America at a Crossroads America at a Crossroads
Discussion Guide

Educators Page

America at a Crossroads is a major public television event that premiered on PBS in April 2007 that explores the challenges confronting the post-9/11 world — including the war on terrorism; the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan; the experience of American troops serving abroad; the struggle for balance within the Muslim world; and global perspectives on America’s role overseas. The online discussion guide, which features thought-provoking questions and related video clips, was created for general audiences. While educators may wish to adapt the guide for classroom use, it is not designed to be a traditional lesson plan. The questions address current issues related to world history and U.S. government policy, yet some of the content may not be appropriate for students. Below are questions from the discussion guide that are suitable for high school students; they are not intended for younger students. Some have related video, as noted.

Additional Resources


The War on Terrorism

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Featured in "Struggle for the Soul of Islam: Inside Indonesia"
Indonesia, the world’s most populated Muslim country, is a democracy. What challenges has it faced trying to fight Islamic extremism? How have Indonesia’s efforts differed from the way the United States is fighting Islamic extremism? What lessons can each country learn from the other’s experience?

Why do some Islamic fundamentalists feel democracy and Islam cannot coexist? Why do some Muslims argue that Islam and democracy are compatible? How would you defend each side of this argument?

Additional Resources on the War on Terrorism


The Conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan

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Featured in " The Case for War: In Defense of Freedom"
In the video clip with Richard Holbrooke, he makes the distinction between regime change by political means and by use of force. What policy do you feel would have been most effective with regards to Iraq after September 11th? Choosing between two options – getting out of Iraq or sending in more troops – which strategy do you feel is the best course of action at this time for the United States, and for Iraq, and how should it be implemented?

With regard to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, what has been the human cost – and the materials cost – for these two countries? What has been the human cost – and the materials cost – for the United States? How have the costs incurred in these three countries affected the U.S.’s global war on terror?

Additional Resources on the Conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan


The Experience of American Troops

Imagine you are an Iraqi civilian living in one of the country’s more troubled and violent provinces. What are the costs and benefits of this war for you and your family? What would be your response and overall attitude when confronted by the military occupation? What would you want the U.S. government to do for you?

Additional Resources on the Experience of American Troops


The Struggle for Balance within the Muslim World

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Featured in "Faith Without Fear"
What does modesty, especially in dress, mean to Muslims? What are some of the reasons Muslim women wear the hijab and others do not? When is there an element of choice in this issue, and when does culture or the state dictate how people will dress?

In Islam’s early formation, the prophet Muhammad brought the message of justice and reform to seventh-century Arabia. He opposed slavery and the abuse of the poor and underprivileged, and he stressed the commitment to sacrifice one’s self and personal interests in the service of Allah. How do Muslims today seek to continue those aspects of the prophet’s legacy?

Additional Resources on the Struggle for Balance within the Muslim World


Perspectives on America’s Role Globally

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Featured in " The Case for War: In Defense of Freedom"
Since World War II, the United States has practiced a foreign policy of confronting and pre-empting perceived threats in the name of fighting evil governments or movements. Review the foreign policy choices made by the United States in the past 60 years and discuss their benefits and consequences.

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Featured in " The Case for War: In Defense of Freedom"
Discuss the foreign policies of unilateralism and multilateralism and reflect on how the United States has employed these policies during its history. Discuss the application and impact of these policies in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq on the United States and the people of these countries. What should the United States consider when implementing these policies in the future?

Many U.S. citizens perceive their country’s role in the world as a promoter of freedom and justice. Yet, this image of the United States is not held by many people around the world. Identify current policies of the U.S. government that contradict the rhetoric of promoting freedom and democracy. How can the United States do a better job of improving its image to the rest of the world?

Additional Resources on Perspectives on America's Role Globally


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