Teaching Activities (Free)

Modern Times

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond.
This lesson uses Charlie Chaplin’s hilarious classic film, Modern Times, to help students think about the impact of “scientific management” on the workplace.

Themes: Economics, Labor, Social Class

moderntimes_charliechaplinCharlie Chaplin’s Modern Times is a graphic and entertaining illustration of two lessons from Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond’s The Power in Our Hands, also included at the Zinn Education Project: Paper Airplane Simulation and Free to Think, Talk, Listen, or Sing.

Paper Airplane Simulation demonstrated the transition to increased management control and the lessened skill levels and less meaningful work that followed. Free to Think, Talk, Listen, or Sing gave the historical background. Here students see the workplace consequences. Although the movie is a caricature, it highlights people’s real experiences. Notice the absence of black workers, who will shortly become an important force in unionizing heavy industry.

The Power In Our Hands Available for Download

This is one of the 16 lessons available from The Power In Our Hands. Other lessons available for individual download are:


Unit I: Basic Understandings

Unit II: Changes in the Workplace/”Scientific Management”

Unit III: Defeats, Victories, Challenges

Unit IV: Our Own Recent Past

Unit V: Continuing Struggle

Order the book online from Monthly Review.