8th Grade New York

Gilded Age

This inquiry uses the Industrial Age as a context for students to explore the compelling question “Is greed good?” The Industrial Age, often referred to derisively as the Gilded Age, brought about unprecedented economic growth and the advent of modern living. The effects of the Industrial Age were so essential to the economic and social development of the United States that some observers have referred to the industrial tycoons of the age as the “Men Who Built America.” However, industrial growth came at a considerable cost. Newfound industrial wealth was accompanied by the exploitation of workers, environmental degradation, and surging gaps between the rich and poor in terms of standards of living and political agency. In the Taking Informed Action sequence, students investigate the present-day issue of wealth inequality in the United States and whether or not government action on the issue would be worthwhile.

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Compelling Question:

Is Greed Good?

Staging the Question: Discuss examples from everyday life when greed is good and times when greed is bad.
1

Supporting Question What were some of the political, social, and economic conditions driving industrial growth from 1870 to 1900 in the United States?

Formative Task List the political, social, and economic conditions that drove industrial growth from 1870 to 1900 in the United States.

Sources Source A: United States patent and invention activity in the 19th century
Source B: Map bank: United States railroads, 1860 and 1890
Source C: Graph of total immigration from 1820 to present
Source D: Illustration, The Bosses of the Senate

2

Supporting Question What were the positive aspects of industrialization in the Gilded Age?

Formative Task Create a political cartoon depicting and explaining the positive aspects of Gilded Age industrialists.

Sources Source A: Graphs of oil prices and GNP
Source B: Excerpts from Senator Leland Stanford interview
Source C: Excerpts from “Wealth”
Source D: Cartoon, Carnegie Will Lay the Cornerstones Today

3

Supporting Question What were the negative aspects of industrialization in the Gilded Age?

Formative Task Add to the political cartoon with information depicting and explaining the negative aspects of Gilded Age industrialists.

Sources Source A: The Forty T----s [i.e. thieves]: Baba Jonathon: I don’t like your looks, Mr. Merchant, you had better move on
Source B: Excerpt from “Workingman’s Prayer for the Masses”
Source C: Editorial, “Evolution of the Robber Baron”
Source D: Excerpts from Theodore Roosevelt’s 1906 special message to Congress

Summative Performance Task

Argument: Is greed good? Construct an argument (e.g., detailed outline, poster, essay) that evaluates whether or not mostly unregulated capitalism was beneficial to the United States during the Industrial Age.
Extension: Write a campaign speech favoring or opposing a pro-corporation candidate running for president at the turn of the century.

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Explore the present-day issue of income inequality related to regional, racial, gender, and/or socioeconomic factors in the United States.
Assess: Determine the degree to which specific government actions (or inactions) would affect income inequality in the United States.
Act: Create a public service announcement that explains how local, state, and/or federal governments can best address the issue.