Theodore Roosevelt displayed his vigorous campaigning style before the newsreel cameras
Credit: Library of Congress
There are in the body politic, economic and social, many and grave evils, and there is urgent necessity for the sternest war upon them. There should be relentless exposure of and attack upon every evil man, whether politician or business man, every evil practice, whether in politics, business, or social life. —President Theodore Roosevelt, “The Man with the Muck-Rake,” 1906
Progressive reform in the early decades of the twentieth century depended upon journalism as an important tool to raise public awareness of serious societal problems. Investigative journalists, such as the socialist Upton Sinclair, played an important role in this movement. Sinclair’s novel, The Jungle (1906), based on his newspaper reporting, exposed the inner workings of the meat packing industry. The outrage that the book caused has often been singled out as the main reason for the passage of legislation to protect consumers.
Public outrage over Sinclair’s book strengthened the hand of Progressive reformers within the federal government such as Harvey Washington Wiley, the chief chemist at the United States Department of Agriculture, who had long been at work advocating for legislation to protect consumers. Wiley found a key ally in President Theodore Roosevelt, who championed a more aggressive government policy against those who would harm the public good.
Lesson One introduces students to journalist Upton Sinclair and his controversial novel, The Jungle, then moves to Washington DC to introduce the vision of President Theodore Roosevelt and the work of Harvey Washington Wiley.
In Lesson Two, students read several investigative newspaper articles leading to the landmark legislation of the Roosevelt Administration. There is also an optional excerpt from Roosevelt’s “Man with the Muck-Rake” speech from which this style of investigative journalism gets its name. These documents provide an opportunity for close reading of complex informational texts as well as understanding the historical and political context of reform.
Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.
Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.
By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
The Progressive movement flourished during the first two decades of the twentieth century. A diverse group of thinkers, journalists, legislators, and middle-class citizens (the Progressives) grappled with the dramatic social and economic transformations produced by the Industrial Revolution. They opposed Gilded Age abuses and promoted salutary reforms. In a rapidly changing world, they took the side of the exploited and the weak and sought to make political institutions more responsive to popular will.
The most well-known group among Progressives were the journalists who through their graphic and sometimes sensational reporting opened Americans’ eyes to dangerous working conditions in factories. Upton Sinclair was one such journalist. Sinclair’s novel, The Jungle,was published in early 1906 and created an international sensation with his expose of the unsafe and unsanitary inner workings of the meat packing industry.
Ironically, the socialist Sinclair had set out to write a “consciousness raising” novel about the miserable lives of factory workers—the “wage slaves of the Beef Trust”—hoping to do for wage slavery what Harriet Beecher Stowe had done for chattel slavery. But readers largely ignored the story of his workers and seized on the graphic descriptions of the disgusting things that went into their meat. Sinclair was disappointed at the public’s reaction. “I aimed at the public’s heart,” he later said, “and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”
Although President Theodore Roosevelt was a proud Progressive, he had mixed feelings about journalists, as he made clear in a speech known as “The Man with the Muck-Rake.” On the one hand he praised the virtues and benefits of hard-hitting investigative journalism, when it is necessary to expose scandal, corruption, or other evil; but on the other, he found such journalism problematic when it besmirched the good character of public figures and undermined faith in public institutions
After reading Lewis’s novel, President Theodore Roosevelt ordered an investigation. The result, he said, was “hideous” and he threatened to publish the entire “sickening report” if Congress did not act. Meat sales plummeted in the United States and Europe. Demand for reform grew. Alarmed, the meatpackers themselves supported a reform law.
A second measure the Pure Food and Drug Act had been championed by Dr. Harvey W. Wiley, the chief chemist of the Department of Agriculture. Over the years, to bring conditions to the public attention, Wiley had organized a volunteer group of young men called the Poison Squad who tested the effects of chemicals and adulterated foods on themselves.
The sensation caused by the novel, echoed by newspaper reports by Sinclair and others and backed up with President Roosevelt’s threats to release his report, overwhelmed opponents of the bills in the House. On June 30, 1906, two bills were passed: the Meat Inspection Act which set rules for sanitary meatpacking and government inspection of meat products, and the Pure Food and Drugs Act, which banned foreign and interstate traffic in adulterated or mislabeled food and drug products. Wiley, who had written the latter act, was appointed to oversee the administration of both laws through the Bureau of Chemistry, later renamed the Food and Drug Administration in 1930. The federal government was now permanently in the business of protecting American consumers from unsafe food and drugs
A writing assignment will serve as the summative assessment. Students will be asked to write a well-crafted essay in response to this prompt: Investigative journalism was emerging as a necessary tool for prompting government action and public outrage. Discuss how this lesson has helped you to understand the tool better, including how this tool should be used and how it might be abused.
This unit can be expanded by using other Progressive Era topics that resulted in change. Some possibilities include:
Related EDSITEment resources:
One of the important roles of diplomats is to negotiate treaties between countries. In this lesson, students, working with their empire teams, will negotiate a treaty.
In this lesson students synthesize the information gathered in the earlier intelligent briefings and in the written intelligence in order to build a relationship with one other team of student diplomats.
In this lesson students apply the intelligence gathered at the intelligence briefing and through their primary source analysis to prepare a toast for one Early Modern empire.
An exploration of the symbolism and imagery of corn and environment as manifested in Hopi song and traditional dances. Students analyze examples of historical and contemporary Hopi song and examine images of Hopi dance in order to expand cultural awareness.
A close study of the poetry of contemporary Hopi artist and poet, Ramson Lomatewama. Students analyze Lomatewama’s masterful use of figurative language that creates a sense of place and describes his intimate relationship with the land and his experience of corn.
Hopi corn farmer by Kurt Lomawaima.
Credit: Reproduced with permission, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, all rights reserved.
In my culture, we sing songs to show our happiness. We sing while we do our chores because songs seem to make the work go quickly and easily. We believe that when we sing songs, we are sharing our feelings of happiness with nature. Since the corn plants are also our children, we sing to the corn, too. Our elders tell us that when we sing to our corn children, we make them happy. When they are happy, they grow better.
I was also taught that wherever there is singing, there is life. So when songs are sung, they too are born, just like people.
— Ramson Lomatewama, poet
In the summer of 2015, President Barack Obama made headlines when he officially returned the traditional Athabaskan name, Denali, to the largest mountain in North America. This act may have come as a surprise to some in this day and age when the importance of place names can be lost amid our modern technocracy. Many place names across our nation are imbued with history, culture, power, and significance that is often overlooked—but, through them the very essence and spirit of a place can be understood. Returning the name Denali to the mountain was a way of recognizing and honoring the relationship Native Alaskans have had with the mountain for centuries.
This English Language Arts unit has students delve into the “language of place.” Through a careful study of various literary forms—place names, poetry, song and traditional dance—students can explore the landscape and culture of the Hopi Tribe from the southwestern United States. Through these forms of expression, student will have the opportunity to “read” the products of Hopi culture and engage in their rich cultural heritage through one of the Hopi’s most fundamental natural resources—corn!
In Lesson 1, students will explore “Hopitutskwa,” the Hopi homeland, through maps and place names (using English translations) to make inferences about Hopi cultural relationships to landscape and place and uncover the importance of naming places in their own lives. Lesson 2 involves a study of contemporary Hopi poet, Ramson Lomatewama. Corn is a favorite subject of Lomatewama’s poetry, which is rich in figurative language describing the poet’s intimate relationship with the land. Lesson 3 has students experience traditional dance and song of the Hopi to further their understanding of this culture’s relationship to place.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.3: Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.7 Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.5Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
Explain the meaning of simple similes and metaphors in context.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.9 Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest) in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures.
The Hopi Tribe is a sovereign nation inhabiting over 1.5 million acres in northeastern Arizona. The tribe has a rich connection with the landscape, place, and environment, where most Hopi people call home. The Hopi name for their homeland is “Hopitutskwa.” Part of the Colorado Plateau, this region is known for its high deserts, scattered forests, stark mesas, deep canyons, as well as for the Grand Canyon. The Hopi have lived here for centuries.
Today, some Hopi people continue the traditional subsistence practice of dry land farming, especially to grow specific corn varieties that are highly valued for their spiritual and practical significance. Each variety of corn is used to make different traditional foods. This challenging task—growing corn in a dry, unirrigated, short-growing season environment—requires an intimate knowledge of the land, environment, crops, weather, and the ecology of the high desert. A profound knowledge of the northeastern Arizona environment pervades Hopi culture and language. A rich reverence and respect for corn cultivation is apparent in the art, poetry, songs, celebrations and culture of the Hopi people. The metaphor “corn is life” or “corn is our children” is often used to explain the dynamic Hopi relationship with corn and dry land farming.
Taken together, three Hopi language forms: place names; poetry; and song and traditional dance; can be an avenue to explore the centuries-old cultural relationship the Hopi people have with their land and the process of growing corn. Such rich descriptions allow readers and listeners to imagine and envision the landscape and environment of Arizona’s high desert. The language of place found in the place names, poems, song, and dance expressions open a window into Hopi culture and act as a springboard for further explorations into diverse relationships to landscape, environment and place.
Extended background: See the following pdf’s for valuable contextual background information on these topics:
National Museum of the American Indian (images of Hopi corn-based artifacts and art):
The following websites sponsored by the Hopi Tribe, its affiliated educational partners, as well as the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, offer additional information to supplement your classroom study of the Hopi and include images of villages, corn fields, and high desert environment:
The following picture books may be useful references:
Gerald Dawavendewawas, The Butterfly Dance (Tales of the People). (New York: Abbeville Kids, 2001).
Ramson Lomatewama, Songs to the Corn: A Hopi Poet Writes about Corn, illustrated by Jeffery Chapman. (Crystal Lake, IL: Rigby, 1997).
Challenge students to research a poem or song that explores relationships between people and place.
Note: The Poetry Foundation offers a poem sampler, Native American Poetry and Culture, which contains a selection of poets, poems, and articles—many deal with place and landscape. Here are some options from the Poetry Foundation sampler that may work with your students:
Students should analyze the poem they have selected to write a short (3–5 paragraphs) explanation of the poem’s sense of place.
In preparation for their writing, have them complete the following:
Creative Writing Option
Ask students to write their own poetry or songs about a landscape or place that is important to them. Poems should include:
Hopi corn is available from heritage seed companies. Large and small grocery stores often sell products made from blue, white, yellow, and red corn. Challenge students to learn more about Hopi corn, its varieties, and the traditional (and nontraditional) foods that are made with heritage, native corn varieties. Cook at home or in class with recipes using blue corn. Taste-test many of the commercially available foods made from native corn varieties.
Assignments could include:
Hopi culture has many elements that have continued or remained constant over time and many elements that have changed. Educational resources available on Crow Canyon Archaeological Center’s website support students as they research how Pueblo culture, which led in part to Hopi culture, has changed over the course of time.
In this lesson, students analyze a primary source document: A Papal Bull issued by Pope Pius V in 1570, excommunicating Queen Elizabeth of England.