Cold War Warrior Defending: The Moral Beacon of the World
Boise State University
Two 50-minute class periods or
one two-hour block class period
Subject Matter: U.S.
Through the use
of video clips students will journey back in time to the 1980s to explore
the social atmosphere of this era. Students will explore the figure of
President Reagan to gain insight into his motives for his domestic and
foreign policies. In the process of exploring Reagan's policies the student
will evaluate the impact his decisions made on the common citizen and
Students will be able to:
- Identify President Reagan's domestic and foreign
- Describe America's attitude toward communism
during this era;
- List the characteristics of Reagan which endeared
him to the American people;
- Explain why some Americans spoke out against
Reagan's foreign policy.
From the State of Idaho Department of Education
Learning Standards for Social Studies, available online at http://www.IdahoAchieves.com:
- Standard 496: Students will understand
the political, social, and economic responses to industrialization and
technological innovations that have occurred in the United States.
- Standard 497: Students will understand
significant conflicts in United States History.
From the Boise School District Curriculum available
online at http://www.sd01.k12.id.us/curriculum/secondsocial/ushistory_11.html
- Student Objective 1321.22: Understand
the events leading to the end of the Cold War and the role of the United
States in post-Cold War conflicts around the world.
Reagan (The American Experience) Part
1 & 2, Produced by Austin Hoyt and Adriana Bosch, Videocassette Dist.
By PBS Home Video, 1998
For each student:
Pen and Notebook
Discussion Question Handout (See
Prep For Teachers
Prior to teaching this lesson, bookmark the Web
sites on all computers. You may want to photocopy some of the articles
if limited numbers of computers are available. Provide each student with
a photocopy of the video discussion sheet.
On the front white board list the following questions for students to
ponder as they enter the classroom:
- According to the Constitution of the United
States, what are the qualifications needed in a president?
- Are there any other qualifications that Americans
have deemed necessary not included in the constitution?
- What specific qualities made Reagan a popular
choice for president by the American people?
Students will proceed to answer these questions in their journals for
the first five minutes of class. Then the instructor will lead a short
discussion on the questions in order to have verbal feedback from students.
Ask students what images come to mind when they hear the words "Cold War"?
(Students may respond with statements such as communism, Soviet Union,
Arms Race, and nuclear weapons.)
Give students a brief background of the 1980's era. It was a time according
to the American Experience series when America had the most ideological
President in his speeches and was very pragmatic (practical) in his actions.
President Reagan was a person who was full of contradictions:
- He believed in balanced budgets but never had
- He hated nuclear weapons yet he built them
by the thousands.
Reagan saw the United States as a shining city
on a hill to be a beacon of freedom to the rest of the world. He sought
to fix economic problems with his supply side economic plan. He cut big
government and gave the American public a 30% cut in taxes. Yet all the
while he started to build up the American military.
Explain to the students that they will now be watching a piece of the
video concerning the atmosphere of the country as Reagan entered office.
Focus For Media Interaction
Instruct students to look for comparisons between President Reagan's character
and the historic figure of FDR during this video clip. Students may list
these characteristics on the discussion question
Insert American Experience, Reagan Pt 1. (tape
2) into the VCR. The tape is to start nine minutes from the beginning
with Reagan taking his oath for office of President. Play for about five
minutes and stop the tape.
- Have students discuss why Reagan was compared
to Democratic President FDR?
- What common characteristics did they share?
How were they different from one another according to the video clip?
- Allow students to share answers to these questions
with the class.
Insert American Experience, Reagan Pt 2. (tape
3) in the VCR. This segment will begin at the start of Part 2 with the
series host, David McCullough, discussing Reagan and his part in the actions
that brought the end to the Cold War.
Focus for Media Interaction
Have students listen and look for the impact the economy hand on the American
people. (Discussion sheet) Play video until narrator talks about blue
collor supporters defecting. Ask students what the impact of the poor
economy was on the American public during this time? How would you feel
had you been a blue collar worker during this time period?
Insert American Experience, Reagan Pt 2 (tape
4) into the VCR. Begin video approximately five minutes into the tape.
The tape shows talks between President Reagan and Gorbachev. Stop after
Reagan leaves the talks without an agreement.
Focus For Media Interaction
Have students listen for how Gorbachev views the talks with the U.S. and
how it is different from past relations. (Discusssion Question 4)
Students will read an excerpt of Mikhail Gorbachev's Attitude Toward Ronald
Reagan (Copied as a handout). Source of document is from the American
Experience: The Presidents web page. Address:
Students will then read a short document on Reagan's
Domestic Policy found online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/AMEX/presidents/NF/featured/reagan/reagandp.html
(Copied as a handout if access to computer screens is limited).
Another document that students will read is an
article written by Julie Wolf found online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/AMEX/reagan/peopleevents/pande06.html.
Teacher will then review main ideas covered within
these documents to aid students in writing newsletter.
Students will break up into groups
of four to discuss their feelings as an American during this time period.
Students will work together in small groups to create a short newsletter
expressing their needs and concerns to their U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives.
Each student will write a short piece to be included in this newsletter.
Students may choose to represent different individuals or groups within
their newsletter. The final product will be typed and published.
Some of the issues that could be addressed in
the newsletter are:
- defense spending,
- cuts in social programs,
- loss of jobs,
- nuclear weapons,
- President Reagan's personality.
The newsletter should be at least two pages in
length and be formatted in columns like a newspaper. Students may include
pictures or cartoons to help express their ideas.
Write a letter to the editor describing a current event in government
that you would like to see changed. Students will have the opportunity
to submit these letters to the local newspaper for publishing. Students
may use Microsoft Word or Publishing to present final product.
Students will look at the supply side economic policy presented by President
Reagan to the United States. This policy will be examined and the affects
will be calculated mathematically in terms of the money spent on military
build up verses domestic spending. Students will also look at how inflations
impacted the value of money on the average citizen. Students will present
findings to the class in small groups via a power point presentation.
- Visit your local State House and see how the
legislature works in passing legislation. How many votes does it take
to pass a bill? Prepare a PowerPoint presentation on your findings.
- Visit your local history museum or society
and investigate what legacy Presidents have left in the your state or
city. Which Presidents have visited your state for any length of time?
Prepare a PowerPoint presentation on your findings.