The Choices Blog

History and Current Issues for the Classroom

Month: November 2016

The Death of Fidel Castro

The death of Fidel Castro marks a milestone. Castro was a key figure in U.S. foreign policy over the past fifty years, a villain straight out of central casting in the imaginations of many Americans. At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he actually wrote a letter to Khrushchev encouraging him to use nuclear weapons against the United States if it invaded Cuba. Khrushchev thought he was crazy. The short animation from our friends at the Armageddon Letters, gives some more insight and complexity to Cuba’s “maximum leader” Fidel Castro.

But Fidel has been playing less and less of a role for some time, and the new relationship between the United States and Cuba has most likely put the two countries on a very different path as this video from Choices with Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo suggests.

Cuba has been undergoing a transformation for a while. The death of Fidel marks an opportunity for high school classrooms to explore what comes next in Cuba. A dimension worth considering is what kind of future the people of Cuba want for themselves. Change is coming, but Cubans have very different opinions about their country and its history—this affects how they think about the future. A curriculum unit from Choices, Contesting Cuba’s Past and Future, helps students step into the shoes of ordinary Cubans and consider what comes next.

This curriculum helps students gain a broader understanding of the country that has often occupied the attention of the world since 1959. Besides offering an overview of Cuban history, the unit focuses on the legacies of Cuba’s relationships with Spain, the United States, and the Soviet Union. Although most recognize Cuba’s role in the Cold War, recent research suggests that Cuba often marched to its own drum, and not that of the Soviet Union. The readings trace Cuba’s history from the country’s precolonial past to its  recent economic, social, and political changes. A central activity helps students recreate the discussions Cubans on the island are having about their future.

Contesting Cuba’s Past and Future contains lessons  and Videos that complement the readings and lessons.

Values and Public Policy in the Classroom

We have just been through a contentious national election. Some people are pleased with the outcome; others are not. Most, regardless of their views, are surprised and need to recalibrate. Our students are no different.

Since the election, we have heard from teachers around the country who decided to use the lesson Values and Public Policy to help their students consider their own values and engage in constructive civic dialogue. We’ve shared some of their stories below

Mashpee High School, MA

Celeste Reynolds from Mashpee High School used the lesson to help her students deal with their fears and confusion in the aftermath of the election.

“I am writing you to tell you and your staff thank you for your curriculum!  Yesterday I had students walking into my classroom scared and confused.  I was not sure what to say or do, so I got on your website, printed out the value cards, and started class.  It was one of the most moving classes I have experienced.  All of my students left class that day feeling safe and relieved for having a safe place to discuss the political environment.  Both sides were represented, but each side listened to each other in a civil manner.  I was so proud of each student for his or her honesty and courage.  Thank you for creating curriculum that helps create a safe learning environment and helping students learn to have civil, productive dialogue.”

Modern Global Issues in Chicago, IL

A teacher from a Chicago high school is using the activity with her 9th/10th grade Modern Global Issues class leading up to the election.

“After doing the values activity and the role play in the U.S. Role in the World, each student created his/her own option using the top three values he/she selected from the Values and Public Policy activity.  They shared their Options in creative visuals and written responses. Students created collages, 3-D representations of their values, etc.”


We invite others to share their experiences helping their students to discuss the results of the election and express their views. Send your stories to with “election” in the heading. We can’t promise to publish all of the reports, but will try to post a sampling of different approaches.

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