New Deal Critics

Looking back at photographs, art, and infrastructure created by New Deal agencies creates a mostly positive recollection of the era. The New Deal’s impact is still present today when flipping  on a light switch in the Tennessee Valley or drawing a Social Security check. While aspects of the New Deal most certainly aided millions of Americans, it is important not to oversimplify its policies. Critics of the New Deal ranged from liberal-leaning citizens who felt that the Roosevelt administration should do more, to conservatives who accused the President of socialism. Identifying the complex nature of support and criticism of these governmental policies will allow a more nuanced understanding of the 1930s and 1940s.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
Determine an author's point of view and/or purpose in a text, analyzing how style and content contribute to its effectiveness.
Analyze what a text says explicitly and draw inferences; support an interpretation of a text by citing and synthesizing relevant textual evidence from...
Identify and explain the following New Deal programs and assess their past or present impact:
Analyze the effects of and the controversies arising from New Deal economic policies, including charges of socialism and FDR's "court packing" attempt.
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Learning objectives: 

Students will:

  • Recall the causes of the Great Depression and goals of the New Deal.
  • Analyze photographs to determine the impact of various New Deal programs.
  • Read and discuss the opinions of New Deal critics.
  • Synthesize the positive and negative aspects of the New Deal to determine the overall impact of its agencies and programs.
Essential and guiding questions: 

How did New Deal programs affect Americans in their daily life? For what reasons did Americans support or oppose the New Deal? 

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 

Assign each student one of the photographs or text sources used in this lesson. Ask them to create a new illustration, letter, or newspaper article that portrays the opposite viewpoint. Their version should be displayed alongside the original to show a more nuanced version of the primary source. See example product to the right.

Helpful Hints


  • T-Chart Analysis Worksheet
  • Teacher Resources
  • Interview Excerpt from Dr. M. Santos, 4 & 5
  • New York Times Articles:
  • New Group Appeals to ‘X-Ray’ New Deal
  • Attacks Advisers of the President
  • Pencil/pen