The Choices Blog

History and Current Issues for the Classroom

Month: April 2011

One Year Later: The BP Oil Spill

On April 20, 2010, an explosion at the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico led to the largest accidental marine oil spill in history. Oil’d, a short animation by Chris Harmon, does a nice job of putting the scale of the disaster into perspective, by showing how those 205 million gallons of oil would have been used.

Five Good Books on Afghanistan

I am in the midst of developing curriculum materials on Afghanistan. Here are five books that I would recommend to anyone interested in the current situation, the country’s history and people, and the U.S. role there.

The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan: Politics of Reform and Modernization, 1880-1946. Author: Vartan Gregorian. Written in 1969, this is a beautifully written, thoroughly researched work.

Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History. Author: Thomas Barfield. Written by an anthropologist, this book from 2010 is a rich source of information; it covers the history to present nicely and give attention to the lives of ordinary Afghans as well.

Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Author: Steve Coll. Published in 2004, it is well written and delivers what the title promises.

Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. Author: Ahmed Rashid. 2008. Lots of great sources from all sides.

The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda. Author: Peter Bergen. 2011. Current and insightful.

Keep Your Eyes on Yemen and Syria

While the media focuses on Libya, events in Yemen and Syria also deserve our attention. I think that the scale of the protests there suggest that change is coming soon.

Al Jazeera English is giving it good coverage.

Thirteen Days: More than One Option

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.

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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