March 2013


Students will:

  • Analyze the issues and controversies surrounding the U.S. use of drones.
  • Identify and articulate the core values of different policy options.
  • Work cooperatively within groups to integrate the arguments and beliefs of these options into a persuasive, coherent presentation.
  • Explore, debate, and evaluate multiple perspectives on U.S. policy regarding drones.


Graphic Organizer: Understanding Drones

Policy Options: Debating U.S. Drone Policy

Online Articles

The Global Swarm

The Predator War: What Are the Risks of the C.I.A.’s Covert Drone Program?

Congress Zooms in On Drone Killings

Who Will Drones Target? Who in the U.S. Will Decide?


1. In the Classroom

Distribute the Graphic Organizer to students. Show them the following videos of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Rohde and have them complete the graphic organizer. You may also choose to have students explore the articles suggested here as well.

Why has the United States used drones to kill suspected terrorists?

Are drones effective?

Why are drones controversial?


Review the graphic organizers with students. Prompt discussion with some of the following questions: Why does the United States have a drone program? Who makes decisions about targets? What are the controversies surrounding drones? Have drones been in the news recently?

2. Exploring Policy Options

Break up your class into four groups and distribute the options handout. Assign three of the groups a policy option. Assign the remaining group the role of senators in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (If you have a large class, you may want to make a group of foreign representatives.)

Option Groups: Each group will review its assigned option and develop a three-to-five minute presentation to give to the class. The presentation should make the best possible case for the option.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee: This group will review each of the options and prepare clarifying questions to ask of the option groups during or after the presentations. Each student should come up with at least two questions for each option.

Foreign Representatives: If your class is large, you may want to have some students be representatives from other countries. You should assign each student a country (e.g. Pakistan, Yemen) and tell them to research that country’s position on this issue.

Give students about 15-20 minutes to prepare their presentations and questions. Then organize the room so that the three option groups face a row of desks reserved for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Explain that the simulation will begin with short presentations by each option group. Encourage students to speak clearly and convincingly. You may wish to have the senators ask questions after each presentation, or save all the questions for the end.

3. Considering U.S. Policy

After the simulation, ask students what they think about the different options. What aspects of the different options do students support? What policies are students concerned about? What values underlie each option? Can students identify some of the difficult trade-offs that policy makers must make in dealing with this issue? What do students think should be the U.S. policy regarding drones?

How would each of these options affect people in the United States? What about people in the countries where drones are used? How would it affect the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world? Challenge students to think about the role that drones might play five or ten years from now. What are the issues raised by other countries using drones?

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