Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
American Experience - Woodrow Wilson
The Film & More
Timeline
Wilson - A Portrait
Special Features
People
Gallery
Teacher's Guide


Teacher's Guide - Suggestions For Active Learing

Lesson 4 - War and Peace

Grade Level
Grades 9 through 12

Objectives
Estimated Time
Necessary Materials
Teaching Procedure
Extension/Adaptation Ideas
Relevant National Standard

Objectives

Through the lesson, students will:

Learn about the factors contributing to World War I.
Learn about the decision making process which led America into war.
Learn about the history and development of the League of Nations.
Learn to research historical events and make class presentations based on what they have learned.
Learn to debate important issues relating to foreign policy matters.

Estimated Time

Several distinct teaching activities within this lesson could be taught, ranging in duration from one to three class periods. Completing the entire unit of activities would require approximately six 45-minute class periods.

Necessary Materials
The American Experience documentary, Woodrow Wilson, on DVD or on videocassette.
Access to computers on the Web.
Writing materials.

Teaching Procedure

Activity 1: The Decision to Go to War

To begin the lesson, you might find it helpful to show the classroom the segment dealing with events leading up to Wilson's decision to go to war from episode two of the documentary, Woodrow Wilson. The 19-minute segment starts at approximately 9 minutes and 42 seconds and continues until 27 minutes and 21 seconds. (On the DVD, access the second part of chapter 9, titled "Neutrality," chapter 10, titled "Re-Election," and the first part of chapter 11, titled "War.")
If internet access is readily available, you may also wish to direct students to review the section on this Web site on the Woodrow Wilson and America at War.
Next, lead a discussion about the decision for America to enter the war. When Europe went to war in 1914, Wilson, like many Americans, believed in neutrality. For the next two and a half years, he hoped to broker peace from the sidelines of the carnage. During that time, Wilson received harsh criticism from opponents like Theodore Roosevelt, who thought Wilson was weak for avoiding war, and even supporters like Wilson's own Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, who fiercely advocated neutrality. This lesson will allow students to explore in-depth the myriad of issues involved in mobilizing a nation for war.
Divide the classroom into four groups. Each group of students will be responsible for researching and exploring one of the following moments leading up to America's entry into the war:

August 19, 1914 - Policy of Neutrality

While Europe has plunged into war, President Wilson delivers a speech declaring America's neutrality. Do you agree or disagree with Wilson's decision to stay clear of European hostilities?

Questions to consider:

What pre-existing tensions helped fuel the outbreak of war in Europe? How did nations, one by one, become embroiled in the conflict in the summer of 1914? What events led up to Wilson's declaration of neutrality?
After the outbreak of war in Europe, what were the choices Wilson faced? Who was advocating America's entry into war? Who opposed entry into the war? What were the possible ramifications of each choice? Was the nation in favor of war at this time? How might popular opinion have influenced Wilson's decision? What other factors did Wilson need to consider?
Read Wilson's neutrality speech in which he declares America will remain out of the war. Examine specific quotes from his speech and explain the meaning and motive behind Wilson's words. In what ways was Wilson trying to unite the country behind his policy of neutrality? Do you agree or disagree with Wilson's neutrality?
What were the ramifications of Wilson's declaration of neutrality? Was Wilson's course of action successful? Was there negative criticism? If Wilson instead chose to enter the war at this point, how might the war have changed?
May 7, 1915 - Lusitania and Resisting Retaliation
A German U-boat sinks the passenger ship Lusitania, killing 1,198 passengers and crew members, including 128 Americans. Rather than immediately retaliate against Germany, Wilson stays the course of neutrality, attempting to negotiate an apology.

Questions to consider:
Why did Germany sink the Lusitania? What were the events leading up to the sinking of the passenger ship?
After the Luisitania disaster, what choices did Wilson face? Who was advocating that America should retaliate against such hostile German aggression? Who opposed entry into the war? What were the possible ramifications of each choice? Was the nation in favor of war at this time? Many Americans were recent European immigrants. How might that have influenced Wilson's decision? What other factors did Wilson need to consider?
Research Wilson's comments regarding the sinking of the Lusitania. Examine specific quotes from his speeches and explain the meaning and motive behind Wilson's words. In what ways was Wilson trying to unite the country behind his policy of continued neutrality? Do you agree or disagree with Wilson's neutrality?
What were the ramifications of Wilson's continued neutrality? Was Wilson's course of action successful? Was there negative criticism? How did William Jennings Bryan respond to Wilson's pursuit of an apology from Germany? If Wilson instead had chosen to enter the war at this point, how might the war have changed?
January 22, 1917 - Peace Without Victory
Two and a half years of war has devastated Europe. Both sides have suffered severe losses, yet there is no foreseeable end to the fighting. Wilson delivers his famous "Peace Without Victory" speech, in which he attempts to mediate a peaceful end to the war.

Questions to consider:

Describe the progress of the war through January of 1917. What were the losses both sides were suffering? Why were the Allies desperately hoping America might finally enter the war? How was Germany planning to starve Britain into submission?
At this point in the war, what were the choices Wilson faced? Who was advocating that America should finally step in to help the Allies? What were the possible ramifications of each choice? Was the nation in favor of war at this time? What other factors did Wilson need to consider?
Read Wilson's "Peace Without Victory" speech. Analyze specific quotes from his speeches and explain the meaning and motive behind Wilson's words. How did Wilson believe he could broker peace without becoming engaged in the conflict itself? Do you agree or disagree with his statements?
What were the ramifications of Wilson's proposed "peace without victory"? Was Wilson's course of action successful? Was there negative criticism? How did both sides to the conflict react to Wilson's speech? If Wilson instead had chosen to enter the war by this point, how might the war have changed?
April 2, 1917 - Declaration of War
Continued German aggression on neutral American ships and the revelation of the Zimmermann Telegram convince Wilson that America must enter the war. Wilson appears before Congress asking for a formal declaration of war against Germany.

Questions to consider:

Describe the events that transpired from Wilson's "Peace Without Victory" speech until Wilson's declaration for war. How did Germany's announcement of unrestricted submarine warfare affect Wilson's belief he could broker peace from the sidelines of the war? Why did Germany believe unrestricted submarine warfare was worth pursuing, even though it likely would motivate the United States into declaring war? What was the Zimmermann Telegram? How did it add fuel to the fire of those seeking for America to enter the war?
At this point in the war, what were the choices Wilson faced? Who was advocating that now was the time for America to enter the fray? Who still felt that this was not a war the country should be fighting? Was the nation in favor of war at this time? What other factors did Wilson need to consider?
Read Wilson's declaration of war. Analyze specific quotes from his speech and explain the meaning and motive behind Wilson's words. How did Wilson justify war - something that contradicted his public statements throughout his presidency? How did he try to mobilize America for war? Do you agree or disagree with his statements?
What were the ramifications of Wilson's declaration of war? Was Wilson's course of action successful? Was there negative criticism? How did both sides to the conflict react to the call for war? If Wilson instead chose to enter the war later - or not at all - would the outcome of the war have changed?

Class Presentations
Assign each group to further research their "moment of decision." All four groups need to explore the questions listed above. After the groups have performed the necessary research, team members should make a presentation before the class. All team members should contribute to the presentation. Lead a discussion with the class after every presentation. Address any important points not covered in the presentation. Before proceeding to the next "moment of decision," ask students if they were in Wilson's position, would they declare war at that juncture?
Additional Web Sites on America at War

The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century by PBS
http://www.pbs.org/greatwar

First World War.org
http://www.greatwar.org/index.htm

American Leaders Speak: Recordings from World War I and the 1920 Election by the Library of Congress
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/nfhtml/

Today in History: World War I by the Library of Congress
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/jun28.html

World War I: Trenches on the Web
http://www.worldwar1.com

The World War I Document Archive
http://www.lib.byu.edu/~rdh/wwi/

The Great War: 80 Years on by BBC News
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/special_report/1998/10/98/


Activity 2: Debating the League of Nations

To begin the lesson, you might find it helpful to show the classroom the segment on the League of Nations from episode two of the documentary, Woodrow Wilson. The 15-minute segment starts at approximately 57 minutes and 8 seconds and ends at 1 hour, 12 minutes and 39 seconds. (On the DVD, access chapter 15, titled "The League.").
If Web access is readily available, you may also wish to direct students to review the sections on this Web site on the League of Nations, the League's Covenant, and on Henry Cabot Lodge.
Next, lead a discussion about the Treaty of Versailles and how Wilson ran into difficulty at home trying to get the United States Senate to consent to the treaty. The leading critic of the treaty and its establishment of the League of Nations was Henry Cabot Lodge. Lodge was the Republican majority leader in the Senate and Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Lodge and Wilson held widely differing views on many issues, but when it came to the treaty and the League of Nations, the two men waged an all out attack on one another.
Lodge believed American sovereignty was at stake. Why hand over to an international body America's right to make decisions about immigration, tariff laws, and its cherished Monroe Doctrine? Lodge also believed that Americans had died on the field of battle to defend their country against German aggression. "Handcuffs and fetters" had to be put on those responsible for the war. He was convinced that the peace had to be one in which American national interests came first.
Wilson at first attempted to make amends with dissenters in the Senate, but after his initial efforts were rebuffed, Wilson refused any further discussions about compromise. He took his campaign for the League of Nations to the public, going from city to city to drum up support for the treaty. After Wilson had to cut short his campaign due to his failing health, defeat of the treaty was all but certain.
Divide the class into three groups. The first group will take on the role of Woodrow Wilson and supporters of the League of Nations. The second group will take on the role of Henry Cabot Lodge and opponents of the League. The third group will take on the role of compromisers.
Assign each group to further research the League of Nations. All three groups need to explore the arguments made by their respective sides as to why or why not America should be part of the League.

League of Nations Debate, Part 1: Wilson vs. Lodge
After the groups have performed the necessary research, team members should prepare to debate their arguments. All team members should contribute to the presentation. Both the Wilson and the Lodge teams should make 5 to 7-minute arguments presenting their sides of the argument. After initial arguments, each team should make a 2-minute rebuttal to statements made by the opposing side. After both the Wilson and Lodge teams have completed their prepared remarks, allow the rest of the class (members of the third group, the Compromisers) to ask follow-up questions of both sides.
After the debate, the student audience (the Compromisers) will take a secret-ballot vote to determine whether or not they would agree to the treaty and its establishment of the League of Nations. Announce the results of the vote to the entire class and discuss why students may have voted the way they did. Remind them that, since it takes two-thirds of the Senate to consent to a treaty, a majority vote in favor of the treaty still would not be enough for United States entry into the League of Nations.
League of Nations Debate, Part 2: Compromise Solution?
After the above debate has concluded, the third team should present a compromise solution and make a 5-to 7-minute argument in favor of why both sides should support the compromise. Again, all team members should contribute to the presentation. Allow the rest of the class (members of the first two groups, Wilson and Lodge) to ask follow-up questions. Expect the compromise to generate a lot of comments by students.
After the compromise has been thoroughly debated, the student audience (members of the Wilson and Lodge groups) will take a secret-ballot vote to determine whether or not they would agree to the compromise. A compromise has to be fair to both sides, so pass out different colored ballots or different-coded ballots so you can distinguish the Wilson group from the Lodge group. In order for the compromise solution to be considered a success, the compromise should receive a favorable vote from a majority of both the Wilson and the Lodge groups.
Announce the results of the class voting. Discuss with students whether they felt the compromise was a fair solution. Was the Wilson or the Lodge group more in favor of the compromise? Or did neither group find the compromise appealing? How difficult was it for the third group to think of a fair compromise? Why wouldn't Wilson or Lodge compromise back in 1919?

Additional Web Sites on The League of Nations

League of Nations Photo Archive at Indiana University
http://www.indiana.edu/~league/index3.htm

Chronology of Wilson's Battle with Congress for the League of Nations 1919-1921
http://history.acusd.edu/gen/WW2Timeline/1919League2.html

League of Nations Statistics and Disarmament Documents by Northwestern University
http://www.library.northwestern.edu/govpub/collections/league/

Timeline of the League of Nations
http://worldatwar.net/timeline/other/league18-46.html

Versailles Treaty by Spartacus Educational
http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/FWWversailles.htm

The Treaty of Versailles
http://history.acusd.edu/gen/text/versaillestreaty/vercontents.html

Treaty of Versailles by the BBC
http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/modern/versaill/versahtm.htm

The Paris Peace Conference
http://www.nv.cc.va.us/home/cevans/Versailles/Menu.html

Extension/Adaptation Ideas

What If Wilson Had Lost?
Wilson was elected in 1912 with only 42% of the vote. Some have argued that had the Republican Party remained united, a Republican candidate might well have been elected president instead of Wilson. In Activity 1: The Decision to Go to War, if William Howard Taft had been elected president, would he have declared war, and if so, at what "moment of decision" would he bring America into the war? If Theodore Roosevelt had been elected president, when might he have declared war? How might either of these "alternate" Presidents impacted the war's outcome, the number of American casualties, and America's place at the peace negotiating table?

The War to End All Wars: What Went Wrong?

Many have argued that the manner in which World War I was resolved laid the groundwork for tensions that resulted in World War II. Indeed, some consider the signing of the Treaty of Versailles merely a cease-fire that lasted 21 years. Were there weaknesses in the Treaty of Versailles which may have led to the hostilities of World War II? What were those weaknesses? How could they have been avoided? How might the Germans have resented the way in which they were treated after the Armistice? How might the Nazis have been able to exploit that resentment and gain control of Germany?

Relevant National Standards

United States History Standards

Established by the National Center for History in the Schools
http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/nchs/standards/

Era 7: Standard 2A
The student understands how the American role in the world changed in the early 20th century.

Era 7: Standard 2B
The student understands the causes of World War I and why the United States intervened.

Era 7: Standard 2C
The student understands the impact at home and abroad of the United States involvement in World War I.

World History Standards

Established by the National Center for History in the Schools
http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/nchs/standards/


Era 8: Standard 2A
The student understands the causes of World War I.

Era 8: Standard 2B 
The student understands the global scope, outcome, and human costs of the war.

Civics Standards
Established by the Center for Civic Education http://www.civiced.org/stds.html

Standard III. B. 2
Students should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues regarding the major responsibility of the national government for domestic and foreign policy.

Standard IV. A. 1
Students should be able to explain how the world is organized politically.

Standard IV. A. 2
Students should be able to explain how nation-states interact with each other.

Standard IV. B. 1
Students should be able to explain the principal foreign policy positions of the United States and evaluate their consequences.

Standard IV. B. 2
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.
Standard IV. B. 3
Students should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions on foreign policy issues in light of American national interests, values and principles.

Standard IV. C. 1
Students should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions about the impact of American political ideas on the world.

Standard IV. C. 2
Students should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions about the effects of significant international political developments on the United States and other nations.

Standard IV. C. 5
Students should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions about what the relationship of the United States should be to international organizations.

Woodrow Wilson Home | The Film & More | Timeline | Wilson - A Portrait | Special Features | People | Gallery | Teacher's Guide

American Experience | Feedback | Search & Site Map

©New content 2001 KCET: Site produced by KCET for American Experience and PBS Online.

Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: