Using Technology to Teach All The King's Men

Target Curriculum:
Language Arts, Computer/Technology

Target Grade:   12

Objectives:

The students will:
• Describe Governor Huey Long’s "Share Our Wealth" program and assess its practicality as a means of reforming the lives of American citizens.
• Compare and contrast the idealism of Huey Long with Robert Penn Warren's charterization of Willie Starks.

Purpose:

The purpose of this lesson is for students to analyze how a novelist uses biographical information in the characterization of a historical persona.

Materials:

A copy of All The King's Men
Netscape Communicator (or any internet browser)
Computers for each student, or for groups of students

Procedure:

Getting Ready:
Before students begin any of the activities below they will need to have some background about the life of Huey Long. Have them click on and view "Huey Long: A Retrospective."

"Share Our Wealth"—How Does That Work?
In 1930, Governor Huey Long was elected to the United States Senate. Although he had supported the presidency of Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, by 1934 Senator Long was claiming that the president’s New Deal had done little to alleviate the problems of the depression. Believing himself capable of becoming president, Long used the floor of the Senate to expound his views on the redistribution of wealth. His "Share Our Wealth" program—outlined in this February 5, 1934 speech before the Senate—best defines both Long’s view of the nation’s problems, and the specific solutions he envisioned for those woes.

Explain to students that Long’s "Share Our Wealth" plan had seven major points, paraphrased below:

1. To limit poverty by providing that every deserving family would share in the wealth of America.
2. To limit fortunes to a few million dollars so that the rest of the American people could share in the wealth and profits of the land.
3. To provide old-age pensions to persons over 60 who did not earn over a certain amount, or who possessed less than $10,000 in cash or property.
4. To limit the hours of work to such a degree that overproduction could be prevented, and workers could enjoy some of the recreations, conveniences, and luxuries of life.
5. To balance agricultural production with what could be sold and consumed.
[*To balance the problem of unemployment caused by limited agricultural production, farmers would complete public works projects during times when they were not required to produce farm products.]
6. To care for the veterans of our wars.
7. To acquire the tax dollars for running the government by reducing big fortunes.

Ask students to react to this simply stated plan, inviting them to consider its practicality, eliciting their ideas on how such a program might be carried out, and getting their opinions as to how such a plan would fit in our country’s traditional capitalistic society.

After this discussion, invite students to read the whole of Long’s "Share Our Wealth" speech contained in "Speeches by Huey Long."  At the same site students can find other speeches by Long that incorporate variations of this plan. It will enrich the activity below if students read as many of these as time permits.

Ask students to work in groups of four or five, and have them set up notes, using one page for each of the seven points, organized in three categories:

1. Rationale: What problem will be solved by this step? Who will be affected? What’s wrong with current approaches?
2. Practical methods for carrying it out: Who will pay for it? Who will oversee or control the implementation of his plan?
3. Potential Problems: What might not work? For example, can farmers be expected to become public works employees?

After students have completed their analysis of Long’s speech, conduct a follow-up discussion by revisiting the questions asked at the beginning of the activity. After a closer look at Long’s ideas, how do they view his program? Elicit opinions.

Assessment:

Have students take the information gathered in the activity and compare it to the character of Willie Starks in All The King's Men.  How does Warren capture the idealism of Huey Long in his characterization of Willie Starks?  Make sure to use specific passages from the novel as you complete this activity.  The paper's overall length should be two to three pages.


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