Knowing the legacy of the 1930s New Deal is essential in understanding key political conflicts of our time: the role of “big government,” a social services safety net, publicly-supported arts programs, and the right of workers to form trade unions. Through the lens of an introductory reader, “FDR and the New Deal for Beginners,” we’ll survey key historical forces and reforms of the 1930s, including the trade union movement, socialist and communist parties, left cultural activism, and WPA programs including the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Federal Theatre Project. Alongside this, we’ll consider the resonance of these historical stands today. As we witness fierce attacks on public sector unions, we also see new labor strategies organizing service workers for a “living wage.” To address both climate change and the unemployment crisis facing urban youth and others, there are those calling for a Green New Deal. The GI Bill’s provision of free public higher education for World War 2 vets is held up by those calling for student loan forgiveness and free public higher education today. To supplement course readings, learners will create blogs to explore and present particular topics of interest.
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