Teacher's Guide: Fast Forward

At the close of the twentieth century, technology and global markets are integrating distant cultures. At the same time, the widening gap between rich and poor and between differing cultural beliefs is splitting communities into factions.

Unit Themes and Topics:
changing role of government
free-market ideology
the gap between rich and poor
human rights and human endurance
the impact of technology
rise of the global economy

Connections Across History
connection: when: where: program:
social, technological, political, and economic changes 1900-1914 China, Europe, India, Japan, Russia, South Africa, United States "Age of Hope"

Wang Yong
(stockbroker, China)

"Deng Xiaoping said that we should let some people get rich first. Today, if you have the guts and the ability, you're rewarded by being able to make more money than others. But if you're less able, you earn less. Sounds fair enough to me."
photographic portrait of Wang Yong


Before Watching

1. Define the term community. What kinds of bonds hold a community together?

2. As students watch the program, have them write down how economic and political changes affect the lives of people in different communities and how relations among people change.

After Watching

1. In what ways have economic and technological changes brought people together? In what ways have they driven people apart?

2. What values and ideas associated with global economic competition does Wang Yong's quotation reflect? Does this philosophy sound fair to you? Why or why not?

3. Why did Dennis Byas and Art Buckner expect that a job at the Kaiser Steel company would provide lifetime employment? How do you think each would describe the impact of global economic competition on their lives? What do the experiences and perspectives of Tina Grate, who lives in a Los Angeles ghetto, and Terry Ross, who lives in a closed community in Los Angeles, illustrate about the effects of political and economic changes in the United States?


To help students grasp the impact of global economic change, have them relate the trends described in the program to their own community. First, have students list the trends that shaped the lives of speakers in the program, such as the globalization of production, the displacement of workers in traditional industries, tax revolts, urban migration, the creation of wealth, and the growing gap between rich and poor. Discuss how these different trends are related to the creation of a global economy. Then have students bring in evidence, such as products, newspaper clippings, census data, or personal interviews, to show how the global economy has affected their community. To follow up, have students write a new scene for the video, in which they use their community as a case study of the economic and social changes of the 1990s.

The Price of Freedom

The following lesson focuses on a program segment about the consequences of market reforms and new political freedoms. Young and old people in China, Bosnia, and Russia tell how their goals and attitudes toward work changed.

Program Segment
approximately 21 minutes

The narrator says, "Deng Xiaoping relaxed central planning."

Alyosha says, "My dream is to become a gangster."


Before Watching

1. As a class, brainstorm definitions of the term social contract. Discuss what a government's obligation is to its citizens. What role should government play in people's lives? As students watch the program segment, have them write down how the social contract in each country changed as a result of political or economic reform.

After Watching

1. How did Chinese factory worker Tan Xiangyao and Russian entrepreneur Oleg Rumiantsev react to the prospect of greater economic freedom? Based on the program segment, why do you think reform in China was more successful than reform in Russia in spurring economic growth? How was the general public affected by reform in each country? What values are rewarded under the new regimes in China and Russia, and why are those values associated with capitalism?

2. How did the end of communism in Yugoslavia affect Fikret Alic and his neighbors? How does the philosophy of nationalism conflict with the philosophy of globalization? Do you think nationalism and globalization can peacefully coexist? If not, what can hold a society together?


Discuss how changes in class structure, the role of government, and personal values influenced the life choices of people in the program. Ask students to write an essay from the point of view of one of these people about subsequent choices they imagine that person made following his or her initial life choice.

Have students write an essay reconsidering the idea of a social contract in the United States and address the following questions: Do we balance individual rights with common good? How or how not? What is your idea of an ideal balance? How do you think our government could achieve that balance?

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