There’s a scene in the movie Thirteen Days when the actor playing Bobby Kennedy shouts, “No! No! No! There’s more than one option here.”
The film isn’t perfect, but it really does capture a sense of the tension and drama of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Arguably it’s a great way to introduce high school students to this critical moment in history.
The noted historian Ernest R. May agreed: “Thirteen Days is not a substitute for history. No one should see the movie expecting to learn exactly what happened. But the film comes close enough to truth that I will not be unhappy if it is both a big success now and a video store staple for years to come, with youths in America and around the world getting from it their first impressions of what was probably the greatest international crisis in all of human experience.”
I would hope that the drama of the film would raise some key questions. How did it come to that point? And how did we avoid destroying ourselves? How can we avoid nuclear war?
Choices has produced curriculum resources for high school classrooms on The Cuban Missile Crisis that allow them to explore those questions in depth. The resources include printed materials that reflect the best scholarship and culminate in students reviewing primary sources and then recreating the debate in the ExComm about the U.S. response. They’ll see and advocate for the options Bobby Kennedy was shouting for in the movies. The resources also include a series of videos with Sergei Khrushchev, as well as Jim Blight and janet Lang, whose groundbreaking work on the crisis have made important contributions to what we know about how dangerous the crisis really was.