What role should the United States play in the world?
Ninth edition. December 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.

From the first days of the republic, people in the United States have debated how to balance priorities at home with their country’s involvement in international affairs. Today, the United States is considering its domestic needs and reassessing its international relationships. An array of economic, political, and social transformations are taking place both at home and abroad. For example, how should the United States address climate change? Nuclear weapons? Poverty and inequality? Consensus about how to address these issues is hard to achieve. Nevertheless, a healthy democracy requires debate and discussion about the values and policies that shape the United States’ place in the world. The U.S. Role in a Changing World helps students identify global issues, assess national priorities, and decide for themselves the role the United States should play in the world. The unit is divided into four 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 an additional synthesis lesson that allows students to synthesize new knowledge for assessment. You do not need to use the entire unit; feel free to select what suits your classroom needs.

“I really enjoy anything that leads to debate or deliberative discussions. I love that this curriculum helps bring in student-to-student engagement and helps facilitate critical thinking and learning that isn’t just direct instruction.” – Cameron, History and Geography Teacher, Illinois

Part I: A Changing World

Part I looks at the international system the United States helped create after World War II. It reviews the basis and lasting influence of the Cold War and its end on U.S. foreign policy. There are two lessons aligned with Part I: 1) American Exceptionalism, and 2) What Now? U.S. Foreign Policy after the Cold war.

Part II: Globalization

Part II examines several pressing issues facing the United States and the world today: the economy, public health and the environment, international relations, and human rights. There is one lesson aligned with Part II: Interpreting Political Cartoons.

Part III: The Post 9-11 Wars

Part III looks at the impact of 9/11 on U.S. policy and the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. There is one lesson aligned with Part III: The Constitution and the War on Terror.

Part IV: Four Security Concerns

Part IV explores current security concerns including global competition for power, nuclear weapons, terrorism, and cybersecurity. There is one lesson aligned with Part IV: Thinking about International Relations.


American Exceptionalism

Students analyze short quotations from American presidents about the U.S. role in the world and then compare and contrast diverse perspectives about the idea of American exceptionalism.

What Now? U.S. Foreign Policy after the Cold War

Students analyze speeches from President George H.W. Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, and UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali about the “new world order” after the Cold War. Three short case studies (the Persian Gulf War, Somalia, and Yugoslavia) allow students to evaluate the effects of three U.S. military interventions on international relations and U.S. foreign policy.

Interpreting Political Cartoons

Students explore a range of opinions on U.S. foreign policy by interpreting political cartoons from around the world.

The Constitution and the War on Terror

Students analyze the constitutional and legal basis for the war on terror and consider the roles of the public and the executive and legislative branches.

Thinking About International Relations

Students identify the issues, values, and assumptions integral to the debate about international affairs as they analyze different perspectives on a range of topics, including climate change, global public health, conflict and war, drones, cybersecurity, and surveillance.

The Options Role Play

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

Expressing Your Views

Synthesis Lesson: Students articulate their own opinions on U.S. foreign policy based on newly acquired knowledge, personally held values, and historical understanding. They then gather evidence and write a letter to elected officials.

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