The Choices Blog

History and Current Issues for the Classroom

Month: March 2011

Teaching with the President’s Libya Speech

President Obama’s speech last night had a few media pundits talking about an “Obama Doctrine.” Below is an excerpt from The U.S. Role in a Changing World that helps students think about the role of presidential doctrines in U.S. history and what an Obama Doctrine might actually be.

Have students read the excerpt below and then watch the president’s speech.

  • Do students think the president established a doctrine? Or is this something less sweeping?

Presidential Doctrines (Excerpted from The U.S. Role in a Changing World)

Throughout history, U.S. presidents have had their names attached to the foreign policy doctrines they established. (A doctrine is a fundamental principle of a policy.) Below are a few examples of famous presidential doctrines.

The Monroe Doctrine: President James Monroe’s (1817-1825) stated that efforts by European nations to colonize or interfere in the Americas (North and South) would be considered as acts of aggression that demanded a U.S. response.

The Truman Doctrine: President Harry Truman (1945-1953) asserted that the United States would support democracy around the world and help states and peoples resist the spread of Soviet Communism.

The Carter Doctrine: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) warned that the United States would use force to protect the oil of the Persian Gulf region from the Soviet Union.

The Bush Doctrine: President George W. Bush (2001-2009) said that the United States would use military force preventively against perceived threats to the United States even if a threat was not immediate.

The Obama Doctrine?: President Barack Obama (2009- ) does not have a doctrine named after him—yet. Are there any clues about what an Obama Doctrine might be?

Using Prezi as a teaching tool

Prezi is an online presentation-maker that takes PowerPoint to the next level. Rather than going through a presentation slide by slide, Prezi lets you lay out your presentation on a visual canvas and then move, rotate, scale, and zoom through it.

For some ideas on how you might use Prezi in your classroom, take a look at this Prezi by Paul Hill.

The basic version of Prezi is free to use, but they also offer a Student/Teacher license that gives you access to some of the pro features.

Update: Prezi has added some new features!

The Arab Spring

Nowruz is the name of the Iranian New Year. It occurs each year on the vernal equinox (around March 21st) and is celebrated by Iranic peoples throughout the world. Nowruz is the holiday of spring, and people come together to celebrate light and renewal by cleaning out their homes, having bonfires, and feasting. This Nowruz, President Obama delivered a message to the people of Iran, pledging support for their dreams and aspirations and for democratic change. I think that President Obama’s words are eloquent and compelling, but they raise complicated questions about the United States’ role in the many social movements of this Arab Spring. The U.S. has decided to use force to help end the dictatorship in Libya, but can military might really have a positive effect when the U.S. relationship to the region is so fraught? Is the U.S. now obligated to use force in other countries like Bahrain and Yemen? There are no easy answers, but we must continue to ask questions. I think the coming months give teachers an amazing opportunity to have conversations with their students about the Middle East–a region rich in history and tradition where so many people are standing up and making their voices heard. Many of the protesters in Egypt last month, and in Iran last year, were youth. Challenge your students to learn more about the lives and cultures of their fellow high schoolers in countries throughout the Middle East, and ask them to consider the role of the United States in democratic movements abroad.

Economic Literacy


Since the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008, The Choices Program has received numerous requests to develop curriculum materials for high school classrooms about international economics, the global financial system, competing economic theories, etc. Creating curriculum is a challenging process regardless of the topic, but the general lack of coverage of economics information in high school makes it a steeper slope to climb. Introducing students to what, for many, is a completely new academic discipline is a daunting task.

What did we do?

Step 1: Ask an Expert

Choices started with an expert on the international political economy. We sat down at the Watson Institute to do an interview with Professor Mark Blyth about some of the economic principles behind the globalized economy.

Step 2: Use New Media to Clarify Information

Choices used new media and animations to help emphasize and illustrate the points Blyth makes during his interview.

Step 3: Connect the Expert with High School Classrooms

Choices has a long-standing mission to bring high quality content on international issues to high school classrooms.

Blyth’s videos on the global economy accompany International Trade: Competition and Cooperation in a Globalized World. Blyth also took the leading role in Austerity, an editorial video produced by The Watson Institute—worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet.

New in Scholars Online: Robert Lee

In January, we interviewed Robert Lee, an associate professor of American Civilization at Brown University, on the topic of immigration. Lee studies the history of Asians in the United States, racial formations, and relations between Asia and America.

In this video, Professor Lee talks about how race has affected the immigrant experience. Visit Scholars Online to see more videos from this interview, which can be used with our unit, U.S. Immigration Policy in an Unsettled World.

The path of protest

The Guardian has put together an excellent interactive timeline that tracks the events in the Middle East over the past few months.

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