PWA.
3. Create multimedia projects (videos, posters, slide presentations) highlighting key aspects of PWA projects.
Teaching about the Public Works Administration and the New Deal enriches students’ understanding of American history while fostering critical thinking skills. By providing context, examining specific projects, engaging in constructive critiques, and incorporating interactive assignments, educators can spark curiosity in students who will carry this knowledge forward as they explore historic events that have shaped America.