All too relevant

It’s getting easier to teach about the Great Depression, reports Education Week.

Margo M. Loflin teaches sophomores in Oklahoma, a state that was once part of the Dust Bowl of the Great Depression era. But most school years, her high school students don’t find the struggles of Oklahoma farmers to combat drought and financial hardship in the 1930s relevant to their lives. That’s not true this year.

“I’ve taught [the Great Depression] for a long time. Usually, kids are not interested at all. They were very interested this year,” she said recently.

Let’s hope they don’t get too much “hands-on experience” with that era in history.

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  1. I agree! My kids showed a lot more interest in the
    Great Depression this year than they ever had before. One question I do have, though, involves how we got out of the Depression. I have always taught that World War II got us out of it due to massive government spending. Our government spent twice as much during the war as we had spent during our entire history up to that time. That being the case, why do so many talking heads and Republicans say that Obama’s stimulus package is barking up the wrong tree. I have the same concerns about balooning deficits and debt as everyone else, but if massive government spending got us out of the Great Depression, why won’t it get us out of this mess now?

  2. When 9/11 happened, many people were too quick to associate it with “this generations Pearl Harbor.” Those predictions clearly overstated the impact and understated the incredible sacrifices made by The Greatest Generation. Thus, historical connections are precarious things. This moment in history clearly takes people back to the late 70s and early 80s, and it is generating the type of debate to fueled the New Deal, as well as the antithesis in Reaganomics. That relevance is probably good for America. It certainly addresses some of the questions from “What’s the Matter with Kansas,” whereby conservative parts of the country voted against their own economic interest. That was easier to do in a growing economy. Crisis, on the other hand, leads people to be more creative, as well as inquisitive.

  3. It wasn’t massive government spending so much that got us out of the Great Depression, but the increase in money supply available to the economy. Throughout the Depression the US govt refused to let the money supply increase out of a fear of inflation.

  4. I find it interesting that kids generally don’t take interest in depression-era US history as I always found it fascinating.

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  5. Walter_E_Wallis says:

    I remember stopping in Pratt, Kansas in 1936, on our way from Missouri o California. If you want to emulate the dust bowl experience, stand in front of a powerful fan and have someone throw dirt into it.
    In Sacramento on North B street, was Louie’s camp, where you could rent a 20×20 lot and erect a structure on it. On each of 2 streets was an outhouse and a water faucet. That place stayed until 1959, I hear.

  6. Andy Freeman says:

    > I have the same concerns about balooning deficits and debt as everyone else, but if massive government spending got us out of the Great Depression, why won’t it get us out of this mess now?

    It didn’t. But, spending is probably the least of the problems. The Great Depression was “great” because FDR waged a war on production. He didn’t get off the brake until the onset of WWII when he figured out that an “arsenal of democracy” would have to actually produce lots of stuff. Until then, he was all about limiting production to keep prices up.

    Note that FDR actually continued and expanded Hoover’s policies after campaigning against them. (Yup, Hoover was doing massive stimulus and production controls. FDR campaigned against deficit spending and then doubled-down.)

  7. Andy Freeman says:

    Argh – I forgot to mention why spending may not be the big problem. The reason is that Obama is also following FDR’s lead on production controls.

  8. Dick Eagleson says:

    Let us hope the thus-far nitwit Obama administration gets its economic policy act together before gracing us with another decade-long stretch of dithering and flavor-of-the-month policy randomness such as Hoover and FDR visited upon this unhappy land 1929-1939. Otherwise, we may look forward to a long run for “Depression Studies” as an academic undertaking – and all the classes will be labs.