Activities of the unit begin with exploring and defining concepts that will be common vocabulary throughout the unit. Students will engage in short readings and discussion to develop working definitions of community/global community, diplomacy, conflict/conflict resolution, peacekeeping, technology, and human rights. Throughout this process students can be encouraged to compare ideas they observe and experience regarding their communities (structure, behavior, conflict, and rights) to issues reported at the international level. On-line reference sites, such as, http://www.freedomhouse.org examine the status of the human condition in many countries. Ratings and explanation of how free (or not free) is a country is contained in their annual report.
Information about personal and group conflict can be obtained from local sources. Many students will have explored conflict resolution through the New Haven Public Schools’ Social Development Program. Some of the material in this curriculum can be modified to examine the dynamics of historical conflict. In this unit, some activities from Chapter 6 Managing Conflict, of the New Haven Public Schools’ Social Development Student Workbook have been adapted to reinforce conflict identification and resolution skills (see Appendix 1).
Defining community and examining the dynamics of community can be explored from student’s personal experiences as well as from sociology texts. Discussing the behaviors in local communities might serve as a point of introduction to discussing the behavior of larger entities, such as ethnic groups and nations, in the global community. Assigning students to complete an observation of his, or her, own neighborhood or school can provide practical examples for discussion. Who are the players in the neighborhood? What happens on daily basis? Is there conflict? If so, who is involved and how are the conflicts resolved? Assigning daily observation and a journal for one week would generate information for continues classroom discussion. Anyone uncomfortable about analyzing his or her neighborhood might substitute the school community. Questions to guide student observation are included in a question bank (See Appendix 2).
Answering these questions is aimed at creating a foundation of understanding that all of us more or less live in a microcosm of the international community. Parallels exist between the dynamics of many types of groups.
Exploration of the size and scope of the international community will coincide with this personal investigation. Knowledge of country names, political boundaries, major geographical features, languages spoken, zones of conflict, spheres of influence, diplomatic relations, will be assessed through brainstorming, think-pair-share exercises and short reading for content exercises. In order to establish spatial relationships between places and to reinforce geography skills students will have to demonstrate awareness of location on world maps. Students will generate maps through a homespun geography exercise called “It’s a Puzzling World”(Appendix 3). The result will be students creating personal and wall-sized maps that will act as points of reference throughout the rest of the unit.
The United Nations will be presented as a relatively recent and progressive forum that includes governments representing nearly all of the world’s population. Some of the problems of international relations will be discussed i.e., cultural barriers, competition for resources. Students can also explore traditional ways that nations have interacted. Establishing diplomatic ties, making alliances, and establishing mutually beneficial trading arrangements will be explored as relatively peaceful means of interaction. Wars of conquest or defense will be explored as an alternative to peace. The “Dynamics of International Relations” and “Changing Times/Changing Borders” activities (Appendix 4) are included to establish that political relations and borders are not static but historically change over time. Finding the mutually beneficial relationships is often a key component to the survival and success of individual nations.
The thrust of the unit is twofold. First, it will allow students to critically examine a convincing argument that mutually-beneficial arrangements among nations are a desired alternative to the horrors of wars. Second, it will offer international peacekeeping as a process that offers hope in attaining this end. A brief show of statistics of war casualties, photos of burned out cities and damaged landscapes, and clips from film media can be used to illustrate the horrors of modern warfare. Other suggested topics for research and discussion include: the failure of the League of Nations, causes of World War I and World War II, the development of weapons of mass destruction. The story of the foundation of the United Nations is worthy to investigate, as is the general history of the UN. The major organizations and roles of the UN can also be an area of investigation. Looking for accomplishments, limitations, and setbacks are strategic ways to approach the function and effectiveness of the UN. Included in this unit are activities aimed at exploring the general function, role and promise of the UN model for encouraging positive international relations and minimizing the chances of the proliferation of armed conflict through peacekeeping.
As a general strategy, students might begin by first brainstorming knowledge about the UN. Providing reading for information might follow. Access to the internet can provide a variety of opportunities to learn about the organization and role of the UN. The UN hosts a variety of interactive and informative websites. These include taking a virtual tour (See Appendix 5). At this site, students can learn the names of member nations, the names and function of major UN agencies (General Assembly, Security Council, International Court of Justice, Secretariat, Economic and Social Council). Students can also get familiar with the concept of acronyms.
Acronyms describe most UN organizations and operations. Students can gain familiarity with the most commonly used acronyms by completing an association game- Acronimity (See Appendix 6).
After exploring the organization and function of the UN, the students will investigate UN peacekeeping operations (See Appendix 7). Some examples worth exploring include the United Nations involvement in the Middle East, Korea, the Congo, Cyprus, the Balkans, Namibia, and Somalia. Evaluating the success (or failure) of various missions is one approach. The instructor can present a thorough examination of one or more United Nations’ peacekeeping operations -- name of mission, date, location, purpose, participants (the peacekeeping nations and the warring factions), significant developments, and outcomes. Research on the current events in an area in question might be presented to show the current state of affairs of an area. Once students are presented this format for investigating a peacekeeping operation, students can research additional operations as individuals or in groups. Upon completing research, students will be able to present their findings to the class. A visual aid, such as a wall map, can be pinned or labeled with the names of each operation as the operations are presented. Ultimately, students will be invited to critique each mission to define successes and failures.
Investigating primary source material can lessen the sometimes-impersonal shape of history when it is left to presentation by statistics. An excellent resource for examining the human dimension of UN peacekeeping is in
Eyewitness to Peace: Letters from Canadian Peacekeepers
compiled by Jane Snailham. It contains personal letters written by UN peacekeepers from the soldier’s theater of operation. Reading aloud and assigning letters to read can be used to identify the perspective of those who are eyewitnesses and active participants in the peacekeeping process (See Appendix 8). Reading for Information questions can include: What role does the author have in the peacekeeping process? Does the author of the letter appear to believe in his mission? What responsibilities does this peacekeeper have? What positive and negative implications does the author make about what he or she is witnessing? A possible follow up activity might be to actually identify a current peacekeeping operation and write a class letter of interest in learning about the operation to peacekeepers in the field. Another activity can involve the teacher contacting local veterans groups to see if there is a local veteran with peacekeeping experience that might be interested in being a guest speaker.
A culminating activity of this unit would be to hold a simulation in the classroom that involves some aspect of the Security Council, World Court, or General Assembly. Attending a local Model UN conference such as Yale’s high school Model UN, as a delegation is also a possibility. (See Appendix 9)