You may wish to designate, or have students select a group chairperson whose role it would be to direct research and guide the individual committee sessions, and a secretary, who would take notes of the session and either draw up the committee report or direct the construction of the report.
6. Provide students with your expectations for the "position paper." It is suggested that the paper include the following:
7. In addition to organizing groups, assign one student to be the "Chief of Staff" for when the groups present their viewpoints to the presidential advisors (entire class). Since there is bound to be friction between groups in regard to their position on the embargo, the "Chief of Staff" can act as a moderator, summarizing various viewpoints, as well as helping groups to reach some sort of consensus on various issues. In addition, the "Chief of Staff" should be prepared to act as a "discussion leader," ensuring that all sides get a fair hearing, and that any student wishing to speak has an opportunity to do so. The "Chief of Staff", as a White House employee, doesn't necessarily actually contribute to any one group, but he/she does have a pivotal role in helping the groups work toward a consensus view that they can present to the president as a policy recommendation
8. Once the students are organized and understand their task, jump start each group's research process by showing the approximately 16 minute NOW WITH BILL MOYERS segment on the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Distribute copies of the Viewing Organizer (PDF file) to help students capture information presented in the video. (Note: A free transcript of this segment is available on the NOW Web site. Teachers may also tape the broadcast off-air and use it in the classroom for one year. Alternatively, programs are available for purchase from ShopPBS (http://shop.pbs.org).
9. The following outline of the segment (with approximate timings) will help you identify areas where you might want to pause the video and discuss what students are seeing.
It is suggested that the video remain available for further review by student groups during the project.
10. Students should now continue the research and development of their position papers. (A list of related Web sites is provided toward the end of this lesson plan.) As they work, circulate among the groups and be sure students are on track with meeting their committee's objectives. If students seem stuck, teachers could cue students with the following:
a. Political committees: What issues related to the embargo could impact the president's chances for re-election? Keep in mind the importance of Florida, with its significant electoral votes and a high percentage of Cuban refugees.
b. Economic committees: Lifting the embargo could benefit both Cuban and U.S. economies. In the U.S., Cuban trade could absorb U.S. industrial surpluses and increase corporate profits. In Cuba, U.S. trade could repair a declining Cuban infrastructure and economy, and possibly encourage Cuban politicians and businesses to adopt U.S. business and political practices.
c. Humanitarian committees: Open U.S. trade with Cuba would provide more food, medicines, tourism, and consumer goods that could improve the Cuban quality of life.
11. After a suitable amount of time for research and writing, have each group present their view before the presidential advisors (the entire class), with the "Chief of Staff" managing the process as described in step 7. Remind students that while they should not completely give up on their viewpoint during discussion, they should be prepared to compromise and work with other students in the class to develop a consensus policy recommendation that will give the best advice to the president. Allow time for debate after group presentations, as well as the opportunity for groups to amend or revise their positions. In melding committee positions into one policy recommendation for the president, one approach might be a "committee meeting" of the six committee chairpersons, with other committee members acting as staff persons to assist the chairs in creating the final "position paper." Alternatively, the Chief of Staff could be responsible for generating the final policy recommendation to submit to the president. (Note: The goal of the "staff meeting" is to reach a consensus to advise the president as to what course he should take. However, as in real life, it may be impossible for the groups to achieve consensus. Should this happen, you could carry over the committee meetings to the next class period or ask the Chief of Staff to summarize the views at that point in time and submit that as the final committee report, possibly noting dissenting viewpoints briefly as cautionary statements.)
Use the provided assessment rubric (PDF file) for evaluating each group's performance in the lesson's main activity.
1. If time permits, classes could duplicate the session with the students switching sides - with those on the side to rescind becoming the side to maintain the embargo, and vice versa.
2. Smaller classes could pursue a "class debate" format instead of the activity outlined in the lesson. In a debate, students would argue "pro" or "con" in regard to a resolution, such as "RESOLVED: The United States' trade embargo against Cuba should be ended." Generally, debates tend to be more adversarial than the activity discussed above. Teachers wanting to investigate a more formal debate structure may do so by reviewing the resources at Debate Central (http://debate.uvm.edu).
A variety of sites have been provided below to save time and assist with research. How many sites to use and which ones have been left up to you.
Carefully evaluate the following sites before sending students to them, noting that some sites may also contain content that could distract students from their task at hand and/or be questionable to your school's Internet policies. Also, it is suggested that time be taken with the class to discuss proper ways of doing Internet research, including determining the validity of a source.
(Note: If Internet access is problematic, it is suggested that the teacher bring printed copies of pages from relevant sites for class groups to use for their research.)
Keep the Embargo
Should the World Maintain Sanctions Against the Castro Regime?
An essay on maintaining sanctions in Cuba, posted on the Florida International University site.
Agricultural Economist Discuss Embargo
A report from the University of Florida stating that Florida agriculture might be adversely affected if the embargo was lifted.
America's Embargo of Cuba: What Result After 35 Years?
A Christian Science Monitor story examining the impact of the embargo and why neither the Castro regime nor the U.S. government would want the embargo lifted.
Remove the Embargo
American Anthropological Association Statement on Cuban Trade Embargo
A statement from the American Anthropological Association condemning the trade embargo.
Editorial: Let's Lift the Cuban Trade Embargo
An editorial from the St. Anthony Messenger suggesting the embargo be lifted.
"Opinion: Cuban trade embargo hurting U.S. farmers"
A Puget Sound Business Journal editorial that asserts that the embargo hurts U.S. farmers.
Collection of Anti-Blockade Articles
A Cuban site with numerous writings against the embargo.
Current U.S. Policy Towards Cuba
State Department: Cuba
Information on current U.S. policy toward Cuba, provided by the State Department. Additional State Department resources on Cuba, including a map, can be found at http://www.state.gov/p/wha/ci/c2461.htm Archived information from the Clinton Administration can be found at http://www.state.gov/www/regions/wha/cuba/
President Bush Announces Initiative for a New Cuba
The text of President George W. Bush's speech announcing that he will not end the embargo.
A Detroit News story from May 2002 discussing President George W. Bush's decision to go against former President Jimmy Carter's suggestion to end the Cuban trade embargo.
Cuba Policy Foundation
An anti-embargo group, The Cuba Policy Foundation tracks U.S. legislative policy toward Cuba.
Cuban News Sites
Cuba Free Press
The Cuba Free Press site, a privately funded news organization in Miami, Florida. Stories are provided in both English and Spanish.
The CubaNet site, a news organization operating in Florida, but with journalists in Cuba calling in stories daily.
News sanctioned by the Cuban government, including a report on ending the embargo at http://www.granma.cu/documento/ingles01/026-i.html
Fidel Castro Interview
A 1985 MACNEIL/LEHRER NEWSHOUR interview with Fidel Castro discussing human rights, political prisoners, and dissent in Cuba.
Fidel Castro's Speeches
A database of Castro's speeches provided by the University of Texas.
University of Texas: Sources on Cuba
A directory, provided by the University of Texas, of online resources for academic research of Cuba.
NewsHour: Life in Cuba
A 2001 NEWSHOUR WITH JIM LEHRER spotlight on life in Cuba.
Photo Essay: Cuba
A Washington Post photo essay on Cuba.
CIA World Fact Book, Cuba
The CIA "World Fact Book" page on Cuba, including a map, plus economic, social, geographic, and political information on Cuba.
U.S./Cuba Trade and Economic Council
The site for the U.S./Cuba Trade and Economic Council, based in New York. The organization's goal is to provide information and analysis on U.S./Cuba political and economic relations. (Site mostly includes highlights.)
The Center for a Free Cuba
The site for The Center for a Free Cuba, an organization "promoting human rights and a transition to democracy and the rule of law on the island."
The site named in the NOW WITH BILL MOYERS segment, providing tourism information for Cuba.
About the Author
Michael Hutchison teaches social studies at Lincoln High School in Vincennes, Indiana, and is a part-time instructor at Vincennes University. In 2002, Michael was awarded the "Technology-Using Teacher" award by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and was also named "Teacher of the Year" by the Indiana Computer Educators. In 1999, he was named Midwest regional winner in Technology and Learning Magazine's "Teacher of the Year" contest, and in 1996 and 1997, he was national first place prizewinner in Rifkin and Associates' 21st Century Teacher competition. In addition, Michael hosts a regular online social studies (teachers') forum in TAPPED IN, serves as a faculty member for Connected University, and has authored several lessons for PBS programming, including "The Civil War." He is also a member of the PBS TeacherSource Advisory Group.