Conflicting Views of Point IV

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
2 Days
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
After addressing a central question, students will analyze primary source documents to formulate their own opinion on the Point IV program.

After addressing a central question, students will analyze primary source documents to formulate their own opinion on the Point IV program.

Rationale (why are you doing this?)
  • In relation to content, this activity builds upon what we already know about the Marshall Plan by introducing the Point IV Program. 
  • In relation to skills, this activity exposes students to the process of analyzing primary source documents, teaches them to see the context in which those documents were written and the subtext of the person writing the document, and encourages them to use specific information from the primary sources to back up their opinion regarding the central question.
Lesson Objectives - the student will
  • Students will analyze primary source documents, pulling out important information that relates to the central question
  • Students will analyze the context in which the primary source was written.  What was going on at the time? 
  • Students will analyze the subtext in which the primary source was written.  Who created this source?  For whom was it created?  Why was this source produced?
District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met
  • Kansas State Social Studies Standard #1 – Choices have consequences.
  • 1.1 – The student will recognize and evaluate significant choices made by individuals, communities, states and nations that have impacted our lives and futures.
  • 1.2 – The student will analyze the context under which choices are made and draw conclusions about the motivations and goals of the decision makers.
  • 1.3 – The student will investigate examples of causes and consequences of particular choices and connect those choices with contemporary issues.

Missouri Standards

US History
3aW:  Describe and evaluate the evolution of United States domestic and foreign policies including the Cold War.
3aY:  Describe the changing character of American society and culture.
6N:  Predict the consequences that can occur when institutions fail to meet the needs of individuals and groups.
7A:  Distinguish between and analyze primary and secondary sources.

Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed

Harry S. Truman – Inaugural Speech (1949)

“…we must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas.

More than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery.  Their food is inadequate.  They are victims of disease.  Their economic life is primitive and stagnant.  Their poverty is a handicap and a threat both to them and to more prosperous areas.

For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and the skill to relieve the suffering of these people.

The United States is pre-eminent among nations in the development of industrial and scientific techniques.  The material resources which we can afford to use for the assistance of other peoples are limited.  But our imponderable resources in technical knowledge are constantly growing and are inexhaustible. 

I believe that we should make available to peace-loving peoples the benefits of our store of technical knowledge in order to help them realize their aspirations for a better life.  And, in cooperation with other nations, we should foster capital investment in areas needing development.

Our aim should be to help the free peoples of the world, through their own efforts, to produce more food, more clothing, more materials for housing, and more mechanical power to lighten their burdens. 

We invite other countries to pool their technological resources in this undertaking.  Their contributions will be warmly welcomed.  This should be a cooperative enterprise in which all nations work together through the United Nations and its specialized agencies wherever practicable.  It must be a worldwide effort for the achievement of peace, plenty and freedom.

With the cooperation of business, private capital, agriculture, and labor in this country, this program can greatly increase the industrial activity in other nations and can raise substantially their standards of living. 

Such new economic developments must be devised and controlled to benefit the peoples of the areas in which they are established.  Guarantees to the investor must be balanced by guarantees in the interest of the people whose resources and whose labor go into these developments.

The old imperialism – exploitation for foreign profit – has no place in our plans.  What we envisage is a program of development based on the concepts of democratic fair-dealing.

All countries, including our own, will greatly benefit from a constructive program for the better use of the world’s human and natural resources.  Experience shows that our commerce with other countries expands as they progress industrially and economically.

Greater production is the key to prosperity and peace.  And the key to greater production is a wider and more vigorous application of modern scientific and technical knowledge.

Only by helping the least fortunate of its members to help themselves can the human family achieve the decent, satisfying life that is the right of all people.


“Harry S. Truman Inaugural Address, Thursday, January 20, 1949”

Possible Questions and Suggested Answers Concerning the President’s Technical Assistance Proposal


Question 1:  Will this plan involve making large scale guarantees to private investment abroad?

Answer:   …The President was not referring to this specific problem, but he was stressing the point that this technical assistance program could in no sense be described as involving exploitation or imperialism.  This is basically a proposal for a cooperative program in which U.S. assistance will be provided only to countries requesting it and only under conditions acceptable to them (as well as to us).  Furthermore, we expect to provide much of this assistance through the UN and the Organization of American States, the recipient countries will themselves help in formulating the kind and conditions of this aid.


Question 2:  Which of the many underdeveloped areas of the world did the President mean?  For example, did he mean China?

Answer:  The President was stating a program in terms of general objectives and character.  It is not yet defined in terms of its detailed implementation, its geographic scope, etc….Whether China specifically would be included in the program is not a question of its being underdeveloped, for this is obvious.  The question here is whether or not a mutually acceptable cooperative program could be worked out with the effective authorities in China.  Unstable political conditions do not provide fertile soil for programs looking towards economic recovery and development.

Question 3:  Would the program envisage technical assistance behind the Iron Curtain?

Answer:  As pointed out in the answer to question 2, this program could only be worked out with countries willing to enter into cooperative arrangements acceptable to both parties….

Question 6:  Will not the new program involve the danger of “bankrupting” our economy by increasing the already heavy drain on our resources?

Answer:  The program does not involve capital investment by the U.S. Government, and its total cost is likely to be very small compared with our governmental aid programs or with the current international flow of private U.S. capital investment, with is between $1/2 billion and $1 billion annually.

Question 7:  How would you answer the assertion that this program is an implementation of Henry Wallace’s program of a quart of milk for every Hottentot?

Answer:  This is not a relief program nor a financial aid program.  The only implementation of Henry Wallace’s program involved is showing Hottentots how to run modern dairies if they want to learn how.

Question 10:  In view of national security interests, is there no limit on these scientific and technical skills to be exchanged?

Answer:  National security interests would, of course, be taken into account in administering this program, as in all others.

“Possible Questions and Suggested Answers Concerning the President’s Technical Assistance Proposal”, April 12, 1949.


Harry S. Truman – Address before Annual Convention of the American Newspaper Guild, June 28, 1950

“…It is hard for us to realize just how bad economic conditions are for many peoples of the world.  Famine, disease, and poverty are the scourge of vast areas of the globe.  Hundreds of millions of people in Asia, for example, have a life expectancy of 30 years or less.  That is what the country had when the people landed at Jamestown.  Many of these people live on inadequate diets, unable to perform the tasks necessary to earn their daily bread.  Animal plagues and plant pests carry away their crops and their livestock.  Misuse of natural resources exposes their land to flood and drought.

Conditions such as these are the seedbed of political unrest and instability.  They are a threat to the security and growth of free institutions everywhere.  It is in areas where these conditions exist that communism makes its greatest inroads.  The people of these areas are eagerly seeking better living conditions.  The Communists are attempting to turn the honest dissatisfaction of these people with their present conditions into support for Communist efforts to dominate their nations.

In addition to these attempts at persuasion, the Communists in these countries use the weapon of fear.  They constantly threaten internal violence and armed aggression.  The recent unprovoked invasion of the Republic of Korea by Communist armies is an example of the danger to which the underdeveloped areas particularly are exposed.

It is essential that we do everything we can to prevent such aggression and to enforce the principles of the United Nations charter.  We must and we shall give every possible assistance to people who are determined to maintain their independence.  We must counteract the Communist weapon of fear….Behind the shield of a strong defense, we must continue to work to bring about better living conditions in the free nations.

Particularly in the underdeveloped areas of the world, we must work cooperatively with local governments which are seeking to improve the welfare of their people.  We must help them to help themselves.  We must aid them to make progress in agriculture, in industry, in health, and in the education of their children.  Such progress will increase their strength and their independence.  The growing strength of these countries is important to the defense of all free nations against Communist aggression.  It is important to the economic progress of the free world.  And these things are good for us as well as good for them….

It is possible to make tremendous improvements in underdeveloped areas by very simple and very inexpensive means.  Simple measures, such as the improvement of seed and animal stocks, the control of insects, the dissemination of health information, can make great changes almost overnight.  This does not require vast expenditures.  It requires only expert assistance offered to the people on a genuinely cooperative basis….”


Senator Robert A. Taft – Speech on the North Atlantic Treaty – July 26, 1949

“Furthermore, can we afford this new project of foreign assistance?  I think I am as much against Communist aggression as anyone, both at home and abroad; certainly more than a State Department which has let the Communists overrun all of China…but we can’t let them scare us into bankruptcy and the surrender of all liberty, or let them determine our foreign policies.  We are already spending $15 billion on our armed forces and have the most powerful Air Force in the world and the only atomic bomb.  That, and our determination to go to war if Europe is attacked, ought to be sufficient to deter an attack by armed force.

We are spending $7 billion a year on economic aid to build up those countries to a condition of prosperity where communism cannot make internal progress.  Shall we start another project whose cost is incalculable, at the very time when we have a deficit of $1.8 billion dollars and a prospective deficit of three to five billion?  The one essential defense against communism is to keep this country financially and economically sound.  If the President is unwilling to recommend more taxes for fear of creating a depression, then we must have reached the limit of our taxpaying ability and we ought not to start a new and unnecessary building project…”


New York Times – “Foreign Aid Fate Up to Senate Today” – May 25, 1950

“The Senate agreed late today to vote at 4:30 p.m. tomorrow whether to approve or reject, in its present form, a bill to authorize $3,120,550,000 of economic assistance abroad during the coming fiscal year, beginning July 1.

At direct issue was a $35,000,000 item to start President Truman’s Point Four program, designed to raise productivity, commerce, living standards and morale in underdeveloped areas of the world.  It was assailed by Republicans throughout the day as “a scheme” for carrying on permanent worldwide economic aid after the end of the Marshall Plan in 1952

Senator George W. Malone, Republican of Nevada, holding the floor for three and one half hours, contended that the Point Four program, as drafted in Senate-House conference, could give major economic assistance even to Communist dominated countries.  He was supported by other Republicans, including Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio, minority policy leader.

Senator William E. Jenner, Republican of Indiana, held that the program was, in fact, a program sought eagerly by the Soviet Union in a plot to bleed America to death economically.  He named Earl Browder as “the Communist architect and advocate” of Point Four, and said Moscow intended to profit by it as it would “finance revolutionary movements” against “exploitation by Western imperial powers.”

Thus, Mr. Jenner told the Senate, Point Four “fitted into the Communist blueprint for the destruction of the Western world.”  Further, it had a part in “the tragic collapse of America’s interest in China,” he contended….

Senator Jenner sought to link the planning and purposes of Point Four to the charges by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin, that the State Department was Communist infested….

Polls indicated that the foreign economic assistance measure would get sufficient votes to send it to the White House for the President’s signature.  The House approved the whole program yesterday by a vote of 247 to 88.

Senator Jenner, in his move to link the Point Four program to charges against the State Department made by Senator McCarthy, introduced several names that have figured in the McCarthy case.  Among them were that of Haldore Hanson, an official concerned directly with the Point Four program.

“I do not know,” Mr. Jenner said, “whether Mr. Haldore Hanson is a card-carrying Communist or not, but I do know that as head of the State Department’s technical staff on Point Four, he is helping to draft this basic program which the Communists in the Politburo in Moscow are counting on as essential in their expanding conquest of the Western world.”                              


New York Times (1923-Current file); May 25, 1950;

ProQuest Historical Newspapers:  The New York Times (1851-2008) with Index (1851-1993) pg. 14






New York Times – “We Need All of Point Four” – July 7, 1950

“President Truman’s Point Four program for providing technical aid to underdeveloped countries ought to appeal to anybody with an economical drop of blood in his veins.  In contrast with the billions spent or to be spent for Marshall Plan aid or the military aid program, Point Four needed only millions.  Mr. Truman had asked for $45,000,000 for the 1951 fiscal year, or about 30 cents per capita for the United States population.  Subsequently, in bills pending in both houses of Congress, the 30 cents was whittled down to about 23 cents.  Yesterday it was reported that the Senate Appropriations Committee had cut the figure at least tentatively to as low as 7 cents per capita.  Is 7 cents as must as each of us would like to spend on this really very magnificent enterprise?

Point Four contemplates technical aid to United Nations and other agencies, national and international, in the fields of health, agriculture, education and industry.  In his address at the American Newspaper Guild convention on June 29 Mr. Truman gave some instances of what technical aid could do.  It could clear the malarial mosquito out of a rich farming area in northern India which otherwise was being abandoned.  It could bring pure water to an area in Iran.  It could stimulate the production of lumber, rice, palm oil and cocoa in Liberia.  It could be supplemented by investments made through the World Bank, the Export-Import Bank and private agencies.  The whole program is extremely elastic in that it might mobilize all sorts of public and private agencies at relatively little expense to the public agencies. 

The Point Four program will not win a war or a police action in Korea.  It might, however, over a period of years, alleviate the conditions that aid the Communists to penetrate the Far East and other relatively undeveloped regions.  It might demonstrate against the flood of Communist propaganda that mid-century capitalism is energetic, intelligent and humane.  We hope that the Senate Appropriations Committee and its opposite numbers in the House will realize these facts in time and will not commit the egregious error of trying to remake the world with a handful of pennies.”


New York Time (1923-Current file) July 7, 1950;

ProQuest Historical Newspapers;  The New York Times (1851-2008) with Index (1851-1993)

Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?

Day One


1)    Project the following picture of the Norris Dam in Tennessee.  Where is this?  Who built it?  When was it built?  Through discussion, let them know that it was built by the federal government in Tennessee in the 1930’s, then ask the following question:  Why was it built?




Discuss the TVA


After a discussion about what the TVA was, ask the following series of questions:  Was the TVA effective in the United States?  What would happen if we tried to export the TVA to underdeveloped parts of the world?  How could this be a good idea?  How could it be a bad idea?


2)    Have students read “Truman’s Inaugural Speech – 1949” on their own.  Using a rating scale from 1-10, have students rate how much they agree with Truman’s proposals (1 meaning they agree very little, while a 10 means they agree a lot.)  They should underline portions of the speech that led them to their rating.  Discuss the following questions:  What is he proposing?  Why is he proposing this?  Will this be controversial?  Why or why not? 


Introduce the concepts of context and subtext.  What was going on in the world when Truman gave this speech?  Are there things about Truman’s background that would influence him?


3)    Introduce this central question for the activity:  Was the Point IV Program misguided idealism, the United States fulfilling its responsibility to the world, a waste of time and money, or a noble attempt to stop communism?


4)    Give each student one of the five documents.  Tell students to read their document and be prepared to answer the central question from the point of view of their primary source.  You can have students do this individually or in groups.  Make sure students answer the central question from the point of view of their source, not their own opinion.


5)    Ask each group how they would answer the central question from the perspective of their primary source.  As each group shares their information, make sure to discuss the context and the subtext of the documents.  The context would be details about the time period that would help explain the source, while the subtext would be details specifically about the writer.  Who is the writer?  Who is he writing for?  Why is he writing this?


6)    After all groups have shared their primary source, give students access to all five primary sources and have them write a paragraph answering the central question from their point of view.  Tell them that they need to refer to three details from the primary sources that helped them formulate their opinion.


Day Two


7)    Have students sit in groups according to how they answered the central question.  Let each group defend their position. 



8)    Read an article that discusses foreign aid today.  This is a link to an article that discusses foreign aid to Pakistan:

Assessment: fully explain the assessment method in detail or create and attach a scoring guide

This is an essay question that could be used as a homework assignment, or as an item for a unit on the Cold War:


Essay:  President Truman’s proposal of the Point IV Program was highly controversial.  This proposal set in motion a debate that not only revolved around the cost of the program, but the State Department’s motivation for having the program in the first place.  In addition, it brings into question the role that our government should take around the world.  Our central question was this:  Was the Point IV Program misguided idealism, the United States fulfilling its responsibility to the world, a waste of time and money, or a noble attempt to stop communism?


Create a pie chart that ascribes a percentage to each of the four options (you can give each option anything from 0% to 100%, but the total for all four needs to add up to 100%).  You will be expected to pull material from the primary sources studied in class to justify why you gave each of the four answers its percentage.  Make sure to address the context and subtext of the documents.            



Essay Rubric








Student directly addresses the question in a satisfactory manner 

Exceeds expectations

Meets expectations

Approaches expectations

Fails to meet basic expectations

Student utilizes multiple primary sources from class to justify their answer

Exceeds expectations

Meets expectations

Approaches expectations

Fails to meet basic expectations

Student addresses how the context of the time period impacted their answer

Exceeds expectations

Meets expectations

Approaches expectations

Fails to meet basic expectations

Student addresses how the subtext of the author impacted their answer

Exceeds expectations

Meets expectations

Approaches expectations

Fails to meet basic expectations