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American Odyssey
American Odyssey: The 20th Century and Beyond Glencoe Online
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Web Activity Lesson Plan
Chapter 25: The Reagan and Bush Years
"The Reagan Legacy"

Introduction

Students have read about Ronald Reagan's presidency. In this activity, students will research data, speeches, and historic events to evaluate the Reagan legacy.

Lesson Description

Students will use information from The Presidents Web site to learn about the defining characteristics of the Reagan era. Students will read about Reagan's economic policy, his foreign policy, his legacy, and his presidential record. Students will also view photos and review a speech from his presidency. Students will then answer four questions and apply this information by presenting a brief speech summarizing the Reagan legacy.

Instructional Objectives

  1. Students will describe the defining characteristics of the Reagan era.
  2. Students will be able to use this knowledge to present a brief speech that summarizes the Reagan legacy.

Student Activity Answers

  1. Reagan's economic policy was based on supply-side economics—the theory that tax reductions would stimulate economic recovery. The economic program called for substantial reductions in government assistance programs and services. Reagan's theory was that the wealth created by increased business activity would "trickle down" to those in need. Eventually his program decreased inflation, increased employment, and expanded the economy. During his administration, 118 million new jobs were created, and trade with foreign countries increased. However, the gap between the rich and the poor widened as more people fell below the poverty level, and many blue-collar workers saw their jobs go to overseas workers. Some attributed the 1987 stock market crash to Reaganomics.
  2. Fueled by tax cuts and record defense spending, the deficit rose to nearly $3 trillion.
  3. Upon taking office, Reagan characterized the Soviet Union as being committed to "the promotion of world revolution and a one-world Socialist or Communist state" that threatened free people everywhere. He believed that communism needed to be fought all over the world and later demonstrated this commitment by intervening in Angola, Afghanistan, and Central America.
  4. In both the Iran-contra scandal and Watergate, secret operations were being run out of the White House without public knowledge or congressional approval. Both involved illegal diversions of funds, and both resulted in congressional hearings. Investigators in both cases asked, "What did the president know, and when did he know it?" In the end, though, Nixon was forced to resign from the presidency, while Reagan would not suffer permanent political damage.
  5. Students' speeches will vary.

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