The Choices Blog

History and Current Issues for the Classroom

Month: November 2013

Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda

On November 8, the typhoon known as “Haiyan” or “Yolanda” made landfall in the Philippines causing unimaginable destruction and loss of life.  As of November 20, an estimated ten million people in the Philippines have been affected and the death toll has risen to over 4,000. These numbers are predicted to climb. The international response—humanitarian assistance in the form of search and rescue operations, the provision of relief supplies, and logistical support—is well under way. The United States government has pledged $37 million in aid. President Obama announced on November 14:

As I told President Aquino earlier this week, the United States will continue to offer whatever assistance we can. Our military personnel and USAID team do this better than anybody in the world. And they’ve been already on the ground working tirelessly to deliver food, water, medicine, shelter and to help with airlift.”

esidents from Tacloban, one the hardest hit cities, wait in line for transportation aboard Philippine and U.S. military cargo flights to other cities such as Manlia and Cebu.USAID/Carol Han, OFDA

Residents from Tacloban, one the hardest hit cities, wait in line for transportation aboard Philippine and U.S. military cargo flights to Manlia or Cebu. November 16, 2013.
(USAID/Carol Han, OFDA)













If Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda has prompted discussions on natural disasters and international relief efforts in your classroom, Choices’ updated unit Dilemmas of Foreign Aid: Debating U.S. Policies (Fifth edition, October 2013) is one way to expand upon the questions and concerns raised by students. In the unit, students explore the history of U.S. foreign assistance and the institutions that distribute aid today. Readings, case studies, and primary sources prepare students to consider the trade-offs of foreign aid and articulate their own views on the future direction of U.S. policy. A large section of Dilemmas of Foreign Aid focuses on humanitarian assistance and raises questions that can be applied to the recent disaster in the Philippines. The unit is available in multiple formats (e.g. print, eText, iBooks Textbook) and meets Common Core standards. 

Additional Resources

  • For information on U.S. humanitarian assistance in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, visit USAID. The website features a useful factsheet with information on key developments, statistics on the millions of people affected by the typhoon, and a breakdown of U.S. assistance.
  • The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council—part of the government of the Philippines—publishes daily reports (often multiple times a day) with information on causalities, damaged houses, the ongoing emergency response, and international aid.  Note: If you share the reports with students, be advised that the section “Effects of Typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan)—Causalities” includes names of the dead and lists the cause of death. You might choose to remove these pages before distributing the reports to students.

New Course in Development: Global Issues Since the Fall of the Wall

By guest Blogger Deb Springhorn, Lebanon High School, Lebanon, NH

The course I am creating during the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation sponsored Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical, “Global Issues since the Fall of the Wall,” is based on three observations that I have had as a result of my 30 or so years in the classroom:

  1. Most high school programs of study spend little time on the contemporary global situation. American history courses seem to struggle to get past Vietnam; world history courses seem lucky to get to the Cold War.
  2. An interdisciplinary approach to content is dynamic and fosters a different engagement in the material; students can be “hooked” through more avenues – history, literature, philosophy, art, music – and the depth of knowledge deepens as a result.
  3. Art is a seductive and provocative entry point to difficult material. Classroom conversation begins with “what do you see?” No one has to know anything to participate. It’s easy to raise questions about why students are seeing what they are seeing.

I have found that including currents events when there is time does not sufficiently allow for teaching the complexity of the challenges that face us now.  Not only do we need to teach more about the global community in which we live, but we have to teach about it in a way that will foster 21st century skills and a disposition to care about being active global citizens.

The content of my course is reflected by the following themes:

  • The New World [dis]Order of the 1990s: Nationalism, War, & Genocide
  • America After 9-11: The Single Story of Afghanistan, Pakistan, & Iraq
  • Frustration & Hope of “The Arab Spring”
  • Globalization: The Crisis of Consumption of Resources

The structure of the course will be built around the 21st Century skills identified by the Common Core State Standards: Critical Reading, Information Literacy, Effective Oral & Written Communication, and Citizenship (problem solving, collaboration, & leadership).

The approach will be interdisciplinary so that, in the unit, “After 9-11” for example, when students study the historic roots and the current challenges of the situation in Afghanistan they will read one of Khaled Hosseini’s books such as Kite Runner; discuss possible exit strategies and their geopolitical ramifications using the CHOICES curriculum, The US in Afghanistan; and examine photographs taken by James Nachtwey, the pre-eminent war photographer of our time.  I will also use Choices Teaching with the News materials on “The Cost of War” and “Debating U.S. Drone Policy.”

I hope to make the course extremely flexible so that it could be a full year or half year offering. Alternatively, individual units could also be added to existing courses in world studies. Once more of the course is written, I will begin designing a website to accompany the course where I will include most of the materials I am developing.  Any teacher could use it either as a model/resource or as a complete curriculum.

If you have ideas, resources, or articles you think I should be aware of, please email me. Deb Springhorn, springhorn@aol.comIf you would like to be notified when the course is completed, feel free to contact me as well.

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