by Melinda Gale, 2012 Choices Teaching Fellow
I’m reading through my student’s policy papers directed at President Truman as IB 20th Century students conclude their study of the Origins of the Cold War. I am again inspired both by the level of detail in their knowledge (given that we spent less than 3 weeks on the topic), and the grace and commitment with which they infuse their own values into these policy directives. No doubt actually assuming the roles of key players and debating the strengths and weaknesses of U.S. potential policy options has made the subject both more concrete and heightened their awareness that consequences of these decisions are both powerful and germane to the world we live in.
This year, as an extension of this unit, students considered an element from the IB Curriculum: the role of Cold War historiography. While considering various historians’ perspectives, students categorized each perspective as orthodox, revisionist, or post-revisionist. The lesson culminated with students working in groups of 3 to design book jackets on a Cold War topic from each of the three perspectives. Each group had to produce 1 orthodox, 1 revisionist and 1 post-revisionist book jacket on the same topic.
The book jackets themselves had 4 sections:
- Cover with image and byline
- Event summary (inside front)
- About the author (inside back)
- Reviews (back).
The assignment also served as a review for Cold War topics as students were assigned to “write their book” about one of the following topics:
WW II, Tehran, Yalta, Potsdam, Kennan’s Long Telegram, The Iron Curtain Speech, the Truman Doctrine, Marshall Plan, Soviet Occupation of Eastern Europe, the Czech Coup, the Berlin Blockade or Leadership Styles of Truman and Stalin.
The level of humor in their texts indicates to me that students are very comfortable with the concepts, and I attribute this level of comfort directly to their well-grounded understanding of the origins of the Cold War.