Great Debates

Do you want to add a really interesting aspect to your American history program? Or maybe you have a child interested in a debate program. These are amazing resources for either possibility. Recognizing that "debate is the art of discussing a controversial topic using logic and reason," this series illustrates how the story of a nation is a story of change. In our American history debate has resulted in compromises - and often a new chapter in America's story.

Each of these books is built around an ongoing American controversy. For each topic, they identify the themes and issues involved and then highlight major issues through the years in the form of pivotal questions/propositions that beg for discussion. Each of the five chapters focuses on a question giving the viewpoints and facts of both sides, affirmative and negative, with the goal of creating a strong opinion. The arguments are presented in their historical context with quotes from significant persons who participated in the original debate. Make Your Case sidebars encourage students to discuss topics and form their own answers. Chapter 6 holds 3 current questions for students to consider and use as a springboard for conversation/debate. To give you an idea consider the questions presented in Our Military:

  1. Should our military focus on defense or conquest? (late 1700s and early 1800s)
  2. 2)
  3. Should America soldiers fight and die to preserve an idea? (1860-1865)
  4. 3)
  5. Is the freedom of others worth fighting for? (1898-1945)
  6. 4)
  7. Is the business of war good for our country? (late 1940s into the 1980s)
  8. 5)
  9. Should our military send troops overseas in the name of national security? (1945 to present)

Chapter 6 topics cover: Are we fighting for corporations? When is torture okay? And What should America's policy for the use of drones be?

The concluding chapter in each book holds Point-Counterpoint presentations of three more pertinent questions. For each of these there are quotes from two participants and a short discussion. In Our Military these questions are:

  1. What should be the focus of the military: defending the nation or expanding influence? (James Polk/John Calhoun)
  2. 2)
  3. Did the U.S. military make the correct decision in using the atomic bomb during World War II? (J. Robert Oppenheimer/Herbert Hoover)
  4. 3)
  5. Should the military weigh the costs in dollars before getting involved in a war? (Paul Wolfowitz/Madeleine Albright).

These are small books - 48 pgs - but just reading through them are bound to make an impact as you see the unfolding of our policy. Attractive graphics and color photos make the task enjoyable. For those interested in formal debate, these little books become case studies. A website listed on the back of the books provides access to Teacher Resources, such as example answers to the Make Your Case questions. ~ Janice

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