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The American Experience
Suggestions for the Classroom


Themes: the American Dream, labor, industrialization, philanthropy


Faced with sudden poverty in Scotland, Andrew Carnegie's family emigrated to America. Determined to escape poverty, Carnegie went on to become the richest man in the world. After amassing a fortune by crushing his competitors and exploiting his workers, Carnegie, in a move that underscored his inner conflicts, systematically gave away millions.


Before Viewing Discussion

  1. How would you describe someone who is considered successful by American standards? Does everybody have the same opportunities? Why or why not?

  2. What were the Industrial Revolution's positive and negative effects on workers?


After Viewing Discussion

  1. How did Carnegie seize opportunities to become wealthy and successful? Do you agree with his business decisions? Why or why not? How did Carnegie's mother, father, and grandfather influence his decisions? How might his belief in social Darwinism have influenced his decisions?

  2. How did Carnegie's philanthropy address or fail to adress union workers' frustrations? Have students read current trade and teachers' union publications. Ask them to list union workers' issues and ways they might be addressed. Compare these union issues to workers' issues at the turn of the century.

  3. What were the workers' and managers' perspectives during the Homestead strike? Divide the class into three groups: Homestead union workers, managers and negotiators. Ask the first two groups to develop and present their arguments to the negotiators, who must resolve the issues fairly.


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