A few weeks ago Kristi Convissor and I started creating a DBQ project. We first started with a general outline the DBQ would take. We asked ourselves “What do we want students to learn from the DBQ overall?” To answer that we came up with a generative question to help guide our designing processing and to help the students when they are using the DBQ. The generative question was: “How does a nation develop such an intense fear and enemy, creating mass hysteria?”
From there we narrowed it down to look specifically at the Red Scare in 1950s America. We wanted students to learn about Americans fear of communism during the time. We wanted students to not only be aware of the hysteria but to understand where that fear developed from. One of the goals of the DBQ was to get students to think about what kind of words, actions, depictions lead to fear and what kind of outlets are needed to create mass hysteria. If students understand that then they can see how the Red Scare came to encapsulate so much of the 1950s.The design of DBQs lends well to this kind of investigation.
When creating the DBQ, we chose documents that helped answer the generative question. We had found some cool documents, but they side tracked too far from our question, so we cut them. Having the generative question kept us focused on the main point of the DBQ. In addition we also created follow-up question to each document, which helped us pick quality documents. If the document could only address one question then it probably was not the best source we could use. We made sure to use sources that could be asked several questions because they held a decent amount of information in them for students to discover.
The final project which can be found on Learnist and soon on an iBook, met our goals. Our DBQ allows students to see for themselves how America came to have such an intense fear of communism through films, articles, and posters. Our DBQ took a media lens to the issue, examining the creation of an enemy based on characterizations rather than on facts or true events.
Image Credit: Digital History retrieved from Library of Congress
Media type: poster
Museum Number: LC-USZ62-80757