Students probe the history of nuclear weapons and the concept of deterrence. They examine arguments for and against nuclear weapons, and the challenges of leftover Cold War arsenals, proliferation, and the threat of nuclear terrorism.
- Understand the current threats of a nuclear crisis between North Korea and the United States.
- Identify the techniques political cartoonists use to express opinions.
- Interpret cartoons about North Korea’s nuclear weapons and the U.S. response.
- Monitor the situation over time using various media sources.
BBC article—The North Korea Crisis in 300 Words
Wall Street Journal Video: What a War with North Korea Might Look Like
In the Classroom
Ask students if they have heard about North Korea’s nuclear program in the news. What have they heard? Assign students the BBC or Vox articles on North Korea. Review the reading with the class. Clarify any difficult vocabulary or concepts. (You may want to show the Wall Street Journal video after students read the article.) Ask students to identify information that they believe to be important from the article (or video). What information is new to them? Are students aware of any controversies surrounding North Korea and the current U.S. response to North Korea? What rationales or justifications for policy actions are leaders from the United States and North Korea making in public statements?
2. Analyzing Cartoons
Divide the class into groups of three or four students each. Distribute the handout, “Political Cartoons” to each student. Review the introduction with your class, emphasizing the techniques cartoonists use to convey opinions on political issues. Review the cartoon on page 2, and answer the questions on the handout with your students to model the assignment. What techniques are being used? What is the message of the cartoon? How is this cartoon related to what the class knows about North Korea’s nuclear program and U.S. policy? Are there multiple ways in which the cartoon might be interpreted?
Assign the remaining cartoons to students, two per group. Have the students discuss the cartoons and answer the questions on the worksheet. Inform students that they will be presenting their work to the class.
3. Drawing Connections
Have each group present on their political cartoons. If multiple groups analyzed the same cartoons, you may wish to have them present together or on different questions from the activity, keeping in mind that different groups of students may interpret each cartoon differently.
As a class, discuss how cartoonists provide perspective on political issues. Were students able to identify the message of each cartoon? If so, what were the cartoonists trying to express? What techniques are used in each cartoon? Which techniques did students think most effectively got the message across? What do these cartoons say about U.S. policy and President Trump’s responses to North Korea’s nuclear program? Do any of the cartoons represent North Korea’s point of view? Which country does the cartoonist hold more responsible for the current crisis? Do the cartoons give favorable or unfavorable views of the U.S. response to North Korea?
Ask if students noticed connections between or among cartoons. Did multiple cartoons present a similar message? Did any cartoons disagree with each other? Did one cartoon build on another’s message in some way?
4. Monitoring the Situation in the News
Distribute the handout “Monitoring the Situation.” Tell students that they will be following the coverage of North Korea in the coming weeks. As a starting point, refer students to the list of news sources below. Encourage students to seek out other sources. Students should consult at least two or three news sources every week and write a short summation of developments.
Have students create their own political cartoons that reflect their opinion on the current crisis.
Instruct students to write letters to elected officials expressing their views on North Korea. They can find contact information for the White House at whitehouse.gov/contact and for their U.S. senators and representatives at congress.gov/contact-us.
News Sources for Monitoring
The Atlantic Monthly: Can America Live with a Nuclear North Korea?
New Yorker: The Risk of Nuclear War with North Korea
United States Department of State: North Korea