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Post-War Suburbanization: American Dream or Homogenization of American Culture

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Title: Post-War Suburbanization: American Dream or Homogenization of American Culture


1
Post-War Suburbanization Developing Effective
Questions for Historical Investigations
Bruce A. Lesh Franklin High School Reisterstown,
Maryland
2
  • 1920s Unit Plan
  • 1920s Consumer Culture (1 Day)
  • New Women of the 1920s (1 Day)
  • Marcus Garvey and African Americans in the 1920s
    (1 Day)
  • Prohibition (1 Day)
  • Buck vs. Bell and Intolerance (1 Day)
  • Causes of the Depression (1 Day)
  • Hoover and the Depression (1 Day)
  • Bonus Army (2 Days)
  • Unit Exam

3
Elements of a History Lab
  • A central question that does not have one answer.
  • Source workHistorical sources are evaluated and
    the information gained is applied to the
    development of an answer to the labs central
    question.
  • The employment of literacy skills to evaluate
    historical sources.
  • The development, refinement, and defense of an
    evidence-based answer to the guiding historical
    question

4
Lets help Jerry
5
  • The point of questionsis to provide direction
    and motivation for the rigorous work of doing
    history.
  • Linda Levstik and Keith Barton, Doing History
    Investigating with Children in Elementary and
    Middle Schools

6
  • teachers introduce a sense of mysteryby
    raising thought-provoking questions, ones that
    demand answers supported by reasons, by
    evidence
  • Teaching United States History as a Mystery
  • David Gerwin and Jack Zevin

7
  • What Leads to the Fall of a Great Empire? Using
    Central Questions to Design Issues-based History
    Units, Edward Caron
  • Six criteria for effective questions to guide
    historical inquiry
  • Does the question represent an important issue to
    historical and contemporary times?
  • Is the question debatable?
  • Does the question represent a reasonable amount
    of content?
  • Will the question hold the sustained interest of
    middle or high school students?
  • Is the question appropriate given the materials
    available?
  • Is the question challenging for the students you
    are teaching?

8
Challenging History Essential Questions in the
Social Studies Classroom by Heather Lattimer
  • Get at the heart of the discipline
  • Have more than one reasonable answer.
  • Connect the past to the present.
  • Enable students to construct their own
    understanding of the past.
  • Reveal history as a developing narrative.
  • Challenge students to examine their own beliefs

9
Thinking Like an Historian Rethinking History
Instruction A Framework to Enhance and Improve
Teaching and Learning Nikki Mandel and Bobby
Malone
  • Historical Categories of Inquiry
  • cause and effect
  • change and continuity
  • turning points
  • using the past
  • and through their eyes
  • spiraled and sequenced throughout the
    curriculum
  • build a common language to structure students
    examination of the past

10
Marcus Garvey The Evolution of a History Lab
Question
  • Who was Marcus Garvey?
  • What was Garvey best known for?
  • What was the Back to Africa movement? Did people
    support the movement?
  • How did Garvey compare to Washington and Dubois?
  • Did Marcus Garvey have a negative or positive
    impact on society?
  • What did Garvey bring to the 1920s?  
  • Marcus Garvey a Renaissance man?
  • Visionary or agitator at the beginning, but
    realized no matter what he is definitely an
    agitator
  • Was Garvey seen as a villain or a superhero?
  • Marcus Garvey Enemy of the State, Statesmen, or
    Savior?

11
Marcus Garvey The Evolution of a History Lab
Question
  • Marcus Garvey Racial Visionary or Enemy of the
    state?

12
Little Boxes by Malvina Reynolds
  • And they all play on the golf course
  • And drink their martinis dry
  • And they all have pretty children
  • And the children go to school
  • And the children go to summer camp
  • And then to the university
  • Where they're all put in boxes
  • And they come out all the same
  • And the boys go into business
  • And marry and raise a family
  • In boxes made of ticky-tacky
  • And they all look just the same
  • There's a green one and a pink one
  • And a blue one and a yellow one
  • And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
  • And they all look just the same
  • Little boxes on the hillside
  • Little boxes made of ticky-tacky
  • Little boxes on the hillside
  • Little boxes all the same
  • There's a green one and a pink one
  • And a blue one and a yellow one
  • And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
  • And they all look just the same
  • And the people in the houses
  • All went to the university
  • Where they were put in boxes
  • And they came out all the same
  • And there's doctors and there's lawyers
  • And business executives
  • And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
  • And they all look just the same

13
Levittown, New York (Before and After)
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G.I. Bill (Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 )
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Housing Shortage
The Baby Boom
18
1956 National Defense and Interstate Highway Act
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White flight from cities to the suburbs
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Suburbia is becoming the most important single
market in the country. It is the suburbanite who
starts the mass fashionsfor childrendungarees,
vodka martinis, outdoor barbecues, functional
furniture, and picture windows All suburbs
are not alike, but they are more alike than they
are different. William H. Whyte, Organization
Man.
26
What the people were looking for were good
schools, private space, and personal safety and
they found them in the suburbs. It was the
single tact home that offered growing families a
private haven in a heartless world. Kenneth
Jackson, Crabgrass Frontiers
27
"Levittown represented the worst vision of the
American future bland people in bland houses
leading bland lives. The houses were physically
similar, theorized Mumford, so the people inside
must be equally similar an entire community was
being made from a cookie cuttera multitude of
uniform, unidentifiable houses, lined up
inflexibly, at uniform distances on uniform
roads, in a treeless command waste, inhabited by
people of the same class, the same incomes, the
same age group, witnessing the same television
performances, eating the same tasteless
prefabricated foods, from the same freezers,
conforming in every outward and inward respect to
the same common mold. Lewis Mumford, The City
in History Its Origins, Its Transformation, and
Its Prospects, 486.
28
These are very gregarious communities, in which
people wander in and out of one anothers houses
without any invitation, and organize themselves
into everything from car pools to PTAs and hobby
clubs of numerous sorts and in which the
churches are more important institutions than
anyone who was brought up in the twenties and
thirties would have imagined them to be. Such
communities are paradises for the well-adjusted
by the same token, they are less inviting to
residents who prefer a modicum of seclusion and
resist being expected to live up to the
JonesesA firm believer in diversity, who would
like to see more, not less, mixing together on
easy terms of people of different economic
fortunes, different age groups, and different
occupations and preoccupations, cannot help
wondering if these larger new suburbs can escape
being natural breeding grounds for
conformity. Frederick Lewis Allen, The Big
Change in Suburbia, Harpers Magazine, 1954.
29
The community has an almost antiseptic air. 
Levittown streets, which have such fanciful names
as Satellite, Horizon, Haymaker, are bare and
flat as hospital corridors.  Like a hospital,
Levittown has rules all its own.  Fences are not
allowed (though here and there a home-owner has
broken the rule).  The plot of grass around each
home must be cut at least once a week if not,
Bill Levitt's men mow the grass and send the
bill.  Wash cannot be hung out to dry on an
ordinary clothesline it must be arranged on
rotary, removable drying racks and then not on
weekends or holidays.... "Up From the Potato
Fields, "Time 56. July 3, 1950.
30
These communities have none of the
long-festering social problems of older towns,
such as slums, crowded streets, vacant lots that
are both neighborhood dumps and playgrounds, or
sagging, neo-fronted business districts that
sprawl in all directions. Instead everything is
new. Dangerous traffic intersections are almost
unknown. Grassy play areas abound. Shops are
centrally located and under one roofEverybody
lives in a good neighborhood there is, to use
that classic American euphemism, no wrong side
of the tracksEven Levittown, with 70,000 people
not far from New Yorks turbulent underworld, has
virtually no crimePolice attribute this lack of
crime to the fact that nearly all the men were
honorably discharged from the services and
subjected to credit screening. This, they say,
eliminated the criminal element and riff-raff.
Some police officials included the absence of
slums and disreputable hang-outs as causes.
Personally, I feel many more factors were
involved, including the absence of real poverty
the strong ties of family, religious and
organizational activities steady employment and
the absence of restrictive, frustrating social
structure. Harry Henderson, The Mass Produced
Suburbs, Harpers Magazine, November 1953.
31
The Negroes in Americaare trying to do in 400
years what the Jews in the world have not wholly
accomplished in 600 years. As I Jew I have no
room in my mind or heart for racial prejudice.
ButI have come to know that if we sell one house
to a Negro family, then 90 or 95 percent of our
white customers will not buy into the community.
That is their attitude, not oursAs a company our
position is simply this we can solve a housing
problem, or we can solve a racial problem, but we
cannot combine the two. William Levitt, builder
of Levittown
32
  • The children growing up in New Suburbia run the
    danger of becoming homogenized. In many of the
    new suburbs the white child never sees a Negro.
    In others the Jewish child never plays with any
    but Jewish children. Some of these suburbs are
    virtually all Catholic. In other areas there are
    no Catholics. Even without racial and religious
    segregation---and in these new developments
    groups tend to segregate themselves to an
    alarming degree---the pressure to conform is
    intense, and stultifying
  • Sidonie Gruenberg, The Homogenized Children of
    New Suburbia. New York Times Magazine, 1954.

33
Those who lambasted suburbiatended to ignore
several basic facts the boom in building
energized important sectors of the economy,
providing a good deal of employment it lessened
the housing shortage that had diminished the
lives of millions during the Depression and war
and it enabled people to enjoy conveniences, such
as modern bathrooms and kitchens, that they had
not before. James Patterson, Grand
Expectations, pg. 340.
34
  • Within Levittown, many residents say, the
    atmosphere is more tolerant and neighborly than
    any other place they ever lived. However,
    Levittowners collectively have not yet come to
    grips with one problem that could give rise to a
    really tense situation. This is the problem of
    Negro exclusion.
  • The Levitts do not sell their houses to Negroes.
    This, as William Levitt explains it, is not a
    matter of prejudice, but one of business.
  • The Negroes in America, he says, are trying to
    do in four hundred years what the Jews in the
    world have not wholly accomplished in six
    thousand. As a Jew, I have no room in my mind or
    heart for racial prejudice. But, by various
    means, I have come to know that if we sell one
    house to a Negro family, then ninety to
    ninety-five percent of our white customers will
    not buy into the community. That is their
    attitude, not ours. We did not create it, and
    cannot cure it. As a company, our position is
    simply this we can solve a housing problem, or
    we can try to solve a racial problem. But we
    cannot combine the two.
  • Craig Thompson Growing Pains of a Brand-New
    City (August 7, 1954)
  • Saturday Evening Post, Volume 227

35
Broad Classes of Reasons Given for Moving to the
Suburbs, and Percentage of Respondents
Mentioning Each Type
Specific Reasons for Moving to the Suburbs Per Cent
Physical reasons (N172) 72.3
More space outside house 19.7
More space inside house 14.3
"The outdoors" (fresh air, sunshine, etc.) 12.6
Less traffic 11.8
Cleaner 6.3
No neighbors in same building 3.8
Quiet 2.1
No stairs 1.7
Social reasons (N66) 27.7
Better schools 10.2
"Nice" children to play with 9.2
Other children to play with 2.5
More organized activities 2.5
Home of own (security) 1.7
Adults "nice" to children 0.8
Better churches 0.8
Total reasons in this category (N238) 100.0
Wendell Bell, "Social Choice, Life Styles, and
Suburban Residence," in The Suburban Community,
ed. William Dobriner (New York Putnam, 1958),
23435.
36
Specific Reasons for Moving to the Suburbs Per Cent
Physical reasons (N172) 72.3
More space outside house 19.7
More space inside house 14.3
"The outdoors" (fresh air, sunshine, etc.) 12.6
Less traffic 11.8
Cleaner 6.3
No neighbors in same building 3.8
Quiet 2.1
No stairs 1.7
Social reasons (N66) 27.7
Better schools 10.2
"Nice" children to play with 9.2
Other children to play with 2.5
More organized activities 2.5
Home of own (security) 1.7
Adults "nice" to children 0.8
Better churches 0.8
Total reasons in this category (N238) 100.0
Wendell Bell, "Social Choice, Life Styles, and
Suburban Residence," in The Suburban Community,
ed. William Dobriner (New York Putnam, 1958),
23435.
37
Restrictive Covenants Red Lining Block Busting
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  • Create three real estate signs that might appear
    outside a home in the exploding suburbs of
    post-war
  • America. For each sign, be sure to consider
  • Factors that promoted post-war suburbanization
  • The benefits/problems of living in a new suburb
    like the Levittowns
  • Characteristics of Levittown and other suburbs
  • Racially discriminatory practices such as
    blockbusting, racial covenants, and red-lining
  • Was this the American Dream or the homogenization
    of American Culture?


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