American Presidents

Presidents Teacher Guide

The Progressive Era

This teacher guide was developed from materials provided by Champion Teacher Laurene Madern of Eastern Wayne Middle School in Goldsboro, NC. C-SPAN provided to her area by Alert Cable TV.

Goal: Learn about the Progressive Era through the Administrations of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson.

Students will be able to:

  • Identify significant social issues addressed by the Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson administrations.

  • Understand the underlying concepts of Progressivism.

  • Make comparisons between administrations and the politics of Progressivism on the following issues: the role of women, government, socialism, and minorities.

Terms to know:

  • Muckrakers
  • Spoils System
  • Direct Primary
  • Referendum
  • Secret Ballot
  • Conservation
  • Preservation

1. Progressivism: Begin with a discussion of Progressivism; include the ideals of the American people in this particular period (i.e. American Expansion and Native Americans).

Discuss the origins of Progressivism. What were the progressive attitudes and motives? How did they transform politics and translate into legislative change? Explain the term muckraking. Discuss the relationship between the U.S. Government and big business.

Using C-SPAN's web site, instruct students to conduct research the progressive era presidents for the next three steps in this assignment.

2. Roosevelt: Trace Roosevelt’s road to the presidency, moving from New York's political machines to vice president. How did Roosevelt ascend to the presidency? What was Roosevelt's Square Deal? What actions did Roosevelt take to address monopolies and labor conditions? Did Roosevelt take any actions to address concerns of minorities and women during the Progressive Era? What was Roosevelt's view on Latin America? How did Roosevelt’s policies address the environment? Do you think these policies adhere to the ideals of progressivism? Explain.

3. Taft: Describe the political and social developments during the transition of administrations from Roosevelt to Taft. Were the views of Taft similar to those of Roosevelt? What were Taft's reactions to big business? Was Taft more strict than Roosevelt in terms of anti-trust legislation? Discuss the Pinchot-Ballinger Controversy. What were the political effects? What were Taft's views on international politics and Latin America compared with that of Roosevelt? Do you think these policies adhere to the ideals of progressivism? Explain.

4. Wilson: What were the major causes for Wilson's victory? Discuss the monetary controversy of the nation, international policies, and Roosevelt's Bull Moose party. What were the defining factors in Wilsonian politics compared with that of Roosevelt and Taft? Describe the reforms of industries such as banking, factories, and industrialization. Why did Wilson pass legislation such as the Antitrust Act of 1914 and other banking reform?

Discuss the growing concerns of tension in the Eastern hemisphere. What was Wilson's view toward growing tensions abroad? Did Wilson want the U.S. to get involved? What were Wilson's reasons for political actions addressing the growing tensions? What part did Wilson play in the Eastern conflict before entering the war? Do you think these policies adhere to the ideals of progressivism? Explain.

Additional Activities:
Choose one of the following essays and write a three to five page paper offering a comparison of the administrations of the Progressive Era.

1. Discuss how progressivism was altered throughout the Administrations of Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson. In your own opinion, what events shaped this change? What was left of Roosevelt's original progressive ideal after President Wilson's administration? In what ways did all three presidents embody some sense of progressivism?

2. What factors contributed to the changing status of women in American life between 1900 and 1920?

3. What was the relationship between the three administrations and big business? In your opinion, which was the winning side?

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