This inquiry, focusing on the creation and substance of the Social Security program in 1936, asks students to draw connections and comparisons between this program and FDRís New Deal.
Examining a particular historical phenomenon to see how it represents a larger phenomenon is not easy or self-evident for most students. Students should know something about the New Deal before encountering this case study. Background knowledge about its origins, programs and policies, and the spectrum of responses to it will help students complete this investigation. Examining the policy of Social Security as representative of the New Deal will deepen studentsí understanding of both programs.
Considering how historians have interpreted these programs and policies can also help students with this investigation. While many textbooks characterize the New Deal as changing how Americans viewed the governmentís role in the economy, they rarely discuss the limitations of the New Deal and how individual programs and legislation excluded many Americans. Was the New Deal a revolution in American ideas or a limited program that reinforced existing social hierarchies? Use the historiansí interpretations, contained in the Resources section of this site, to help your students compare Social Security with the New Deal.