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Destitute pea pickers in California

[Detail] Destitute pea pickers in California

Lesson Overview

Students frequently echo sentiments such as, "The government is too big," or "The government should make welfare mothers pay for their own needs." It seems that many citizens, high schoolers included, have begun to believe in reduced government combined with increased personal responsibility. Such sentiments suggest a move away from belief in the welfare state, created largely by the New Deal in the 1930s and reinforced by the "Great Society" legislation of the 1960s. By using the collection American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 documents, personal interviews, and the Library of Congress's online legislative information (THOMAS), students will be able to gain a better understanding of why the government takes care of its people and how this type of welfare state started. Armed with this knowledge, they can then evaluate the current need of government programs, such as welfare, Medicare and Social Security, on the federal and state level.


Students will be able to:


Time Required

Two to three weeks.

Recommended Grade Level

  • 9-12


  • Government, Law & Politics


  • Great Depression and WWII, 1929-1945


Douglas Perry and Wendy Sauer