Teaching with the News ARCHIVES
The U.S. Role in the World
We are in a period of heightened public debate in the United States concerning America's role in the world. What do we think? What issues are of most concern to us? What kind of world do we want in the 21st century?
This Lesson includes:
The Four Futures
The Four Futures provided with this lesson are not intended as a menu of choices. Rather, they are framed in stark terms to highlight very different policy approaches. Each alternative includes a set of policies on specific issues, an overview of the beliefs that underlie it, some arguments in support of the position, and some of its risks and tradeoffs.(Note: Critiques come from the perspective of supporters of the other Futures.) The Futures in Brief provide an overview.
It is important that students understand that no one Future as it is framed here reflects the views of any one organization or national leader. It is the students' job to sort through the four Futures, think about their concerns and values, discuss these with their peers, and then frame an "Future 5 " that reflects their own views.
Considering the Role of Values in Public Policy (optional introductory activity)
DAY I—Preparation and Presentation of the Options
Break your class up into five groups. Assign four of the groups a Future (one for each group). Assign the remaining group the role of the President and his advisors or of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Futures Presenters: Their task will be to review their assigned Future, consider the values that underlie it as well as the tradeoffs involved, and then develop a short presentation to give to the class. This presentation should make the best possible case for this Future. (If your class is large, you may also want to assign some students the role of representatives of other nations. They can be asked to present their views on the Futures after all of them have been presented.)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Their task will be to review each of the Futures presented in the material and prepare clarifying questions to ask of the "advocates" of each Future after their presentation. The intent is to make sure that the Futures, as they are written, are fully understood prior to deliberation on their merits, risks, and tradeoffs.
Foreign Representatives: If your class is large, you may want to assign some students the role of representatives of other nations. They can be asked to present their views on the Futures after all of them have been presented.
Note: You may find one or more of the short video clips available from Scholars Online a useful introduction. These clips address a wide range of issues. Your selection may depend upon what topics you have addressed in class.
DAY II—Shared Deliberation and Individual Judgment
With the Futures presented and understood, students have a foundation for deliberation on the merits and the tradeoffs of each. Ultimately students will articulate their own perspective on the issue.
Deliberating on the Futures: Begin your deliberation by asking students to identify the things they like and the things that concern them about each of the options presented. Encourage students to listen carefully to each other rather than to try to "win" the argument. The intent of deliberative discourse is to see that all perspectives are heard and considered and that all participants have a place at the table. The outcome should involve a more sophisticated understanding on the part of all participating. See Guidelines for Deliberation. You may also find Deliberating "Pros" and "Cons" of Policy Options a useful activity.
Participating in the Student Ballot: After classroom discussion, give all of the students an opportunity to register their own views using the online Ballot on America's Role in the World. A report will be developed periodically and disseminated to elected officials and policymakers.
Articulating Their Own Views: "Future 5": After students have deliberated together on the merits and tradeoffs of the Futures presented in this lesson and participated in the online ballot, give all of the students an opportunity to articulate their own considered judgments on the issue by framing their "Future 5." They may want to borrow heavily from one of the positions presented, combine ideas from several, or take a new approach altogether.
Let Your Voice Be Heard
Encourage your students to express their views and continue the dialog.
Contacting Elected Officials: Students could write letters to elected officials. They can find contact information for the White House at www.whitehouse.gov/contact and their U.S. Senators and their Representatives at thomas.loc.gov.
Writing Locally: Students could write letters to the editor of a local paper. Or they could write an article for the school or community newspaper.
Bringing the Topic to Others: Students could also play a leadership role bringing this topic to other groups. Possibilities include engaging other classes in school in this topic, holding a forum in the school, or sponsoring a discussion with community members in a public setting. [Students who prusue such projects are encouraged to contact the Choices Program at email@example.com. Put "student projects" in the subject line.]
See Supplemental Resources for additional resources.
Additonal Resources from the Choices Program
The U.S. Role in a Changing World, is a one-week unit that helps students reflect on global changes, assess national priorities, and decide for themselves the role the United States should play in the world today. Readings include discussions of security, economy, environment, culture, and politics.The four Futures are at the heart of the unit.
You may also find other topics in Teaching with the News useful. Topics include Iraq, Iran, environmental issues, terrorism, and more.
Scholars Online provides videos with scholars and policymakers addressing questions raised by exploration of this topic. They are designed for use in classrooms, for homework, and for professional development.
Supplemental Materials section for The U.S. Role in a Changing World provides links to additional resources related to this issue.