Business v. Labor and the Role of Government
Ohio Content Standards: Grade 9, Economics 2; Grade
10, History 1; Grade 12, Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities 7
Duration of Lesson: Two class periods
- Students will analyze editorial cartoons that will enable
them to explain the abuses of big business and determine the effects of
- Students will identify the role of labor unions in
- Students will be able to understand the role of government
in the free enterprise system.
Summary: This lesson allows students to explore the
relationship between big business, organized labor and government through
editorial cartoon analysis and research.
- Copies of editorial cartoons 1-4
- A cartoon analysis worksheet
- A transparency with discussion questions (if necessary)
- A list of the captains of industry (if necessary)
Pre-Assessment: The instructor will facilitate a
discussion on modern day market economies and the global corporations that
thrive within this economy (Wal-Mart, Microsoft, McDonald's etc.). To
encourage such discussion teachers can use supplemental materials such as
newspaper articles and documentaries.
- Provide each
student with a copy of editorial cartoons 1 and 2 (Next and The King of the
- As a class
discuss the content of the cartoons. Ask students to identify the businesses
symbolized in the cartoons and discuss the message of the cartoonist.
- Put students
into small groups and have them brainstorm a list of other big business that
may have been targets of cartoonists.
- Assign each
small group an industry leader to research (below is a list of suggested
- Jay Gould (railroad)
- Andrew Carnegie (steel)
- John D. Rockefeller (oil)
- J.P. Morgan (finance)
- Henry Ford (automobiles)
- John Jacob Astor (real estate)
- Jay Cooke (railroads)
- James Buchanan Duke (tobacco)
- Take groups to a computer lab
or the media center to research the assigned individual and that individual's
- Groups meet
in class to prepare a summary of their research.
- Each group
shares its findings with the class.
- As a class,
discuss the effects big business had on the average citizen. Remind students
of the negative political cartoons they viewed on day 1. Some discussion
questions might include:
- Why did people
react negatively to big business?
- Who was
adversely affected by big business and in what way?
- What did
people do in response to the adverse effects of big business?
- What organized
group became the biggest opponent to big business?
- Why did people
students are able to recognize the struggle between big business and organized
labor, ask students how disputes between these two groups might be settled.
Allow them to brainstorm a response in their small groups.
- Discuss their
responses to determine if students were able to determine the role of
government in solving disputes.
- Provide small
groups with cartoons 3 and 4 and ask them to determine what the message of the
cartoon is and how the cartoons portray the government's role in solving
Post-Assessment: Students research government policy
passed in response to big business and labor disputes. In a writing
assignment, they should describe at least three policies and discuss the
effectiveness of the policy/legislation.
- Have student groups research and write a summary on the
rise of labor unions.
- Have students research and define the terms "robber
barons" and "captains of industry" and write an essay explaining the term
they believe is appropriate to use in labeling the individuals discuss in