Recreating the Cuban Missile Crisis
Establishing the Theme
Jamie Kimbrough: We start with World War II and then we're supposed to come home and talk about the Civil Rights Movement and then Unit 7 is all of the Cold War from the end of World War II all the way up through the Berlin Wall falling.
They read a briefing, a special report, that just gave them background on what the situation was in Cuba, what some of our options were, and then what possible Soviet responses were. I had them do that yesterday.
Jamie Kimbrough: When we're thinking about the Cuban Missile Crisis we have to remember all the information we've learned so far about President Kennedy, harkening back to a quote from his inauguration, "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe in order to ensure the survival and success of liberty." Keep that quote in mind as we deal with the Cuban Missile Crisis.
So two days ago we talked about Bay of Pigs and how that's affecting us and we have communism encroaching into our hemisphere now so we have to make sure that liberty and democracy survives in the Western hemisphere.
Jamie Kimbrough: First, I really like themes; and this is like the fifth theme lesson that I've done so far this school year, which has been pretty awesome. So I went with the spy theme today, so when they came in they had the music from Mission Impossible. They got to choose their own groups, and I know that they were really excited about that. And then the goal with this is to a) just to make it fun by creating the theme and then to walk them through step-by-step of the process that Kennedy had to go through to solve the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Jamie Kimbrough: Right, so, when you're thinking about the primary sources, these actually are from top secret meetings and one of the maps actually has top secret crossed out and on one of the pictures you can see a part where they blacked out some of the information. These actually are documents that Kennedy looked at; these are things that Kennedy heard from his advisors. We're going to go through each section one by one, what I'd like you to do with your groups first is take a look at the section where it's asking you to look at the photos and the map.
Jamie Kimbrough: The second step was to read quotes from actual EXCOMM advisors, and there were six of them, ranging from Robert McNamara to the Secretary of Treasury, CIA Director—just so that they could see what the options are, what the positives and the negatives are, and then that would help inform their opinion when their group made their particular choice.
Jamie Kimbrough: Take a look at the chart. It has the advisor's name in the first column, and then in the second column it is asking you, "What policy does this person favor?" Which one do they think is the best, how should the U.S. handle this situation in Cuba? And then in the [third] column you need to say which option do they think is the worst, which one do they reject, and you must answer why.
Student 1: Or they will attack.
Jamie Kimbrough: So then as a group they discuss the five options on the table—do nothing, negotiate, blockade, warning then air strike, or surprise air strike.
Jamie Kimbrough: What you're going to have to do in your groups is to discuss each of the five options, whoever is in the majority wins. It doesn't matter if your group is divided and two people choose five and one person chooses one and one chooses three, you guys, whoever in your group has the majority that's what you're going with, that's what you're presenting to the president, that's what you're going to write about on your paper. So choose one of the five and then explain why.
Jamie Kimbrough: You could see from the class that they typically chose option four, and that's actually going through all of my classes. They like the warning then the air strike. Then they move to see what did Kennedy say; with each of the classes I try to debrief and say you guys really liked the air strike and I can understand why, but what is the Soviet Union going to do in response if there's an air strike to get them thinking about the repercussions of their actions not just about being aggressive and looking strong.
Comparing with the Actual Outcome
Jamie Kimbrough: So with that in mind I think they went into the Kennedy speech understanding where he came from.
Jamie Kimbrough: So then looking at Kennedy, reading what he said to the American people, answering those questions about Kennedy, and then reading the communication between Khrushchev and Kennedy to figure out how we actually resolved the Crisis.