What role should the UN play in international politics?
Fourth edition. February 2014.
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.

The United Nations: Challenges and Change introduces students to the debates about the role of the UN in the world. Today, the United Nations is at the center of world affairs. With 193 member states and a vast network of global agencies, the UN’s work includes trying to end civil wars, most recently in Syria; enact environmental regulation; and coordinate efforts to alleviate poverty. Since Franklin Roosevelt led the creation of the UN, the United States has provided leadership and had unmatched influence within the United Nations. Today, as the international community debates changes to the UN, the United States must consider the role it will play within the organization and the role it should have in international affairs. The unit is divided into two parts. Each part includes:

  • Student readings
  • Accompanying study guides, graphic organizers, and key terms
  • Lessons aligned with the readings that develop analytical skills (including at least one that focuses on building geographic literacy) 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 used the United Nations unit as a final project in the spring and it was an outstanding way to wrap up a year of modern world history. The unit has excellent readings and questions. I love being able to customize the student view and being able to modify Google doc versions of documents using Digital Editions.” – Alison, Digital Editions User

Part I: The UN and the International Community

Part I traces the emergence of the League of Nations to the formation of the United Nations. It explores the charter and structure of the UN. There are two lessons aligned with Part I: 1) Power and Representation in the United Nations, and 2) Writing a Charter.

Part II: Debating the UN's Role

Part II examines the UN’s role in the world through an evaluation of three areas of UN work: the Security Council, peacekeeping, and human rights. There is one lesson aligned with Part II: Role-Playing a UN Decision.


Power and Representation in the United Nations

Students consider issues of geographic representation and power on the Security Council, as well as Saudi Arabia's decision to reject a seat on the Council.

Writing a Charter

To comprehend the complexities of constructing a "founding document," students write a charter for a hypothetical high school sports conference.

Role-Playing a UN Decision

Students weigh in on possible responses to a hypothetical crisis and evaluate the UN decision-making process from multiple perspectives.

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 toward the United Nations in preparation for writing their own option.

Coping with Crisis

Synthesis Lesson: Students examine the crisis of the civil war in Syria and work in small groups to consider both the UN and U.S. response.

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