Tips for Teachers For Dealing with Current Events
As you progress through this information
and activities, there are some things you can do enhance the
educational experience. Some of those are:
Listen to your students and watch their behavior. Some may be
quiet but frightened. Some may act out while others are fine but it
is important to take some time to note any unusual behavior
indicating a deeper emotion requiring some attention.
Reassure students that their homes and school are highly likely to
be safe places. Point out to them that their schools and homes are
functioning normally and the government is doing all it can to
Take time each day to discuss and review the facts of what is
happening versus the fiction and/or rumor. The newspaper can be a
great help determining between the two.
While we encourage you to participate in many of these activities,
we also suggest that you maintain a balance of classroom activity
unrelated to current events. Itıs important for students to be
comforted daily by the regular routine.
Background on Iraq
Iraq is situated at the northern tip of
the Arabian Gulf in Southwest Asia and is bounded on the east by
Iran on the south by Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf, on
the west by Jordan and Syria and on the north by Turkey.
Its coastline along the gulf is only 30 km (19 mi.) long. Its only
port on the gulf, Umm Qasr, is small and located on shallow
water so only small craft can dock there.
You can download and print a map of the Middle East by hitting this
The population is of Iraq is
approximately 23.3 million (2001 estimate), of which 72% are Arab,
23% are Kurds and the remaining 5% are a variety of smaller ethnic
groups. 95% of Iraqis claim Sunni or Twelver Shia Islam as their
religion. The official language is Arabic, which is spoken by about
80% of the population. The capital of Iraq is Baghdad.
Once known as Mesopotamia, Iraq was the
home of many ancient civilizations, including the Sumerian,
Babylonian, and Parthian cultures.
At the end of World War I, Iraq became a British-mandated territory.
In 1932, Iraq became independent and was ruled as a constitutional
monarchy. In 1945, Iraq joined the United Nations and became a
founding member of the Arab League. In 1956, the Baghdad Pact allied
Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom. Baghdad, in
Iraq, was the headquarters, but, later, Iraqıs membership in the
Pact ended, in 1959. Saddam Hussein began leading Iraq in 1979.
Background of the Current Crisis
The Iran-Iraq war raged from 1980-88
with Iraq declaring victory. At its end, the Kurds in Northern Iraq
rebelled against the government and Hussein ordered attacks using
weapons of mass destruction, including a mass chemical weapons
attack that killed several thousand civilians.
In 1990, Iraq invaded the neighboring country of Kuwait. The United
Nations Security Council ordered Iraq to withdraw but they refused.
Then, the Persian Gulf War (sometimes referred to as "Operation
Desert Storm") began with troops of several countries led by
the U.S. They were able to push the Iraqis out of Kuwait but Hussein
stayed in power in Iraq. Some people believe that letting Hussein
stay in power then is what is causing this problem today.
After the Gulf War in 1991, the United Nations ordered Iraq to
destroy its weapons of mass destruction and any missiles that could
go farther than 93 miles. Inspectors were sent in to monitor the
situation. The inspectors also destroyed some weapons that they
found. The inspectors remained in Iraq for a few years and then said
that the government of Iraq was interfering with their work and left
the country. The U.S. threatened to use force against Iraq and did
bomb Baghdad. Iraq refused to allow any more inspections. They said
they had no more weapons of mass destruction. Iraq refused to allow
the inspectors to return until recently.
The Crisis Today
There have always been conflicts between
people and nations. What makes this conflict more frightening,
dramatic, and potentially devastating are the advances that science
and technology have made in developing weapons of mass destruction,
including those of chemical and biological warfare. Since Iraq has
already used chemical warfare to attack the Kurds in 1988, President
Bush doesnıt trust Saddam Hussein to be honest about the dangerous
weapons they might still have. Bush believes that Iraq needs new
leadership. That is called "regime change." U.S. officials
thought about different ways they could arrange for new leadership,
but have decided that a U.S. military attack against Iraq may be the
One reason this option is dangerous is because it is unknown what
Iraq will do if attacked. They could attack Israel because Israel is
a friend of the U.S. and, if attacked, Israel would be likely to hit
back, perhaps with nuclear weapons of its own. At that point, the
U.S. could find itself in a war with Israel against Iraq and since
Iraq is an Arab nation, this would have a dramatic effect on other
Arab nations. How would other Arab countries feel about a war
against one of their own?
And, if the U.S. succeeds in removing Hussein from power, what then?
It is expensive to rebuild a country after a war and the U.S. would
have to rebuild Iraq.
And, not everyone wants to go to war. Some people donıt believe
that Iraq is a threat. Others donıt believe that peace in the
region known as the Middle East will come as a result of this war.
Americans and other countries are divided in their opinions about
this war. It is not an easy decision for anyone to make.
Here is some of what President Bush
has said about wanting to go to war.
"Iraq continues to flaunt its
hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has
plotted to develop anthrax and nerve gas and nuclear weapons for
over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to
murder thousands of its own citizens....This is a regime that agreed
to international inspections, then kicked out the inspectors. This
is a regime that has something to hide from the world. States like
these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil, arming
to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass
destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger....We
will be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on
events while dangers gather. I will not stand by as peril draws
closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the
world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most
--President Bush, State of the Union address to Congress, January
"In defending the peace, we face a threat with no
precedent. Enemies in the past needed great armies and great
industrial capabilities to endanger the American people and our
nation. The attacks of September the 11th required a few hundred
thousand dollars in the hands of a few dozen evil and deluded men.
....The dangers have not passed....
"The gravest danger to freedom lies at the perilous crossroads
of radicalism and technology. When the spread of chemical and
biological and nuclear weapons, along with ballistic missile
technology--when that occurs, even weak states and small groups
could attain a catastrophic power to strike great nations. Our
enemies have declared this very intention....
"For much of the last century, America's defense relied on the
Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases,
those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new
thinking. Deterrence--the promise of massive retaliation against
nations--means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no
nation or citizens to defend. Containment is not possible when
unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver
those weapons or missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist
"Homeland defense and missile defense are part of stronger
security, and they're essential priorities for America. Yet the war
on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle
to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats
before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to
safety is the path of action. And this nation will act.
"....our security will require all Americans to be
forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when
necessary to defend American liberty and to defend our lives."
--President Bush, graduation speech to West Point cadets, June 1,
Newspaper Learning Activities to Use
Before the War Begins:
To facilitate studentsı understanding
before any conflict begins, divide students into groups of four and
then into pairs within each group. Pairs should take opposite views
to answer this question: Should the U.S. attack Iraq and replace its
leader? Students need not argue their actual feelings, but should
defend the position they are assigned. Teachers should assign a
position to the pairs.
As sources of background information students can use the newspaper
as a primary source and supplement it with research in magazines,
and on the Internet. They might want to check out Web sites of the
White House, the State Department and news organizations including
CNN and PBS.
Allow students time to conduct research and present their arguments
within their groups. Instruct them in ways to listen and debate
without judgment. Then ask each pair to select their strongest
argument and share it with the class. After the presentations, ask
the students to draft a class statement giving the majority opinion
about U.S. policy.
Here are additional questions to
have students use the newspaper to research.
1. How has the rest of the world
responded to the U.S. position towards Iraq? How has the Iraqi
government responded? How has the UN responded?
2. What is "national security"? What are some
threats to our security?
3. The President is in favor of a war and not all Americans agree.
Should the President be allowed to make decisions like this
without the agreement of the American people? How important
should public opinion be when it comes to matters of national
4. Do your students have family or friends currently serving
in the military or reserves? How are they preparing for war? Do
students think Americans' opinions about the war with Iraq are
influenced by how close they are to those who will serve if we go to
5. Students may role play a debate among representatives to the UN
from one of these countries -- United Kingdom, France, Russia,
Turkey, or China.
6. Students should understand that conflicts "escalate"
and just as an escalator works, the higher up one goes, the harder
it is to "de-escalate" or go down. Have students review
the history of the Iraqi conflict as provided above and note the
factors that led to its escalation. Do students see any way that
this conflict could have been kept from escalating? Have them
consider conflicts they have been involved in personally. They
should write a summary of a conflict they have experienced and
underline any "escalating" factors. As they read the
ongoing news about this conflict, they should be able to identify
the "escalating" factors.
7. What do your students think the U.S. should do about countries
that we think are helping terrorists? Suppose we suspect certain
countries of aiding terror but we donıt have definitive proof? Do
we need proof or should we act on suspicion? Students should write
letters to their senator or congressman telling what actions they
think the U.S. should take to prevent future terrorist acts.
Newspaper Learning Activities to Use
If War Begins:
1. Have students discuss the qualities
and abilities our military leaders should have. Have them collect
articles about the leaders, identifying those characteristics and
qualities as they are illustrated by news events.
2. Students may want to take action expressing their opinions. They
can write op-ed columns, editorials, letters to the editor, send
messages to representatives in Congress or write to the President.
(They can e-mail to www.whitehouse.gov)
3. Allow time on a regular basis for students to read the newspaper
and talk about what they read. The news may be frightening and itıs
helpful to allow students to air their feelings.
4. Students should keep a clipping file of news stories about the
war. As they choose new articles to add to their files, they should
write a summary of the story and keep that in the file as well.
5. It may also be interesting for students to keep a "quotation
journal." As newsmakers are quoted in the newspaper, students
can choose interesting quotes to jot down and reflect on in writing.
It is a good idea for students to write regularly in journals so
that they have a way to process what they are hearing and reading
about the war. Encourage students to share their thoughts with their
families at home, too.
6. If you have military personnel in your community, you may want to
invite a speaker to your classroom to talk to students about this
military action. The perspective of a military member adds a new
dimension to your class discussions.
7. As this war rages, there will be other important news, too.
Encourage students to take note of other happenings in the world.
Even in times of war, life continues and students may find comfort
in realizing this.
8. Occasionally, ask students to skim the newspaper to find some
"Good News." You may want to display these clippings on a
9. Facilitate a discussion about the word, "security."
What does it mean to students? Have them use a dictionary to define
the term and then write about what makes them feel secure and
insecure. They should skim the newspaper to find stories that
contribute to their feelings of security and insecurity.
10. April is National Poetry Month. Invite students to write
"found" poems about the conflict by using words they find
in the headlines. This is a good exercise to allow students to voice
their opinions and their feelings. A group of poets who were against
the war delivered poems of their feelings to members of Congress.
Students can read those poems online at www.nthposition.com/100poets.html
Following the reading of the poems, allow time for a discussion
about disagreeing with our governmentıs policies. Is it disloyal to
disagree with this war? Can a person be a patriot and still be
against the war?
11. The news coverage may include photos of children in a war zone.
Allow students time to discuss what it might be like to live inside
such a zone and why it is important for people, especially children,
outside the zone to know what is happening there. The newspaper may
include first person descriptions of the events. Consider reading
those articles aloud as students read along or listen with their
eyes closed and to note your words carefully. They can then quickly
write their reactions to the material. What events are most and
least disturbing to them? What more do they want to know? How can
they learn more? This activity allows students to personalize this
new information swiftly and efficiently. Since some of the
vocabulary might prove challenging, it may be helpful to keep a
running list of new words on the board as they come up. For
homework, students can define the new words using a dictionary.
Additional resources for teaching about the war can be found online