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Washington High School Teachers Examine the US and Afghanistan in Choices Program Webinar

June 14, 2020

On May 27, 2020, sixteen high school teachers from across Washington State joined the South Asia Center and the Brown University Choices Program for a webinar on the Choices curriculum unit, The United States in Afghanistan.

The Choices Program draws on scholarship from Brown University to produce innovative curricula and videos that make contested international issues accessible, engaging, and relevant to secondary school audiences.

Following the webinar, teachers received a free two-year digital edition of the curriculum unit, which they can use to plan courses and build new, engaging lessons related to international issues and current events.

“The Choices units always incorporate information that provides students with a deeper and more rich understanding of the place and people being discussed,” said Jennifer Hampton, a social studies teacher at Mariner High School in Mukilteo. Learning materials like memoirs and role play scenarios help capture students’ attention and imagination, adding new depth to the classroom experience.

In addition, the curriculum encourages student participation and critical debates around key issues. “The cohesion and structure drives classroom discussion and argumentation beautifully,” said Ethan Whitney, who teaches World History at Moses Lake High School. “The structure of the text does not only make my job easier, but makes the process vastly more accessible for my students. It allows me to assess their critical thinking abilities and argumentation rather than their ability and distaste for complex text. Having this unit, in conjunction with the ‘teaching with the news’ resources on the Choices website, will ensure high quality instruction for the community I serve.”

For many teachers, the curriculum helped situate the War in Afghanistan within a broader historical and geopolitical context. “In many ways, war is all [the students] know, and yet, the war in Afghanistan and other conflicts have largely faded into the background,” explained William Moir, who teaches World History at Garfield High School in Seattle. “They weren’t alive for 9/11, so it’s difficult for them to contextualize the War on Terror. It’s also difficult for them to understand the U.S. as an imperial power in the 21st century. That’s why I want to use this curriculum. To help students understand how their post-9/11 world has been shaped by these conflicts and U.S. interventionism. It could be a good way to also launch into the U.S. in Iraq, the Arab Spring, and other topics.”
The webinar was part of a series sponsored by the Center for Global Studies, East Asia Center, South Asia Center, and Southeast Asia Center.