Cold War Files: All Units: Activities: Concept Attainment – The American Policy of Containment

Concept Attainment – The American Policy of Containment

Accompanying Materials:
Resources for researching American foreign policy between 1945 and the end of the Cold War (world history textbooks, computers with Internet access, CWIHP Website)
World Map
Paper strips (3” by 24”), 50 per class
Masking Tape (thin)
Classroom Blackboard
Primary Source documents (or excerpts) including: “Declaration of Liberated Europe,” Yalta Conference, February 11, 1945; George F. Kennan’s Long Telegram of February 22, 1946; Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech of March 5, 1946; Truman’s “Truman Doctrine” Speech to Congress, March 12, 1947; George C. Marshall’s “Marshall Plan” Speech of June 5, 1947; NSC-68 of April 7, 1950

Objectives: Students will:
1) Trace the development of the concept of containment from its inception in 1946 to its reformulation in the late 1940s.
2) Identify specific goals and strategies associated with each form of containment.

Student Activities:
1) Pre-class preparation: Divide the class into several small R&D (research & discussion) groups, assigning one student in each group to complete the following tasks before class:
a) Read and print out a copy the Origins of the Cold War chronology at CWIHP Website.
b) Read and outline relevant textbook pages on the origins of the Cold War and containment.
c) Read and mark-up (using highlighter & margin notes) one primary source document or teacher-selected excerpt.
d) Prepare a photo gallery of pictures (Google, Image) of the key policymakers associated with the two versions of containment.
Students should bring copies of their work to share with other members of their R&D group.
Other preparations: On the classroom blackboard, the teacher uses the masking tape to create two columns on the blackboard, one under the heading “Yes” and one under the heading “No.” Teacher also uses the masking tape to create four vertical tape strips, two each about 18” apart and centered under both headings, with the adhesive side of the tape strips facing away from the blackboard. Teacher also prepares 10 paper strips, printing in large letters on each of these strips one idea, name, event, phrase, etc. associated with “strongpoint” or “particularized” containment, and 10 paper strips with terms associated specifically with “universal” containment. “Strongpoint” terms might include: “preventing the expansion of Soviet power,” “five key centers of military and industrial power,” “limits of American power,” “threat to US is mostly political not military.” “Universal” terms might include: “heavily influenced by U.S. domestic policies,” “moving from geopolitical to ideological,” “a defeat anywhere is a defeat everywhere,” “a crusade to create a better world,” “any communist movement is a tool of Moscow,” “expensive, global and militarized,” and “American credibility matters.”
2) Warm-up: Students should exchange copies of their work and discuss it with other members of their R&D group. Teacher distributes four of the paper strips to each R&D group with instructions to “print in large letters a key term (an idea, name, event, phrase, etc.) from the primary source document on each of the four strips.
3) In-class activity:
a) Each student group makes a brief presentation on its primary source document (or excerpt), discussing its origin, purpose and its key concepts or recommendations.
b) Teacher presents a synopsis of the evolution of containment from Kennan’s “strongpoint” or “particularized” version of containment to Nitze’s “universal” containment, describing the principal features of each.
c) Teacher then proceeds with the concept attainment exercise, using the blackboard and the paper strips (those prepared by the teacher and those collected from each student R&D group) in the following manner:
Under the column marked “Yes,” the teacher places two paper strips containing terms associated with the “strongpoint” version of containment and under the “No” column two paper strips containing terms associated with the “universal” version of containment (using the adhesive strips to hold the strips on the blackboard). The teacher then holds up a fifth paper strip (so that all of the students can read it) and calls on one student to give his/her opinion as to which column (“Yes” or “No”) the new term should be placed. The teacher then places the paper strip under the correct heading. The teacher repeats this process until both headings have accumulated several strips. The teacher then asks for a show of hands of those who think they have determined the pattern followed by the teacher. The teacher then goes back and explains the placement of each term under the correct heading.
The teacher can repeat this process several times using a mix of paper strips prepared by the students and the teacher.
After removing all of the paper strips from the blackboard, the teacher quizzes the students using the prepared paper strips, asking them to write down the version of containment – either “strongpoint” or “universal” associated with each of the terms.
4. Wrap-up/Homework: Assign students to read an except from a secondary source that discusses the seven major recommendations of NSC-68 and to develop a matrix that compares these features of NSC-68 with the major features of Kennan’s “strongpoint” or “particular” containment. Write a short essay that responds to one or both of the following sets of questions:
a) Who planted the seeds for universalism? When and why?
b) Which version of containment was more successful? And why?

Students will be evaluated on how well they are able to associate the terms with the correct version of containment. At the end of the quiz, the student papers are exchanged and graded by the students as the teacher reviews each of the terms included on the quiz.

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