How should the United States respond to the threat of terrorism?
Ninth edition. July 2021.
PREVIEW THIS UNIT. The preview includes the table of contents, a student reading excerpt, and one lesson plan. PREVIEW ALL UNITS. Additional unit descriptions for the Current Issues Series that summarize the historical context, student readings, and skill development are available on this MIRO BOARD.

Although September 11, 2001, marked a pivotal moment for many people in the United States and in other countries, terrorism did not begin or end that day. In fact, the threat of terrorism in the United States has changed since 2001. According to an October 2020 report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the threat from al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist groups continues, but no longer represents the greatest threat to people in the United States. The increasing number of attacks by white extremists in recent years against Jewish, Black, Muslim, Latino people, and other groups led the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to classify these extremists as the most dangerous threat to the United States. Concerns about terrorism persist and raise important questions about how to respond. What is the best way to respond to terrorism? How great is the threat? What must be done overseas? What should be done in the United States? Responding to Terrorism: Challenges for Democracy helps students consider these important issues and prepares them to advocate for different options for U.S. policy in a simulation set in the U.S. Senate. The unit is divided into three parts. Each part includes:

  • Student readings
  • Accompanying study guides, graphic organizers, and key terms
  • Lessons aligned with the readings that develop analytical skills and can be completed in one or more periods
  • Videos that feature leading experts

This unit also includes an Options Role Play as the key lesson and additional synthesis lessons that allow students to synthesize new knowledge for assessment. You do not need to use the entire unit; feel free to pick and choose what suits your classroom needs.

“Because 9/11 has shaped the lives of all of our students in innumerable ways, there arguably isn’t a more important unit of study for all of them to be immersed in. The Choices Program creates among the very best in inquiry based, deeper learning experiences. It is a must!” – Andy, Social Studies Teacher, Rhode Island

Part I: The Origins and Evolution of Terrorism

Part I traces the history and evolution of terrorism, showing how tactics and objectives have changed. There is one lesson aligned Part I: Oral History and September 11.

Part II: The Threat of Terrorism

Part II examines the threat that terrorism poses in the United States and around the world. There is one lesson aligned with Part II: Defining Terrorism.

Part III: Responding to Terrorism

Part III explores the U.S. responses to terrorism and the issues that complicate the response. There is one lesson aligned with Part III: Interpreting Political Cartoons.


Oral History and September 11

Students explore the human dimension of the September 11 attacks by conducting an interview. Students consider the benefits and limitations of using oral history to learn about the past, and assess their own views on September 11.

Defining Terrorism

Students develop a working definition of terrorism by determining whether several groups described in five historical case studies should be called "revolutionaries" or "terrorists." Students explore the debate over legitimate and illegitimate uses of force and listen to several scholars discuss the phrase, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."

Interpreting Political Cartoons

Students examine political cartoons on various topics including civil liberties, refugees, extremism, and the U.S. response to terrorism. Students identify the viewpoints and messages of political cartoonists.

The Options Role Play

The Options Role Play is the key lesson in the unit, and it asks students to examine three distinct options for U.S. policy on terrorism in preparation for writing their own policy recommendations.

Joining the Debate on U.S. Policy

Synthesis Lesson: Armed with historical knowledge and a sense of their own values, students deliberate and then develop their own coherent recommendations. They then apply their policy recommendations to three hypothetical crises.

The Constitution and the War on Terror

Synthesis Lesson: Students analyze the constitutional and legal basis for the war on terrorism and consider the roles of the public and the executive and legislative branches.

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