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CNN Presents Classroom: The Iraq War: Voices from the Home Front

SPECIAL REPORT

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide

(CNN Student News) -- Set your VCR to record the CNN Presents Classroom Edition: The Iraq War: Voices from the Home Front when it airs commercial-free on Monday, November 7, 2005, from 4:00 -- 5:00 a.m. ET on CNN.

Program Overview

John King takes viewers on a reporter's journey into the heart of the United States to better understand the public's complicated feelings about the war in Iraq. In the process, John tries to answer key questions: Are we at some tipping point on Iraq, a moment of fundamental change in broad public opinion on the war? Or are the latest public opinion polls temporary phenomena? John talks with ordinary Americans to find out more about how the country feels about the war.

Grade Level: 9 -- 12, college

Subject Areas: Social Studies, U.S. History, World History, Current Events, Political Science, Government/Civics

Objectives: The CNN Presents Classroom Edition: The Iraq War: Voices from the Home Front and its corresponding discussion questions and activities challenge students to:

  • Examine U.S. public opinion about the current war in Iraq;
  • Debate the role of public opinion in wartime;
  • Formulate questions and seek information about U.S. policies in Iraq;
  • Develop opinions about U.S. policies on the war in Iraq.
  • Curriculum Connections

    National Standards for Civics and Government

    9-12 Content Standards

    II. WHAT ARE THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE AMERICAN POLITICAL SYSTEM?

    C. What is American political culture?

    4. Fundamental values and principles. Students should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions on what the fundamental values and principles of American political life are and their importance to the maintenance of constitutional democracy.

    E. How does the American political system provide for choice and opportunities for participation?

    2. Public opinion and behavior of the electorate. Students should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions about the role of public opinion in American politics.

    IV. WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE UNITED STATES TO OTHER NATIONS AND TO WORLD AFFAIRS?

    B. How do the domestic politics and constitutional principles of the United States affect its relations with the world?

    2. Making and implementing United States foreign policy. Students should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions about how United States foreign policy is made and the means by which it is carried out.

    Describe the various means used to attain the ends of United States foreign policy, such as diplomacy; economic, military and humanitarian aid; treaties; sanctions; military intervention; covert action.

    Explain how and why domestic politics may impose constraints or obligations on the ways in which the United States acts in the world, e.g., long-standing commitments to certain nations, lobbying efforts of domestic groups, economic needs.

    Describe ways in which Americans can influence foreign policy.

    3. The ends and means of United States foreign policy. Students should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions on foreign policy issues in light of American national interests, values, and principles.

    The National Standards for Civics and Government (http://www.civiced.org/912erica.htmexternal link) are published by the Center for Civic Education (http://www.civiced.org/index.htmlexternal link).

    Discussion Questions

    1. Who are some of the people that CNN's John King interviewed for his report? What perspectives on the war in Iraq do the interviewees offer?

    2. What are some of the factors that can influence U.S. public opinion during wartime, including political, social, economic, religious or psychological factors? What underlying factors or prior experiences may help to shape the American public's opinion and feelings about the war in Iraq? What values or beliefs might underlie American perspectives on the war?

    3. Based on what you learned in this program, how would you characterize the home front debate about the war in Iraq? Why do you think that, according to the program, the debate about the war in Iraq is "rarely black and white"?

    4. What are some of the factors that can lead to U.S. participation in international conflicts? To what extent, if at all, does public opinion of U.S. military conflicts depend on the reasons for participation in the conflict? Explain.

    5. What is your opinion of the war in Iraq? Do you think that you have enough information about the war to make an informed opinion? If not, what questions would you need to ask to become better informed about the subject? How might you go about getting the answers to your questions?

    6. Based on what you learned in this program, do you think that U.S. public opinion on the war in Iraq is at a crucial point in the conflict? Explain. What evidence would you need to support your conclusion?

    7. Should American public opinion play a role in U.S. foreign policy? Why or why not? Do you think that the Bush administration's policy on Iraq should reflect public opinion on U.S. activities in the Gulf nation? State your rationale.

    Activity Suggestions

    Forming Opinions about the War in Iraq

    After watching The Iraq War: Voices from the Home Front, have student volunteers share their opinions about the current war in Iraq. For those students who have formed opinions on the conflict, ask:

  • How did you come to form your opinions?
  • On what information did you base your opinions?
  • What factors do you think may have influenced your opinions?
  • For those students who have not yet formed opinions, ask:

  • What additional information do you need in order to form an opinion on the war?
  • How would you go about gathering that information?
  • Direct students to create charts with three columns, labeled Opinions about U.S. Policy in Iraq, Supporting Arguments and Opposing Arguments. In the first column, have students list the opinions presented in the program and by students. Then, organize students into small groups. Refer them to print and online resources to gather facts, quotations, arguments or additional information that could be used to support or dispute the opinions listed on their charts. (Note: Have students note the sources of the information on their charts.) After they have listed several arguments supporting and opposing each opinion listed, encourage the groups to discuss which arguments they find more or less compelling.

    After groups have presented their findings to the class, challenge students to form their own opinions about the war in Iraq. In persuasive letters (written to government officials or to local newspapers), students should state their opinions on the current U.S. policy in Iraq. Students should provide a rationale for their opinions. If students still have questions, encourage them to write letters that juxtapose the arguments for and against the current U.S. policies in Iraq and pose the questions that they still have on the subject.

    The Role of Public Opinion during War

    Ask students: What are some ways in which U.S. citizens can voice their opinions in support of or against their government's policies and actions? Answers might include speeches, protests, demonstrations, petitions, referenda, sit-ins, rallies, music, art, Web sites, print publications or sending letters directly to elected officials. Then ask: What do you think is the role of public opinion in a democratic society? Do you think that it is important that Americans publicly voice their opinions about government activities? Why or why not?

    Refer students to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and have them interpret what they think it means. Ask: What freedoms does the First Amendment guarantee? Do you think that there should there be any restrictions to First Amendment rights during times of war? Why or why not? How might those who were interviewed for this CNN Presents program answer that question?

    Challenge students to answer the following questions in some form of written or visual expression: In times of war, should Americans publicly express their dissent towards or support for their government? What role should public opinion play in the U.S. government's policies in the war in Iraq?

    Keywords

    Iraq War, Marines, National Guard, deployment, Vietnam, Afghanistan, partisan

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