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Putting It All Together


The childhood experiences and the early public career of Herbert Hoover seem to be in sharp contrast to his performance and reputation as president. The following activities will help students to put "both" Herbert Hoovers into perspective.

Activity 1: Recreating a Personal Childhood
Have students look again at the cartoons and think about the caption "As the twig is bent — the tree is inclined." Then discuss with them the idea that each human experience is different from any other. That is, many young boys of Hoover's time probably carried in wood for the kitchen stove, but few of them went on to become public servants as Hoover did. Still, many of those boys did grow up to be thoughtful and caring individuals. Have students reflect on their own first 11 years. Have them then pretend they are 77 years old and writing their own memoirs. Ask them to write three or four descriptive paragraphs similar to those in Reading 2. What amusements did they enjoy as young children? How were these amusements shaped by their surroundings? What role has school, neighborhood, and family played in shaping their values? Have a few volunteers share their memoirs. Emphasize to the class that while we are shaped by our past, we are not bound by it.

Activity 2: Hoover and U.S. History
Have students check three or four different U.S. history textbooks to see how the authors treat Hoover. What kinds of adjectives are used to describe the man and his programs? How do these adjectives square with what they learned in this lesson about Hoover's Iowa childhood and his efforts to save the children of Europe? Have students write a short, balanced biography of Hoover using materials provided in this lesson, in U.S. history books, and in books available in most school and public libraries.

Some useful works include: Suzanne Hilton, The World of Young Herbert Hoover (New York: Walker and Company, 1987); Susan Clinton, Encyclopedia of American Presidents: Herbert Hoover (Chicago: Children's Press, 1988); Richard Norton Smith, An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover (Worland, Wyo.: High Plains Publishing Company, Inc., 1984); and Herbert Hoover, The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover, Years of Adventure, 1874-1920 (London: Hollis and Carter, 1952). When essays are completed, have students discuss and edit them in small groups. If essays are of sufficiently good quality, have the class present them to the school library for use by subsequent classes that will be studying U.S. history.

Activity 3: Citizenship and the Local Community
The lesson mentions that a survey taken early in World War I showed that many millions of children were suffering from malnutrition or starvation. Explain to students that surveys often are used by social scientists to gather information necessary to formulate generalizations. Have students use this technique to gather information on the attitudes a cross section of their local community or neighborhood holds toward the concept of good citizenship. Have them note that Hoover, before the Great Depression, was called a "Great Humanitarian," and considered a good citizen of the world. Have students draw out from the readings the kinds of attitudes and behaviors that led to Hoover's value system.

Next, have students construct a survey that will help them to understand what their community regards as good citizenship and what aspects of the community's history may have led to those values. They might consider using such questions as: What attributes of character do good citizens share? What kinds of activities that benefit the community do good citizens take part in? After the questions have been agreed on by the class, have each student survey three people — teachers, parents, neighbors, local business people. When the surveys are completed, have students work in groups of three to discuss and tally responses. A final tally should then be compiled and presented to the class. Conduct a discussion based on the results of the survey. Finally, ask the class as a whole to develop a definition of good citizenship and list ways in which they could act as good citizens in their own community.

 

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