The Fall of Industrial America (or Why Michigan Went for Donald Trump)
VICTOR COHEN & RICK WARTZMAN
For grades 10 - 12
In the not too-distant past, you could find a factory job in America that would enable you to own a home, raise a family, send your children to college and provide for your retirement. The people who held these jobs often belonged to a union, voted the Democratic party line, and formed the backbone of the American working class. Today, most of those jobs are gone, only a small fraction of workers are still unionized—and, most dramatically, a good many of those once solidly Democratic households went for Donald Trump in the last presidential election.
In this class, we will explore how our nation’s current political landscape can be traced in no small part to this economic transformation.
To give us a focus for this work, we’ll take a deep look at Detroit, one of the planetary centers of industry and labor in the 20th century. We’ll spend the first two days learning about the rise of the city, speak with people who lived through its industrial heyday, and explore the ways that Detroit'scultural life—from cars to Motown—helped shape America as a whole. Then we’ll travel there and look at how the city and surrounding region have been changed since the jobs moved away. We'll not only examine what has gone bust, but we'll discover what the city is now doing to rediscover its innovative and creative roots and spark a renaissance. In addition, we'll look at the different ways black and white communities in blue-collar Michigan have experienced past and present.
Ultimately, we'll use what we learn to think about why the voters of this once reliably blue state moved to the political right this past election, and what future changes to the economy may hold for America as a whole.
Supplemental Travel Fee: $1000
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