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Supplemental Materials includes an online lesson on "Re-education camps" using original paintings by the daughter of a re-education camp survivor, journals developed by teachers participating in the Teaching American History summer institute titled "Vietnam: Other Voices, Other Perspectives," and additional activities associated with "The Fog of War Teacher's Guide."
The Limits of Power: The United States in Vietnam
Few topics are more difficult to teach, nor more important for our students to understand, than our country's involvement in Vietnam. This curriculum unit takes students back into history to evaluate how successive U.S. administrations perceived the situation in Vietnam, weighed the stakes, gauged the options, and implemented the policy decisions. The role play engages students as decision-makers as they wrestle with four distinct options that confronted U.S. leaders in the summer of 1965.
The background readings prepare students to consider the policy debate surrounding the Vietnam War at that time. Students explore the victory of communist Vietminh forces over the French in the years after World War II and consider the relevance of Vietnam in U.S. Cold War strategy. Students then consider the shifting civic values underlying U.S. policy in Vietnam and the lessons that have been drawn from the United States' involvement in Vietnam. The unit relies heavily on primary sources, including speeches, newspaper articles and editorials, political cartoons, songs, and policy memoranda.
The Choices Role Play
Working cooperatively to advocate for one of the four policy options facing President Johnson in the summer of 1965, students use primary sources to recreate this critical moment in U.S. history. Each option is grounded in a clearly defined philosophy about U.S. Cold War strategy, American interests in Southeast Asia, and the nature of the conflict in Vietnam. A fifth group plays President Johnson as he questions the groups and evaluates the options. By exploring a broad spectrum of alternatives, students gain a deeper understanding of the competing values and assumptions that framed the debate on U.S. policy in Vietnam.
The 1954 Geneva Conference
Through role-play, students articulate the viewpoints of the participants at the Geneva Conference and identify the divergent values held.
The Tonkin Gulf Resolution
Students consider the Gulf of Tonkin event and weigh the possible responses.
Role-Playing the Four Options
Students engage in a simulation revolving around the four options for U.S. policy in Vietnam.
Songs of the Vietnam War
Students explore the relationship between political events and popular culture by interpreting Vietnam-era song lyrics from different cultures.
Retracing America's Withdrawal
Through analysis of documents, students examine key decisions from 1968-73.
Misinterpretation and Failed Diplomacy
Through close examination of two crucial events, students evaluate North Vietnamese and U.S. perceptions of each other and identify the sources of misunderstanding.
Values, Interests, and Costs in Wartime
Students examine two contrasting political cartoons to identify the values and interest at stake in U.S. policy in Vietnam.
Applying the Lessons of Vietnam
Students get he opportunity to investigate several of the lessons from Vietnam that historians and politicians have developed over the years and determine for themselves which ones are valid and how the lessons can or should inform foreign policy today.
To explore the human dimension of war and understand conflicting viewpoints about war, students interview someone who lived during the war.