Reflective Response and Socratic Questioning
How should the topic of conscription be introduced?
Conscription as a topic lends itself to reflecting on personal values, morality, ethics, and a sense of duty to oneself and community. Clarifying one’s opinion about it can hardly be expected to be an exact or easily measured experience. Students may have uncertain feelings about conscription at the onset and even at the end of the unit. That’s alright provided that they show that they have applied their thoughts to the exercises in the unit. Obviously it would be unfair to employ strategies that would deny students opportunity to personally reflect and develop their opinions. Subsequently I believe that a serious part of the unit will be for students to be in the act of developing an informed opinion about conscription. Strategies such as Socratic questioning and reflective journal writing will be employed throughout the unit. As an introduction to the unit one can hardly assess where a student is on the issue of conscription unless one is to simply ask the question, “In the face of conscription, how would you react?” Having students write responses in journals is a logical way for most students to express themselves. Some sample journal prompts include: How would you react to conscription? How do family members or friends of family who were drafted feel about conscription? What do you know about drafts in American history?
Alternatively, the topic can be introduced by having students complete a K-W-L (What do you
to know?/ What have you
?) chart on the topic of conscription. A linguistic (written or oral such) or non-linguistic prompt (photo, sketch, drawing) may also be included. I like the idea of including a quote from the 1863 Conscription Act as a linguistic prompt and a recruiting poster as a (mostly) non-linguistic prompt. Student oral and written responses will be assessed as part of the unit.
An Essential Question
A unifying or essential question will be introduced and applied as strategy at the onset of the unit. What, if anything, is wrong with conscription in American History and how can it be fixed?
Summarizing and note taking
Summarizing and note taking will be practiced by students in the next phase of the unit, as I present some historical precedents and a chronological outline of conscription in United States’ history. Historical precedents such as Napoleon’s conscription will be presented. The chronological outline of conscription in United States History will include discussion of expectations for colonial militias and drafts in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam War.
Reading for Information/Formative Assessment
Students will complete reading comprehension questions associated with the topic of conscription as it applies to the Civil War and later. Reading for information allows for students to check their understanding of various types of articles from primary to secondary source material. It also provides a way for me to assess reading comprehension levels of individual students and the class in general. Formative assessments that check reading comprehension and assess student’s ability to analyze, describe, compare, contrast, and persuade will also be preparing students for district assessments and state testing.
While general information about the nature of conscription will be presented and discussed at the onset of the unit, student investigation, research and reporting out to the class will foster the application and practice of essential skills outlined in the city curriculum. After my presenting issues regarding conscription in the Civil War as an anchor set, students will work in groups to research and present the in-depth chronology and issues of the story of conscription in other wars in American history. Groups of students will be assigned to research and present the issues and effectiveness of conscription in each of the following conflicts: World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The outcome of this strategy will be students presenting information about their area of work and then learning details about conscription from others.
Through these exercises students will note similarities and differences in the application of conscription to conflicts over time in United States’ history.
Generating and Testing Hypotheses
The fate of conscription in American history lies in the hands of policy makers and our public officials who must react to the challenges that face the nation. Their policies are not more than the result of people formulating solutions to problems and testing out their solutions in intellectual circles such as think tanks or at major universities or in the public forum through polls. The issue of conscription due to its relevance for young people in particular is an excellent one for young people to grapple with. I see the following activities in this unit employing the strategies of generating and testing hypotheses: Reading about and discussing arguments for and against conscription and writing a persuasive letter regarding a plan for conscription or national service.