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History and Current Issues for the Classroom

Tag: Iraq

The United States, Iran, and Flipping the Coin on Nuclear Non-Proliferation

For many this November, anticipating the outcomes of soon-concluding nuclear negotiations with Iran seems impossible. The idea that we could only predict the resolution (or lack thereof) with a “coin toss” is complicated by this video by Joe Cirincione of the Ploughshares fund.

This concept of the interdependence of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament brings new questions about the role of nuclear countries in ensuring that Iran does not gain nuclear weapons. The questions we have been asking so far of the U.S. government and other countries at the table have been about how to deal with the talks themselves (how to create a mutually beneficial and binding agreement, how to ensure that Iran keeps its commitments as a signatory of the NPT, what to insist upon or where to compromise). What has perhaps been lacking from the conversation are questions about how the United States and other countries with nuclear weapons can create a global atmosphere where nuclear non-proliferation makes nuke-less countries feel more (rather than less) safe. According to Cirincione’s portrayal of nuclear politics, this safety comes from the other side of the coin—disarmament.

Despite President Obama’s rhetorical commitment to nuclear reduction (his Nobel Prize award was marked for his “vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons”), the White House has not effectively signaled to the rest of the world that the United States is taking any serious steps towards reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world. In fact, the Pentagon recently announced it intentions of vast increases in nuclear spending. Most of this spending will be on improving the safety of nuclear equipment and training the security forces in charge of them, but the failure to attach reductions in nuclear arms to the expensive nuclear development plan means the measures signal something very different to the rest of the world.

In an article in People’s Daily (the official daily newspaper of the Chinese government), Wen Xian Wang Hongjie calls the program a “new policy on revitalizing the U.S. nuclear deterrent” and implies that it is linked to disappointments in the outcomes of military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. The article ends cynically– “It is ironic that on the one hand the American government is taking vigorous action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, while on the other hand it is preparing for a complete overhaul of its own nuclear arsenal.”

The implications of these type of viewpoints are considerable. If the United States is not showing adequate commitments to nuclear reductions but is rather (in the eyes of many other countries) increasing its own nuclear armament, the prospects for wider disarmament and non-proliferation may be severely reduced. Regardless of the true intentions of the nuclear re-vamp, the fact that it was not linked to reductions in nuclear arsenals has led to many parts of the world perceiving the actions as projected increases in U.S. nuclear power. Cirincione’s coin flip, from non-proliferation to disarmament to non-proliferation and so on, can work in reverse. As nuclear powers like the United States are seen to be increasing their arsenals, their nuclear neighbors may do the same to maintain the balance of power, and non-nuclear countries in an increasingly nuclear world may face greater security pressure to develop nuclear weaponry.

As well as asking how the United States and other nuclear countries are using negotiations to keep Iran committed to non-proliferation, should we be asking what they have done outside of the negotiation room to make an agreement possible? Is it time to flip the coin?

 

Bring some of these questions into your classroom with Choices’ FREE Teaching with the News lesson, Good Atoms or Bad Atoms? Iran and the Nuclear Issue . The lesson features videos from outstanding scholars, Jo-Ann Hart, Trita Parsi, and Joe Cirincione and includes one of Choices’ hallmark Options Role Plays. View this and other Teaching with the News lesson plans here.

 

The TWTN lesson is a great supplement to these full-length units:

The Challenge of Nuclear Weapons

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Iran Through the Looking Glass: History, Reform, and Revolution

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The Middle East in Transition: Questions for U.S. Policy  (new edition coming soon!)

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Global Issues Since the Fall of the Wall: A Course Made for Choices Materials

Blog Post by Choices Teaching Fellow Deb Springhorn

21st-century-skillsFor 30 years I have lamented the lack of time to teach the current global situation in the context of a world history course that is supposed to go from the prehistoric to the present in one year!  Given the global paradigm shift after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rapid shift again after 9-11, it has become even more imperative to prepare students for global citizenship by developing their understanding of complex global issues and instilling the disposition to see others as they see themselves.  Choices Curriculum units and Teaching with the News lessons do just this.  The goal in developing the course, Global Issues Since the Fall of the Wall was to create an interdisciplinary, common core based course that would incorporate as many materials from the Choices Program as possible.  Beyond the Choices materials, students will read articles from a wide variety of journals and literature of several genres.  They will examine photographic images by James Nachtwey as a way of seeing themselves in such places Somalia, Bosnia, and Rwanda.

This year long course is divided into four units:

  • The New World [dis]Order of the 1990s: Nationalism, War, and Genocide
  • America After 9-11: The Single Story of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq
  • The Frustration and Hope of “The Arab Spring”
  • Globalization: Geopolitical, Environmental, and Economic Issues.

Each of the four units is organized around 21st Century Skills, reflecting the Common Core.  Choices Curriculum units and Teaching with the News lessons combine with the philosophical, literary, and artistic elements to provide students with an in-depth awareness of the complexities of the current global situation.

The web site for the course has unit overviews, detailed day-by-day plans, resource links, and annotated bibliographies of all the sources used for each of the units.  The attached document illustrates each of the four units with materials from the Choices Program  already incorporated in the first version of the course as well as others that will be added as the course continues to evolve.  The key literary works are listed as well to show the literary connections.

Using Infographics for Policy Deliberation on Afghanistan

by Amy Sanders
Yarmouth ME High School Teacher & Choices Teaching Fellow

Infographic 5 © Newsweek

I incorporate the CHOICES curriculum, The United States in Afghanistan, into my Middle East Studies course. The curriculum is an excellent resource that provides helpful information about Afghanistan’s history, geography, and people, and is the framework around which I build our study of Afghanistan.

When teaching CHOICES units, I often modify the policy deliberation into two distinct phases: first, I have students share key points related to their policy options; second, I move into a “fishbowl” discussion to deliberate the pros and cons of the policy options.

In the past, when teaching the CHOICES unit about the US Invasion of Iraq, I located data that the US Department of Defense reported to Congress. Before we began policy deliberations, I would project some of the data from these reports (which included, for example, graphs of weekly security incidents or percentage of Iraqis with electricity). I would ask students to sit with members of their policy option group and to confer and take notes about how each graph/chart related to their policy option. When we began the fishbowl deliberation, I had color copies of the data available in the center of the table. Students would reach for a relevant graph or chart to back up a point they wanted to make. This method encouraged students to incorporate additional relevant, current evidence into the deliberation.

I wanted to try something similar for our policy deliberation on Afghanistan, and this time asked students to analyze infographics related to the war in Afghanistan. I created a handout introducing students to infographics (which includes an analysis sheet). Students divided into small groups, with each group analyzing one infographic. I used the infographics from the links below:

Infographic 1 – The White House – Troop Levels in Afghanistan and Iraq

Infographic 2 – Internews – Violence Against Journalists in Afghanistan

Infographic 3 – Asia Foundation – Visualizing Afghanistan: A Survey of the Afghan People

Infographic 4 – Plumegraph.org – Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan

Infographic 5 – Newsweek – Where’s the Money Going in Afghanistan?

Infographic 6 – US Action  – Ten Years of War in Afghanistan: Bridges NOT Bombs!

Infographic 7 – National Post (Canada) – Blood and Treasure

Infographic 8 – New York Times – Indicators of Worsening Security Situation in Afghanistan

Students rotated the writing responsibility in their infographic analysis and recorded interesting insights and thoughtful questions – including about media bias. Small groups then shared their analysis with the whole group; as teams presented, students within policy option groups conferred about how the data related to their policy option.

Overall, student feedback about the lesson was positive, including these comments:

“Visuals stick in the brain better.”

“This activity gave me a new way to think about data and a new outlook on the war.”

“It made all of the data and numbers relative, which made me better understand the implications of the war.”

“I saw trends that I hadn’t really thought about before.”

“Some of the infographics broke down abstract numbers and helped me to relate to them.”

“The infographics we looked at brought different perspectives and showed how you can manipulate data and numbers to make a point.”

“The infographic about the danger in Afghanistan helped me to see the progression of danger very clearly. It helped me to see visually that conditions there have not necessarily gotten better even after 10+ years of war.”

“This data helped me to better understand and reinforced a lot of what we already learned from the [CHOICES] curriculum.”

“I’d never really thought about how many civilians in Afghanistan have been killed by insurgents vs. the US military. The data showed that far more have died at the hands of insurgents. That was eye opening.”

Immersed in a media-rich world, students are drawn to visualizations of data, and infographics give us new ways to think about and understand information. I believe it’s important for educators to help students both to make connections to their prior learning and to analyze and challenge the information presented in infographics. Students’ analysis of infographics tied into the CHOICES curriculum on Afghanistan and helped extend student learning. It was fun and engaging too… a win/win for my students.


The United States in Afghanistan is available from The Choices Program website. It is also available as an iBooks Textbook from the iBookstore.

Teaching the U.S. Role in the Middle East in 11th & 12th Grade Social Problems

DoD photo by Sgt. KimberlyJohnson, U.S. Army

By Guest Blogger Hayley Vatch

Choices Teaching Fellow

The U.S. role in the Middle East is a surprisingly popular topic of interest for students in my 11th and 12th grade Social Problems class.  Although the class is focused on U.S. domestic social issues such as poverty and racism, I also make time to address more global issues such as the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the refugees who have left these countries.  Studying the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is not only important for my U.S.-born students with relatives or friends who serve in the military, but also for the high population of students at my school who are refugees.  The public high school where I teach in Denver, Colorado has students from over 40 countries, with the second-largest population being from Iraq (Mexico is first), so I mainly focus on the U.S. in Iraq in my teaching.

Since my Social Problems course is only a semester, there is limited time to delve into a topic as complex as the U.S. presence in the Middle East.  Below is a fairly flexible plan that I have used the past two semesters of this course.  Combining Choices’ Teaching with the News resources, the Choices unit A Global Controversy: The US Invasion of Iraq with a National Public Radio audio clip, a Veteran guest speaker, and information from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees makes for a concise but informative, well-rounded, and thought-provoking study of the U.S .in Iraq.


Days 1-2 – Essential Question: Where is Iraq and who are its people?

Resources: As a warm-up, students create a KWL chart for the U.S. war in Iraq.  At this time they complete on the “Know” and “Want to Know” sections.  The “Learned” section is completed at the end of the unit. A Global Controversy: The US Invasion of Iraq – Student Book p. 2-13, Teacher Resource Book p. 6-7 (Part I reading and study guide questions)


Days 2-3 – Essential Question: Who was Saddam Hussein and what was Iraq like before the U.S. invasion?

Resources: A Global Controversy: The US Invasion of Iraq – Student Book p. 14-25, Teacher Resource Book p. 29-30 (Part II reading and study guide questions)


Day 4 – Essential Question: Why did the U.S. invade Iraq?  How does the war in Iraq affect Iraqi people and U.S. military?

Guest speaker: I use a good friend who served in Iraq in 2004 and again in 2007 with the U.S. Marine Corps.  I have my students write down at least one question that they would like the speaker to address.  I give the questions to the speaker a day ahead of time to give him an idea of what the students know and might not know.  Students’ homework is to write a reflection on what they learned from the speaker.


Day 5 – Essential Question: What are the social, political, economic, and human costs of war?

Resources: Teaching With the News lesson The Cost of War. I print out the appropriate reading from the web site and give each group of 3-4 students the graphic organizer handout along with one of the three web site readings.  They complete their own portion of the graphic organizer using the reading, and then we share our notes as a class.  I also always show the Scholars Online video from the lesson plan entitled “Why is it important for high school students to understand the costs of the United States’ wars?”  Students answer this question using information from the video as well as their own opinions as their exit assignment for the day.


Day 6 – Essential Question: What effect has war had on the civilians of Iraq, particularly those who have been displaced by the war?  What is the refugee experience in America like for Iraqi refugees?

Online Resources:

UNHCR data and summary of Iraq’s refugees

NPR audio clip about the struggles of refugees in America


Day 7 – Essential Question: How do people of various backgrounds perceive and experience the U.S. war in Iraq?

Resources: A Global Controversy: The US Invasion of Iraq– Blogging Iraq activity found on p. 55-59 of the Teacher Resource Book

Complete the “Learned” section of the KWL chart as an exit assignment.


A Global Controversy: The U.S. Invasion of Iraq is available from The Choices Program website. It is also available as an iBooks Textbook from the iBookstore.

 

New in Scholars Online: Charles Tripp

In November 2002, a team of Iraq experts was assembled to meet with Prime Minister Tony Blair and advise him on the consequences of going to war in Iraq. Charles Tripp, a professor of Middle East politics at the University of London, was a member of that team. Here he gives a fascinating, behind-the-scenes account of what happened at that meeting, in response to our question, “Do you think that British and U.S. leaders had a good understanding of Iraqi history when they decided to go to war?”.

This video is part of the Scholars Online collection for A Global Controversy: The U.S. Invasion of Iraq. See the other videos from this interview here.

New in Scholars Online: Senator Jack Reed

U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) is a member of the Armed Services Committee and the Appropriations Committee, and has been to Iraq fifteen times since the U.S. invasion in 2003. Here he talks about why high school students should care about the decision to invade Iraq.

This video is part of the Scholars Online collection for our upcoming unit, A Global Controversy: The U.S. Invasion of Iraq, to be published this summer.

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