The New Deal ; revolutionary, evolutionary, or conservative : teaching conflicting interpretations in the survey course.

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Mackey, Warren
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Middle Tennessee State University
In the field of history, as well as other disciplines throughout academia, there is a problem that constantly plagues instructors teaching survey level courses: the problem of equally distinguished historians studying the same topics and using the same basic resource material but coming to completely opposing interpretations in regard to their subjects. It is understandable that a sophomore can be perplexed upon reading one historian who considers the New Deal to have been revolutionary in nature, a second who considers it evolutionary, and yet a third who considers it to have been conservative. This study has sought to provide instructors of history with some strategies for teaching conflicting interpretations.
The history instructor should take great care in identifying and selecting the behavioral objectives that he wants the class to accomplish. They should be measurable and stated clearly so that both the student and the teacher may well understand what is expected. Some objectives that may be cited that pertain to the New Deal are: (1) the student shall be able to list the major New Deal legislation passed by Congress to assist the farmers, and (2) the student shall be able to demonstrate an understanding of the New Deal as a historical movement.
Role playing and simulation are two strategies that can be used to teach conflicting interpretations. To demonstrate the problem a student might be assigned the task of acting out a character from each school of thought. The character being portrayed might be a person from the period or a leading exponent from each school of thought. The other class members can be assigned supportive roles like doing research to gather data or for the schools of thought or writing the scripts for the characters.
A last strategy that might be employed in teaching conflicting interpretations is to divide the class into four groups, with three of them assigned the task of defending one of the schools of thought on the New Deal to the fourth group which would serve as a panel of judges. In this exercise the instructor might serve as a resource person from whom the groups can receive suggestions or the titles of books.