A discussion of the content above gives students an opportunity to practice naming the dominant narratives central to this historical period. As students name these narratives, they can analyze their impact, while also analyzing the counternarratives. For example, Mahan himself uses the keyword when he describes expansion as the “dominant fact in American life.” Students can connect this evidence to the narrative that centers U.S. militarization and intervention as the necessary response to, and not the cause of, international conflict.
Teachers can also draw students’ attention to the words used to describe the United States versus the rest of the Western Hemisphere, including Central and South America and the Caribbean. Many use America and the United States interchangeably, not making the differentiation that José Martí made over a century ago. Teachers can use Martí’s primary source discussed above in two ways: To document U.S. motivations for war and to discuss the words we consciously and unconsciously use to describe stolen land. How do the dominant and counter narratives show up in the words we use? How can we support our students to use these reflections to strengthen their critical analysis of dominant and counter narratives?