Classroom Newsletters

  • January 2014

    Dear Parents/Guardians,

    Well, after what was hopefully an enjoyable holiday break and a few weather issues, we were finally able to gain some traction and get rolling again in US History class. Upon our return we began a new chapter. We are now in chapter 19, which is titled, “Political Reform and the Progressive Era”. It encompasses roughly the years between 1870 and 1920.

    During the Progressive Era, journalists referred to as “muckrakers” (a vocabulary word) received wide coverage as a result of the growth of a new power: the media. Mass-market magazines made national news with shocking stories of government and business corruption. Muckrakers also wrote sensational and persuasive novels. For example, Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle about the horrors of the meat-packing industry in Chicago. This novel led to a passage of federal food inspection laws. Also, during the Progressive Era, millions of acres of land were set aside as national parks to be protected for future Americans. Concern about social issues led to passage of the Sixteenth Amendment, which allowed Congress to levy an income tax. The Nineteenth Amendment granted women the right to vote.

    Despite all its achievements, the Progressive Era did not address the needs of all Americans. Some groups of immigrants had to form independent organizations to combat the discrimination and prejudice they faced.

    Please peruse the following as suggestions for helping your child understand some of the important concepts of the chapter.

    • Visit a library and look up Sinclair’s book The Jungle. Encourage your child to read a passage from the book to get an idea of the conditions Sinclair describes.
    • You can use a United States map or a specific state map to find a national park. You may discuss ways in which such a protected natural area is an asset. You may even have your child call or look up the administrative office of a national park to learn about what facilities are available to the public.

    As always, I encourage your child to answer his or her questions about the content by reading the respective sections of the chapter and by doing independent research. I continue to be available for support in any way I am able.

    Thank you parents for all that you do in the encouragement of your children’s education. Stay warm, Spring will be here before you know it!


    Mr. Michael Serotte




    December 2013

    Dear Parent/Guardian,

    It seems just like yesterday when I sent out the first of these classroom updates yet here we are with the holiday season right around the corner.

    We recently began chapter 18 which is entitled “Industry and Urban Growth” and it is my hope that the following information will provide you with some background and activity suggestions as you support your son/daughter in their learning experience.

    Beginning in the late 19th century, cities developed rapidly as people responded to the call for labor in industry. These growing cities became a hub of a new urban culture. Government policies offered incentives to growing industries, and new inventions and technology increased productivity drastically. But as business slashed costs as to eliminate competition, they often did so at the expense of working conditions. When laborers began to demand better pay and working conditions, government was largely unsupportive. Unions such as the American Federation of labor (AFL), however, achieved gains by organizing skilled laborers and negotiating with industry leaders.

    With the growth of industry, vast numbers of laborers sought jobs, opportunity, and excitement in cities. Many of the people flocking to cities came from a huge wave of immigration from Eastern Europe and Asia.

    The rapid growth of cities resulted in abysmal living conditions for many, which reformers worked to ease by opening schools and clinics. The need for educated workers led to compulsory education in some states. As literacy soared, print media became important sources of information.

    The following are suggestions to help your son/daughter understand the important concepts in the chapter.

    • Explain to your child that organized labor, or labor unions, came about as a result of dangerous and inhuman working conditions in factories and mines. However, unions were largely disrespected and unsupported by other Americans. You may wish to brainstorm for the unavoidable conflicts between factory owners’ profit motives and the workers’ demand for safe and humane working conditions.
    • Also, ask your son/daughter to share information from the book about reformers who tried to improve life in the inner city. You may even browse the local newspaper to identify the charity organization(s) in your community that have the same or similar objectives as those reformers did over 100 years ago.

    As always, I thank you for your time and support. Please sign and return the detachable portion of this letter below. In doing so, you will have indicated receipt of this letter and your child will earn 10 points toward their homework grade.


          Mr. Serotte