By Guest Blogger Lisa Carter
Choices Teaching Fellow, Housatonic Valley Regional High School, NY
We have just completed the Afghanistan unit in an honors level seniors course, “The Comparative Philosophy of War”. We spent the semester studying attitudes about fighting wars throughout history and ended the course with an in-depth look at the war in Afghanistan. My students LOVED the unit. We began our study with a field trip to NYC where we visited the 9/11 memorial and then the United Nations where we had a special briefing on Afghanistan by Kieran Dwyer, a member of the Peacekeeping staff.
We followed the unit as is written and used the supplemental materials as well as the Scholars Online videos. The “Looking at Afghanistan” lesson was extremely successful in terms of identifying students’ impressions about Afghanistan. There was a lot of great discussion and they realized just how much they had to learn about the details of the country before they could begin to really understand the situation there. My students did not have any difficulty with the reading materials and there was much animated class discussion throughout the unit.
We watched the films Human Terrain, Restrepo and clips of Charlie Wilson’s War. I plan to include Afghan Star next year. The films, along with the Scholars Online videos, were extremely important in helping students understand different aspects of the war as well as the Afghan culture.
I took about three weeks to complete the unit in a modified block schedule. This is a ten-day rotation where I see the students for seven meetings. Four meetings are 48 minutes long and three are 72 minutes long. The 72-minute blocks were the most interesting as we could combine film and discussion in a comfortable amount of time.
The role play was excellent. The students were so well prepared and had become so curious about the details of the war and life in Afghanistan that many began to follow the war more closely in the media and they conducted some of their own research about Afghanistan and the war. They could speak to the complexity of the political, geopolitical, cultural and economic aspects of each option. Those students who were the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked great questions as well.
I give a survey to students at the end of this course and nearly every student cited the Choices units as the best part of the class. (We also used Responding to Terrorism in September). I look forward to teaching this unit again next year!