The Choices Blog

History and Current Issues for the Classroom

Author: Andy Blackadar (page 3 of 4)

Interesting Talk on North Korea

Choices recorded this talk to teachers by Jonathan Pollack, a leading expert on North Korea. The talk was in 2009, but most all is extremely relevant given the events there right now.

The talk has six parts, each fairly short, but packed with interesting information.

A History of North Korea
The Two Koreas
A Nuclear Timeline
Concerns About North Korea’s Nuclear Program
Where Do We Go from Here?

We also have a some additional resource suggestions here and a short curriculum with a roleplay, Conflict on the Korean Peninsula: North Korea and the Nuclear Threat.

Teaching About North Korea and Nuclear Weapons

North Korea’s recent nuclear test is a reminder of the serious challenges facing the United States and other countries in the region. The video shows high school students doing the role-play simulation from Conflict on the Korean Peninsula: North Korea and the Nuclear Threat. Although the video was made before the February 13, 2013 test, it illustrates how well a role-play simulation engages students with a complex topic.

In addition, in the coming weeks Choices is preparing to release a revised edition of The Challenge of Nuclear Weapons. The edition will help students consider President Obama’s  goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

Is this America?

On August 22, 1964, Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer of Ruleville, Mississippi spoke to the Democratic National Convention and to a national television audience. As millions watched her speech on television, President Lyndon Johnson, who did not want political controversy to interrupt his march to his party’s nomination for the presidency, called a press conference to cut off her television coverage. But stations replayed her speech later that night, and her words captured the attention of people around the country.

Hamer’s words were an impassioned plea for justice for African Americans and a call for all the people of the United States to consider what kind of country they lived in.

“Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?”

—Fannie Lou Hamer, August 22, 1964

Hamer was one of many civil rights activists who chose to “get in the way,” as Representative John Lewis says in the video.

The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s transformed the United States, wrenching it away from the Jim Crow era and challenging the systemic racism that denied African Americans their Constitutional rights. And while national figures like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks are celebrated for their important roles, the foundation of the civil rights movement was the local activism and organizing that took place in communities throughout the country. A new curriculum from the Choices Program, Freedom Now: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi focuses on the local activism of the civil rights movement in Mississippi. Mississippi symbolized both the vicious, systemic racism that existed throughout the South, and the powerful black movement that developed in response. The civil rights movement that emerged in small towns throughout Mississippi rarely made national headlines, but thousands of black Mississippians put their lives on the line everyday in pursuit of a better life.

For more than twenty years, the Choices Program has brought controversial issues to high school classrooms. The program’s first publication was about future of the U.S.-Soviet relationship. With the help of scholars at Brown University, the program began by focusing primarily on interational issues that were current and contentious. Over the years, the program expanded to include to include coverage of historical events that had an international dimension. Much of the work makes new and innovative scholarship from Brown accessible to high school teachers for use in their classrooms. With the exception of John Lewis, who spoke at last year’s commencement, all of the people in the video teach at Brown.



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.

Being Khrushchev

This short film produced by Koji Masutani ’05 in collaboration with James Blight and janet Lang is part of a research effort called The Armageddon Letters. This multimedia project, based at the University of Waterloo, focuses on the most dangerous moment of the Cold War: the Cuban Missile Crisis. The project website when it is launched in mid-September will have a series of short films that explore this critical event.

Blight and Lang did groundbreaking work on the missile crisis while at Brown’s Watson Institute for International Studies. With the fiftieth anniversary approaching in October, Blight and Lang are focussing on the lessons in political psychology that transcend the the Cold War and relate to the role of international leaders and nuclear weapons.

The Choices Program recently released a version of its curriculum materials on the missile crisis for the Ipad. The interactive Ibook contains text, images, maps, and more than twenty short video clips of scholars explaining the importance of the events. Ultimately the materials challenge students to consider the question: Why are the lessons of the missile crisis relevant today?

Revisiting Westward Expansion

In recent years, scholars have worked to reexamine the history of the West by focusing on Native American groups. With limited sources, they have pieced together histories that do not generalize the experiences of Native Americans, and that accurately portray the complicated interactions that occurred in the West.

A new curriculum resource from the Choices Program, Westward Expansion: A New History looks at this reexamined history from two historical perspectives. First, students explore U.S. expansion from a broad perspective by considering the major events and policies that accompanied U.S. westward growth in the nineteenth century. Then students explore this history on a local level using the research of Brown University Professor Karl Jacoby on the effects of U.S. expansion on groups in southern Arizona. This case study is not emblematic of the entire West; rather, it allows students to understand the complicated and violent ways in which U.S. expansion affected specific individuals and communities. Students are challenged to consider the ways in which we remember history, and efforts to re-envision the past.

Choices recently produced videos of Colin Calloway of Dartmouth College and Karl Jacoby of Brown University for use with these materials.

Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empiricism

There’s a good read at Foreign Policy about the misperceptions that contribute to the debate about Afghanistan. It has a list of the limited number of Afghanistan experts in the United States. Several of these scholars helped Choices with its curriculum unit The United States in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan will continue to be a topic of debate in U.S. foreign policy, and will likely garner extra attention because of the presidential election. Our curriculum materials are a good way to bring the expertise of those few scholars of Afghanistan into classrooms and then on into the hands of students. Watch the video clip to get a sense of what they have to offer and some the issues raised in the unit.

Events in Syria Bear Watching

The situation in Syria continues to worsen. A UN sponsored commission, led by Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, has just issued a report on the deteriorating conditions there and the suffering of civilians. Pinheiro, who collaborated with Choices on its human rights curriculum, testified today (12.2.11) in an emergency meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission, “The extreme suffering of the population inside and outside Syria must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Victims expect nothing less from the United Nations and its member states.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has called for urgent measures by the international community.

In this video Pinheiro describes the role of UN in protecting human rights.

We at Choices plan to release a Teaching with the News on the latest developments on the Arab Spring in about ten days. An updated version of Shifting Sands: Balancing U.S. Interests in the Middle East is schedule for release in late 2011.

Here are a few interesting sources on current events in Syria:

Afghanistan Curriculum Materials

Today we released our new curriculum materials on the U.S. role in Afghanistan. We’re excited! All of us have been working hard on this for parts of the last year. The video gives you a sense of the ideas and themes in the printed curriculum as well as the content of the Scholars Online videos. Information about the curriculum, The United States in Afghanistan, is available on our website.

Great Resource on the Green Line

An upcoming vote in the General Assembly of the UN on recognizing a Palestinian state is going to be getting more and more attention in the coming days.

Here’s a useful resource from the New York Times on the role of the Green Line in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

There’s a terrific animated map, four short videos with different perspectives on the future, and five images with captions.

Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

As Israelis marched on June 1 to commemorate Israel's capture of the Old City from Jordan in 1967, Palestinians climbed to the rooftops, waving Palestinian flags in protest. The marchers wound their way through Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood on the Palestinian side of the Green Line that has become restive in the past few years after Israeli settlers began moving in. (Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times.)

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