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Public Enemy #1

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Teacher's Guide: Suggestions for Active Learning

%Public Enemy #1 offers insights into American history topics including the Depression, Prohibition, crime, criminals and the media, folk heroes, and the involvement of the Federal government in law enforcement. You can use part or all of the film, or delve into the rich resources available on this Web site to learn more, either in a classroom or on your own.

The following activities are grouped into 4 categories: history, economics, geography, and civics. You can also read a few helpful hints for completing the activities.

Civics | History | Economics | Geography

1a. Read about John Dillinger. In his October 1933 letter to his father, on what did Dillinger blame his life of crime?

1b. Divide the class into two groups and hold a class debate on the following question: Are criminals born or made? Both groups must use the example of Dillinger's life to help support their arguments.

2a. Read about the rise of the FBI and visit the FBI Web site. How did the struggle of the FBI (at that time named the Division of Investigation) against criminals like Dillinger help build its reputation?

2b. Describe the kinds of information you find on the FBI Web site regarding the FBI's ongoing hunt for suspected terrorists. How do you think the FBI's anti-terrorist efforts might affect its future reputation?

2c. In its fight against crime in the 1930s, the FBI had to overcome the public's fears about the creation of a secret police. Do you think many Americans still have these fears, and if so, might that affect how Americans react to intensive FBI efforts to fight terrorism? Explain your answer.

Civics | History | Economics | Geography

1. Read about gangster films in the 1930s and, with the consent of your parents or teacher, watch one of the films it discusses. Then watch a film made in the last five years that deals with criminals. Write a review of the two films that compares their attitudes toward crime and criminals. For example, do the films suggest that crime "pays"? Do they portray criminals as persons deserving of respect? How do they portray law-enforcement officials? In your review, cite specific characters, scenes, and dialogue.

2. Read about gangsters during the Depression and use the information in it to prepare a chart comparing mobsters and outlaws. Your chart should show where each category of criminal generally lived, whether or not they generally were immigrants, how democratic they were, and how they fared during the Depression. Also include the name of a prominent mobster and outlaw.

Civics | History | Economics | Geography

1. Why did many Americans regard Dillinger as a hero when the banks he robbed contained their money? Divide the class into three groups. One group should find out how many banks failed in the early years of the Depression and the reasons why. The second group should find out why many banks in rural areas foreclosed on farm mortgages during the Depression and how rural residents reacted. The third group should explore President Franklin Roosevelt's policies to restore stability to the banking system. Each group should present its findings to the class.

2. Examine the map of Dillinger's last year alive, which lists the amounts of money Dillinger's gang stole from various banks in 1933-1934. Because of inflation, a dollar is much less valuable today than it was during the 1930s. (In other words, you could buy more goods with a dollar then than now.) Select three of the robberies for which dollar values are given and figure out the total value in today's dollars of the money Dillinger stole during those three robberies. You can do this by using the "Inflation Calculator" at the Web site of the

Civics | History | Economics | Geography

1. Some farmers living in the Dust Bowl were sympathetic to Dillinger and other outlaws. Draw a map showing the areas that were affected by the Dust Bowl. Illustrate your map with a photograph of the area as it appeared during the Dust Bowl years and with a callout box showing a significant statistic or set of statistics about the Dust Bowl (such as the size of the area affected or the number of people who were forced to move from the area).

2. Using information from the John Dillinger Timeline, draw a map showing the locations of important places in Dillinger's life. Write a caption for each of these places.

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