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Choices produces videos featuring top experts—professors, policymakers, journalists, activists, and artists—answering questions that complement the readings and lessons.

Supplemental Materials

Supplemental Materials includes online resources to accompany the printed unit, links to additional online resources from the Choices Program, links to resources on other sites, and a list of recommended print resources.

Nuclear Weapons

The Challenge of Nuclear Weapons

Third edition. March 2013.


Today, the world faces many complex challenges. Climate change, terrorism, and international pandemics crowd the headlines of the newspapers. For many, understanding the challenges facing the world is overwhelming. Perhaps no issue can seem more overwhelming than nuclear weapons. We can see the results of terrorism, environmental issues, and disease, yet for most of us nuclear weapons remain out of sight and out of mind. For many, the abstract theories and jargon that surround nuclear weapons combined with the nearly unimaginable consequences make thinking about the challenges of nuclear weapons difficult.

The Challenge of Nuclear Weapons gives students the tools they need to wrestle with the questions that surround the future of nuclear weapons.


The readings introduce students to the history of nuclear weapons and the concept of deterrence. Students will examine some of the arguments for and against nuclear weapons and then look at three challenges: (1) the leftover arsenals of the Cold War, (2) proliferation, and (3) the threat of nuclear terrorism.

The Choices Role Play

At the core of this curriculum unit is a framework of choices for U.S. foreign policy concerning nuclear weapons. By exploring three fundamentally different alternatives, the beliefs underlying them, and the pros and cons of each, students will gain a deeper understanding of the values underlying each policy recommendations.


Portrayals of the Soviet Threat
Students examine the Soviet threat as it was perceived during the Cold War.

Songs about Nuclear Weapons (Available Online)
By analyzing lyrics and watching video, students explore the relationship between political events and popular culture.

Mapping the Nuclear World
Students analyze maps and data to draw conclusions about the status of nuclear weapons stockpiles today.

Fifteen Minutes
Students stage a fictional depiction of presidential decision making during the minutes before a potential nuclear attack.

Role-Playing the Three Options
Working cooperatively to present different policy options for the United States to an undecided group of senators, students are able to clarify and evaluate alternative polices concerning nuclear weapons.

Morality and Deterrence
Students begin to understand the complex moral conundrums associated with nuclear weapons through examination of a well-used analogy for deterrence.

Film and Nuclear War
Students watch selected films and consider the relationship of film and political ideas.

Other WMD
Utilizing the internet, students research information on biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons.

The Challenge of Nuclear Weapons is funded by a grant from the Ploughshares Fund.