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History and Current Issues for the Classroom

Tag: Teaching with the News (page 2 of 2)

Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and the State of the Union

“This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort.

It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won.”

-Lyndon B. Johnson, State of the Union Address, 1964

Coming on the heels of the fiftieth anniversary of LBJ’s War on Poverty speech, there is a lot of speculation regarding whether President Obama will capitalize on this timing to address U.S. poverty in his 2014 State of the Union Address on January 28th.

A recent article in The New Yorker, “The ‘P’ Word: Why Presidents Stopped Talking About Poverty,” provides an overview of the number of times poverty has appeared in State of the Union addresses since Lyndon Johnson’s last term in office.

The author of the piece, Jeff Shesol, points out that it took five presidents and twenty-three years for the term poverty, or “the poor,” to be said in State of the Union addresses the same number of times as during the Johnson administration. (President Johnson used those words forty times; so far, for President Obama, the tally stands at eight.)

As your students watch and discuss the State of the Union Address on January 28, have them take note of those topics, including poverty, that do and do not make the cut in the president’s formal statement. Will Obama overcome presidential fears of the “P” word(s), or will he avoid the rhetoric that had powerful (and controversial) implications for 1964?

Be sure to check out our “Surveying State of the Union Addresses” Teaching with the News Lesson, which we first released last January. This lesson features an interactive video timeline (including LBJ’s 1964 speech) and updated graphic organizers for your students to fill out before and after the address.

In the lesson, students will:

  • Understand the constitutional basis and history of the State of the Union Address
  • Explore significant moments in twentieth century State of the Union Addresses and identify important historic themes
  • Collaborate with classmates to identify likely topics for the State of the Union Address
  • Assess President Obama’s State of the Union Address

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Update: Debating the U.S. Response to Syria

“When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory. But these things happened. The facts cannot be denied. The question now is what the United States of America, and the international community, is prepared to do about it.”       —President Obama

Last night, President Obama addressed the American public on the topic of the crisis in Syria. After earlier calling for a vote in Congress on the use of targeted military strikes, he has now asked that Congress postpone their decision. With Russia pushing for Syria to hand over its stockpile of chemical weapons, new diplomatic alternatives have come to the fore. The president made clear, however, that the future of these talks is uncertain. Other options remain on the table.

In Choices’ Teaching with the News lesson, Debating the U.S. Response in Syria, students explore different foreign policy options for addressing the conflict in Syria, and have a chance to articulate their personal views on what role the United States should play. What is the United States’ ultimate goal in Syria? Should we pursue military intervention, diplomatic measures, or let other countries take the lead on seeking a resolution? Students are encouraged to share their views not only with their classmates, but with their elected representatives and the president. Referencing individual letters he received in his speech, President Obama made clear that the American public is engaged and grappling with the issues in Syria. We hope students will join in the discussion.

 

50 Years after the March on Washington: Student Activist Stories

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. This day gives us an exceptional reason to reflect on that event, the civil rights struggle, and the challenges that remain. It is important that students not only focus on the philosophy and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but also on the experiences of women, students, local organizers, and others who fought for equal rights. In this Teaching with the News lesson, 50 Years after the March on Washington: Student Activist Stories, you will hear the voices of activists who worked in local communities to bring about change. The lesson features short films with three veterans of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC): John Lewis, Judy Richardson, and Charlie Cobb. They share their motivations for joining the movement as young people and describe their daily life in the fight for equal rights. We hope your class (or friends, or whoever you may share this with) will consider what they would have done if they had been students in 1963. What lessons can we learn from these activists? What causes or movements do we feel connected to today?

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This lesson builds off some of the core themes covered in the Choices curriculum, Freedom Now: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, an entire unit dedicated to understanding the local work in Mississippi, from sit-ins to voter registration drives. As your class discusses the March on Washington, consider using these resources and others to incorporate a wide array of perspectives on the movement. Below are a few additional links.

50 Years Forward

PBS: Freedom Riders

Time Magazine: One Dream

The Drone Wars

President Obama spoke today on an aspect of U.S. foreign policy that arose in the years after 9/11: the use of drones to attack suspected terrorists.

Choices has a Teaching with the News lesson that helps students analyze the issues and controversies surrounding the U.S. use of drones. The lesson draws on three videos of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Rohde explaining some of the issues.

Until now, the United States has not acknowledged that they conduct these drone attacks. But it has been an open secret that the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) runs the drone program, which officials claim is one of the most successful programs against al Qaeda. Supporters argue that the attacks have forced al Qaeda to operate more cautiously.

There were many areas where we once had freedom, but now they have been lost…. We are the ones that are losing people, we are the ones facing shortages of resources. Our land is shrinking and drones are flying in the sky.” 

—Ustadh Ahmad Farooq, al Qaeda’s media chief in Pakistan, January 23, 2011

Because the program is secret, the method for determining who or what is a legitimate target is unknown. Critics argue that any U.S. government program designed to kill people should receive more public scrutiny.

 

Be Kennedy

Fifty years ago the United States and the Soviet Union came uncomfortably close to launching a nuclear war. What was it like to be John F. Kennedy during the missile crisis? Our friends at the Armageddon Letters produced this short video and others to engage young people in an exploration of this important topic, a topic with lessons for today. The phrase “The Armageddon Letters” refers to the unprecedented exchange of letters and other communications among Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro, before, during and after the crisis. The Armageddon Letters website is a rich transmedia resource of information, graphic novels, podcasts, and short films on the Cuban Missile Crisis—all based on decades of research on perhaps the most dangerous moment in human history. There is a wealth of material that teachers might find useful for their classrooms.

We have just released a free Teaching with the News Lesson that examines a fascinating (and scary!) letter from Castro to Khrushchev. The activity utilizes three short films that illuminate the thinking of Castro, Kennedy, and Khrushchev during the crisis.

Maine Teachers Use “Protests, Revolutions, and Democratic Change” TWTN Lesson for Innovative Project

Media coverage of pro-democracy protests across the Arab world – collectively known as the Arab Spring – has captured the world’s attention. Amy Sanders (Social Studies teacher) and Cathy Wolinsky (Instructional Technology Integrator) at Yarmouth High School in Yarmouth, Maine, seek classroom partners for a collaborative study of the Arab Spring. The project, modeled after the Flat Classroom Project, will begin in early October and last approximately one month. Utilizing the CHOICES Teaching with the News lesson, “Protests, Revolutions, and Democratic Change,” the project envisions students working in international collaborative teams to learn more about the protest movements in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain. Students also will be asked to reflect on what they have learned and connect this to their experiences with democracy. If you would like to join the project or would like more information, please visit: http://arabspring.wikispaces.com/ or contact Amy Sanders at amy_sanders@yarmouthschools.org.

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