Students examine oil and geopolitics, issues between the Palestinians and Israel, the significance of the Iranian Revolution, and other issues that have shaped U.S. relations in the region.
This lesson was published in December 2011.
- Explore the concept of revolution and come up with a class definition for the term.
- Learn about various Arab Spring protest movements in the Middle East and North Africa.
- Assess the accomplishments of the movements and discuss whether they meet definitions of revolution.
In the Classroom
Write the focus question “What is a revolution?” on the board. Ask students what they know about revolution. What are some different ways that people use the term revolution? Can students give examples of revolutions from history? What characteristics do these revolutions share? How are they different? What different stages do revolutions go through? How can we assess whether a revolution is successful? Develop a definition of revolution together as a class and write it on the board beneath the focus question.
2. Group Work
Inform students that they will be researching the recent Middle East and North Africa protest movements and analyzing whether they should be considered revolutions. Divide the class into groups and distribute “The Arab Spring: Country Presentations.” Assign each group a country: Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and any other countries you want to include in the lesson (i.e. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, etc.). Each group will be responsible for giving a 2-3 minute presentation to the class about the effects of recent protests in their assigned country. Have groups explore the sources listed below and consider the questions on the handout to help them prepare.
Note: You may want to have students do this lesson over two class periods, or have groups research their assigned countries the night before.
Distribute “The Arab Spring: Looking at the Region.” Have students fill in the row for their assigned country. While groups are presenting, students should take notes on their charts.
4. Considering the Arab Spring Today
What is the status of the political movements today? How successful have the protests been? How do we measure their success? (Elections? New governments?) What have been the major obstacles to change? Why have some countries experienced violence? How has the response of the international community and the United States impacted various political movements? Why has the United States responded differently to protests in different countries?
5. Arab Revolution?
Ask students to compare the movements in the Middle East with the historical revolutions mentioned in the beginning of class and with the class definition of revolution. Can we call some of these movements “revolutions?” If so, which ones? Can we think of the Arab Spring as a regional revolution? Is it too early to tell? After looking at these different case studies, what do students think about their class definition of revolution—should it be changed in any way?