Liz Morrison teaches ninth-grade world history at Parkway South High School in Manchester, Missouri. A former farming town, Manchester is a newly developed suburban community located about 20 miles west of St. Louis. Most residents commute to the city, working for local industries like Anheuser Busch, Merit, and Chrysler.
Parkway South High School opened in 1976. Its enrollment is now 2,200 students. The school reflects the demographics of the surrounding community (predominantly middle class, Caucasian), but Parkway is also one of the few remaining schools in the state to participate in the Voluntary Transfer Program initially developed in the early 1970s to end desegregation. Roughly 17 percent of the students are minorities who commute from St. Louis by bus.
Throughout the year, the unifying theme in Ms. Morrison's class was "Why We Fight: Challenges, Choices, and Consequences." She began the year in the post-Civil War era, with a unit on Reconstruction. Then the class moved on to units on westward expansion, immigration, the world wars, and the Depression. At the beginning of the unit on the Cold War, the class explored McCarthyism, the Korean War, and the causes of the Vietnam War. So by the time the class began the lesson "Public Opinion and the Vietnam War," students were familiar with the events surrounding some of the largest and bloodiest battles of the twentieth century.
In each unit, Ms. Morrison focused both on the events in world history and their impact on the American people. For example, in an effort to get students to understand the popular opinion surrounding the events of World War II, Ms. Morrison had the class watch movies like Saving Private Ryan. She also invited local veterans of the Battle of the Bulge to talk to students about what it was like to be in a war. Interviews with their parents and grandparents helped students develop a better understanding of the impact of the Vietnam War on the American psyche, the military draft system, the role of the media in the 1960s, and how public opinion changed over the course of the war. In fact, the diversity of opinion among students in the class was reflective of the changing opinions during the war.
Because the military had only recently been integrated at the time of the Vietnam War, Ms. Morrison used this lesson to segue into the next unit on the civil rights movement, emphasizing the integration of the military as the first step in the integration of America.
Lesson Background >>