By Lara Maupin, a social studies teacher at Thomas Jefferson
High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia
This lesson should take 15 -20 minutes and may be used to discuss with
your students recent reports of civilian casualties in Baghdad. Students
will determine what they think Americans currently expect regarding warfare
and its cost in human lives and examine the sources of these expectations.
This lesson is most appropriate for use in a government or history class
but may be used in any social studies class. Government teachers may wish
to emphasize the political implications of our expectations regarding
war while History teachers may which to focus on the relevant historical
precedents, namely the sources of these expectations.
Students will need printed copies of the NewsHour
Extra article cited below or computers with Internet access.
to National Standards
brainstorm quickly in small groups what they already know about how
the following have shaped our expectations and understanding of what
war is and what it costs in terms of human life - military and civilian.
· the Vietnam War
· the Persian Gulf War
· current American military technology
report on their discussions. Discuss. You may wish to use the following
talking points in your discussion.
· The U.S. lost the Vietnam War despite having superior military
technology. It was a protracted war, causing much division on the homefront
and having a lasting impact.
· The Persian Gulf War introduced us to a new kind of high
tech warfare. After five and a half weeks of bombing with "smart
bombs" and the use of defensive Patriot missiles, the ground attack
only lasted 100 hours. There were relatively low levels of allied casualties.
(See Estimates of Casualties of 1991 Gulf War handout1)
· Current military technology allows for precise targeting,
defense from attack by aircraft, cruise missiles and tactical ballistic
missiles with the Patriot system, and protection from biological and
chemical warfare with protective suits, for example. (See New U.S.
Weaponry - handout2)
consider American expectations of modern warfare as they read the following
Discuss American expectations regarding warfare using the following
· A. Given that the U.S. military does not plan to target
civilians, but may attack military targets in any area - residential
or not, what can we expect in terms of civilian casualties in this war?
How should the coalition forces handle the placement of military targets
in populated areas or the use of human shields?
· B. What do Americans expect in this war in terms of:
*targets (precise, military only)
*speed, length of war (short)
*numbers of U.S./coalition military casualties (few)
*numbers of Iraqi military casualties (only what is necessary to achieve
*numbers of Iraqi civilian casualties (as few as possible)
· C. Are our expectations reasonable, given that this war
is still a war?
· D. How have our expectations regarding war and its costs
been influenced by our civilian and military leaders? How do our expectations
in turn impact our leaders?
- Read current
articles or view
press conferences or briefings given my military leaders. What words
are used to describe civilian or other casualties (e.g. collateral damage,
friendly fire)? Analyze the language used in wartime to describe the
loss of life.
a press conference in which reporters question military leaders about
reports of civilian casualties having been caused by the actions of
coalition forces. How should they respond if the reports are true?
a report comparing and contrasting the use of military technology in
the following conflicts: World War II, the Vietnam War, and the current
war in Iraq.
Council for the Social Studies Thematic
II. Time, Continuity and Change
VIII. Science, Technology and Society
IV. Global Connections
Author Lara Maupin teaches social studies at
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria,
Virginia. She is on leave during the 2002-2003 school year. She has a
Masterís Degree in Secondary Social Studies Education from George Washington
University and a Bachelorís Degree in Anthropology and Philosophy from
Mount Holyoke College.
To find out more about opportunities to contribute
to this site, contact Leah Clapman at firstname.lastname@example.org.