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The American Experience
Suggestions for the Classroom

Time Period: 1902-1974
Themes: aviation, heroism, privacy and the media, World War II and the Holocaust

    Teachers page At 25, Charles A. Lindbergh arrived in Paris, the first man to fly across the Atlantic--handsome, talented, and brave--a hero. But the struggle to wear the mantle of legend would be a consuming one. Crowds pursued him, reporters invaded his private life. His marriage, travels with his wife and the kidnapping and murder of their first child were all fodder for the front page.

Before Watching

  1. Discuss the question "What makes a hero?" Have students suggest several individuals whom they consider to be heroes. Have them examine their choices, writing a list of qualities or accomplishments that they consider heroic. Help students understand that the concept of heroism is personal; people do not always share the same heroes or even the same definition of heroism.

  2. Discuss documentary filmmaking with students. Ask them what sources a filmmaker might use in a film about a historic figure and write their suggestions on the chalkboard [sources could include historical footage and newsreels; photographs; interviews with contemporaries, family members, or historians; contemporary newspapers; etc.] Remind students that evidence presented in a film can help us draw conclusions about an individual or event. As students watch the film, have them look at the sources of information and consider these as they try to draw a conclusion about Charles Lindbergh's career and historic importance.

After Watching

  1. What conclusion did you draw about Charles Lindbergh? Was he a hero? Could you consider someone a hero if you disagreed with his or her political ideas or behavior in their private life?

  2. Do you think that Lindbergh's beliefs, such as those on white supremacy and marriage, reflected America's thinking at the time? If yes, how does that affect how you judge Lindbergh's character?

  3. Have students identify which of Lindbergh's traits and accomplishments are best remembered. Then have students interview three people who remember Lindbergh. Students should compare each subject's opinion of Lindbergh. Have the class work together to create a portrait of the Lindbergh that lives in the popular imagination today.

  4. Today, as in Lindbergh's day, the media often expose public figures to constant attention which can become harassment. Debate the following proposition within your class: Freedom of the press is a constitutional right. Therefore, the media should be allowed to do whatever is necessary to get a story.

  5. It is 10:22pm on May 21, 1927. You are a radio reporter witnessing the dramatic completion of Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic. Write and record your broadcast to your listeners, describing Lindbergh's arrival as well as the crowd's reaction. You might also include an interview with Lindbergh himself.

  6. Although Bruno Hauptmann was convicted and executed for the murder of the Lindberghs' first child, the case has remained controversial to this day. Hauptmann's widow has fought to have his name cleared, and many people believe that circumstantial evidence was used to make Hauptmann a scapegoat. Research the trial and evidence, and present the class with your own opinion about Hauptmann's guilt or innocence.




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