Browse by concept

Every lesson on Open Ended Social Studies features a free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities.  Use this page to navigate by concept and theme through our catalog of lessons.

Authority and Rebellion
Censorship and Freedom
Character and Citizenship
Culture and Identity
Education and Mobility
Environment and Sustainability
Gender and Norms
Imperialism in Many Forms

Poverty and Wealth
Travel Writing and Photo Essays
War and Peace

logoAuthority and Rebellion

  • Augusto Sandino, National Hero: From 1927 until 1933, Gen. Augusto César Sandino led a sustained guerrilla war first against the Conservative regime and subsequently against the U.S. Marines, whom he fought for over five years. He was referred to as a “bandit” by the United States government; his exploits made him a hero throughout much of Latin America, where he became a symbol of resistance to United States’ domination.
  • The Sandinistas: The Sandinista National Liberation Front – also called the Sandinistas – are a former guerrilla army and ruling party of Nicaragua. Following a decade of single party rule, they submitted to free and fair elections in 1990, ushering in Nicaragua’s current period of period of peace, democratic stability, and relative prosperity after decades of corrupt dictatorship, civil war, and domination by the U.S. and its corporations.
  • The Duty of the Hour: The Cuban Revolution Part I (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities):  Even after its independence from Spain, Cuba spent decades as a semi-colonial state, its politics and economy guided by the United States. The 1959 Cuban Revolution, headed by Fidel Castro, was one of the first defeats of US foreign policy in Latin America.
  • The Origins of the Philippine-American War (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): How did the Filipinos gain independence from Spain, only to have it snatched away by their alleged ally, the United States?  How does this experience resonate in both Philippine and U.S. history?
  • The Brutality of the Philippine-American War (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Why was the Philippine-American War so violent?  Did this violence help or hinder the goals of each side?  Should there be rules that govern the conduct of war?
  • The Philippines in the American Empire (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): After nearly 400 years, how did independence finally come to the Philippines?  Was the United States conquest of the Philippines an anomaly in its history, or was it business as usual?
  • “The White Man’s Burden”: Kipling’s Hymn to U.S. Imperialism (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Full text of this imperialist poem, as well as an answer in the form of an anti-imperialist parody.
  • Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): This exhibit juxtaposes the visual message presented by the stereoscopic images with excerpts from the letters written by U.S. soldiers that were first published in local newspapers and later collected in the Anti-Imperialist League’s pamphlet, allowing us to get a glimpse of the Philippine-American War as it was presented to Americans at home, reading the news or entertaining friends in their parlors.
  • In The Trenches: Harper’s Weekly Covers the Philippine-American War (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities):  How did the American media cover the war in the Philippines?  An excerpt from “In The Trenches” by John F. Bass, originally published in Harper’s Weekly.
  • The Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang and the Projection of Power: Qin Shi Huang (260–210 BC) was the King of the state of Qin (r. 246–221 BC) who conquered all other Warring States and united China in 221 BC. What makes a great leader?  How do we know when a government is powerful? Can these words “great” and “powerful” mean different things?
  • The Great Wall and Borders Beyond Our Control: The largest defensive fortification on Earth is one of China’s most iconic and enduring symbols. How and why do governments regulate the flow of people and information?  Is the government’s interest always the same as the people’s?
  • King Sejong the Great: Rooted firmly in Korea’s Confucian tradition, King Sejong the Great, reigning from 1418 to 1450, inventing and promoter of Hangul, stands as the most preeminent and renowned of the Korean scholar heroes.
  • Admiral Yi Sun-sin: Despite a complete lack of naval training, during the seven years Korea was consumed by the two Japanese invasions, Admiral Yi never once suffered defeat at sea, emerging victorious in all battles and playing a decisive role in defending Korea.
  • Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Who was Muhammad, and how did the Arab world of the seventh century shape his teachings?  
  • The Dubai Mall, Sharia Law, and Social Norms: No Short-Shorts, No PDA (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): How and why do social norms and laws in Muslim majority countries differ from those in countries like the United States?  Would students still want to visit greatest mall in the world if it meant following a different set of rules than they’re used to?
  • The Khmer Rouge: Genocide in the Name of Utopia: How is history used to support ideology?  Is violence by a government against its own civilian population ever justified?  Why are certain events given priority over others in history books?
  • The Inca: Andean Civilization in the Realm of the Four Parts (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): The tremendous success of the Inca was attained by harnessing and adapting the incredible achievements of the earlier peoples of the Andes, one of only six places in the world where civilization developed independently.  A lesson in two parts:
  • Bartolomé de Las Casas and the Atrocities of the Spanish Conquistadors (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): What would you do if you found yourself surrounded by a violent, unjust system?  In the early Spanish conquest of the Americas, Bartolomé de Las Casas spoke out.
  • What is Communism? (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): A short introduction to communism, capitalism, and the ideas of Karl Marx.

logoCensorship and Freedom

  • Trading Card Propaganda: Winning Over the Children of the Revolution (Primary document analysis and critical thinking questions): Those adults who live through a revolution will always remember a time before, but children are considered more impressionable.  Examine Album de la Revolución Cubana, a set of trading cards issued as propaganda in Cuba in 1960 that tell the story of the revolution as intended for young children, and reflect on the sometimes invisible propaganda that surrounds you in your everyday life.
  • “The Goal of Capitalism: Soviet Anti-American Propaganda (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): What were the primary Soviet critiques of the United States, and what symbols did these posters use to communicate them?  Is there value in studying a rival’s propaganda against your own country? Is there danger in studying a rival’s propaganda against your own country?
  • Conquest or Westward Expansion? – Native Americans and the Stories We Tell: While it is difficult to determine exactly how many Natives lived in North America before Columbus, estimates range from a low of 2.1 million people to a high of 18 million.  Words shape the way we think about the world around us.  Stories shape the way we think about ourselves.  We cannot undo the past, but should we make an effort to ensure that the stories we tell are not simply the ones that make us feel better about ourselves?
  • The Dubai Mall, Sharia Law, and Social Norms: No Short-Shorts, No PDA (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): How and why do social norms and laws in Muslim majority countries differ from those in countries like the United States?  Would students still want to visit greatest mall in the world if it meant following a different set of rules than they’re used to?
  • The Great Wall and Borders Beyond Our Control: The largest defensive fortification on Earth is one of China’s most iconic and enduring symbols. How and why do governments regulate the flow of people and information?  Is the government’s interest always the same as the people’s?
  • Reform and Resistance: The Cuban Revolution Part II (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities):  Once in power, the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro faced challenges from within and without.  The Cubans found themselves increasingly under fire from the U.S. government, turning toward the Soviet Union for support and defense – and in turn, further alienating the Americans.  This lesson discusses in context the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the U.S. Embargo, as well as the social reforms of the Cuban Revolution.
  • Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): This exhibit juxtaposes the visual message presented by the stereoscopic images with excerpts from the letters written by U.S. soldiers that were first published in local newspapers and later collected in the Anti-Imperialist League’s pamphlet, allowing us to get a glimpse of the Philippine-American War as it was presented to Americans at home, reading the news or entertaining friends in their parlors.
  • In The Trenches: Harper’s Weekly Covers the Philippine-American War (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities):  How did the American media cover the war in the Philippines?  An excerpt from “In The Trenches” by John F. Bass, originally published in Harper’s Weekly.
  • The Khmer Rouge: Genocide in the Name of Utopia: How is history used to support ideology?  Is violence by a government against its own civilian population ever justified?  Why are certain events given priority over others in history books?

logoCharacter and Citizenship

  • Empathy in Action Bingo: What does the “social” in social studies mean, anyway?  What is the point of any of this if our students aren’t leaving our classrooms as the best possible versions of themselves?  Tools to help students with goal-setting and self-reflection.
  • Family History Project: History isn’t just famous people.  It’s your family, too.  In that spirit, this assignment asks you to document your own family history – what kind of interesting stories lie back a generation or more in your family tree?
  • Bartolomé de Las Casas and the Atrocities of the Spanish Conquistadors (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): What would you do if you found yourself surrounded by a violent, unjust system?  In the early Spanish conquest of the Americas, Bartolomé de Las Casas spoke out.
  • The Dubai Mall, Sharia Law, and Social Norms: No Short-Shorts, No PDA (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): How and why do social norms and laws in Muslim majority countries differ from those in countries like the United States?  Would students still want to visit greatest mall in the world if it meant following a different set of rules than they’re used to?
  • “The White Man’s Burden”: Kipling’s Hymn to U.S. Imperialism (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Full text of this imperialist poem, as well as an answer in the form of an anti-imperialist parody.

logoCulture and Identity

  • Family History Project: History isn’t just famous people.  It’s your family, too.  In that spirit, this assignment asks you to document your own family history – what kind of interesting stories lie back a generation or more in your family tree?
  • The Material Culture of the Soviet Union (Short film, free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): The Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, and with it all of the state-run industries that held a monopoly on the ordinary consumer and commercial products that make up the Museum of Industrial Culture in Moscow, Russia. The Soviet system of government was gone, for better or worse, and so too was the material culture that had defined Russian life for generations.
  • “The Goal of Capitalism: Soviet Anti-American Propaganda (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): What were the primary Soviet critiques of the United States, and what symbols did these posters use to communicate them?  Is there value in studying a rival’s propaganda against your own country? Is there danger in studying a rival’s propaganda against your own country?
  • Islands in a Friendly Sea: Some Basics of Filipino History and Culture (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Who are the Filipinos?  What is their history and culture?  How has it been shaped by island geography?  By contact with the outside world?
  • The Inca: Andean Civilization in the Realm of the Four Parts (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): The tremendous success of the Inca was attained by harnessing and adapting the incredible achievements of the earlier peoples of the Andes, one of only six places in the world where civilization developed independently.  A lesson in two parts:
  • The Maya: Illuminated Offspring of the Makers (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): The Maya people’s rich history can be traced back nearly four thousand years, during which time they have refined and extraordinary and vibrant culture all their own.
  • Teotihuacan: The Place Where the Gods were Born (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Who built these incredible ruins outside of present day Mexico City, which include one of the largest pyramids in all of history?  How did this mysterious civilization influence its neighbors and successors?
  • Korean History – The Basics: A basic overview of ancient Korean history through the end of the Joseon period, including distinct cultural contributions from each of the the three Korean dynasties.
  • Pungsu, the Art of Korean Geomancy: A detailed look at an ancient spiritual technique for understanding the flow and balance of energy through and over the earth.
  • Victory Day: How The Soviet Union Beat the Nazis and Why You Didn’t Know It (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): A brief account of the Russian war against Hitler’s Germany, its place in Russian national identity, and an inquiry into the question of why this story isn’t better known in the United States.
  • The Aztec: Life Under the Fifth Sun in Old Mexico: A basic overview of the Aztec-Mexica, one of the final great civilizations to arise in the western hemisphere before the paradigm shifting Columbian Exchange.
  • The Birth of Huitzilopochtli and the Mexica World – A Comic Book Lesson (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Looking for an engaging way to teach mythology in your classroom?  Go beyond Greece and Rome, and introduce your students the folklore of ancient Mexico with Comix Azteca Volume One: Old Mother Coatlicue gives birth to Huitzilopochtli, the iridescent god of war and sun – scandalizing her adult children and setting off a war that will change the world forever.
  • King Sejong the Great: Rooted firmly in Korea’s Confucian tradition, King Sejong the Great, reigning from 1418 to 1450, inventing and promoter of Hangul, stands as the most preeminent and renowned of the Korean scholar heroes.
  • Potosi and the Globalization of an Empire: Globalization is nothing new – the indigenous peoples slaving away in the Potosi mines 500 years ago could tell you all about it, while Europeans cracked the whip in order to buy Asian-made goods at affordable prices. Add in the fact that the mines were supplied with food and coca by African slaves laboring away in the low lands, and you have a template for the modern integrated global economy – exploitation, unequal rewards, and all.
  • A Basic History of Nicaragua: A basic overview of Nicaraguan history and culture through the end of the modern period, with a focus on the post-colonial period.
  • Angkor Wat and the Khmer Empire: Splendor and Ruin: What factors account for the rise and fall of ancient societies?  What can we learn about such a society from the ruins of its monumental architecture?
  • The Khmer Rouge: Genocide in the Name of Utopia: How is history used to support ideology?  Is violence by a government against its own civilian population ever justified?  Why are certain events given priority over others in history books?
  • Foot Binding and the Standard of Beauty: Foot binding is the Chinese custom of applying tight bandages to the feet of young girls. What is beauty?  Is it universal, or specific to one’s culture?  What effect do concepts of beauty have on the behavior and self-image of everyday people?
  • Conquest or Westward Expansion? – Native Americans and the Stories We Tell: While it is difficult to determine exactly how many Natives lived in North America before Columbus, estimates range from a low of 2.1 million people to a high of 18 million.  Words shape the way we think about the world around us.  Stories shape the way we think about ourselves.  We cannot undo the past, but should we make an effort to ensure that the stories we tell are not simply the ones that make us feel better about ourselves?
  • Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Who was Muhammad, and how did the Arab world of the seventh century shape his teachings?  
  • Five Pillars to Hold Me Up: What Do Muslims Believe? (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): What are the basic teachings of Islam, and what does it mean to be a Muslim?
  • The Dubai Mall, Sharia Law, and Social Norms: No Short-Shorts, No PDA (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): How and why do social norms and laws in Muslim majority countries differ from those in countries like the United States?  Would students still want to visit greatest mall in the world if it meant following a different set of rules than they’re used to?

logoEducation and Mobility

  • King Sejong the Great: Rooted firmly in Korea’s Confucian tradition, King Sejong the Great, reigning from 1418 to 1450, inventing and promoter of Hangul, stands as the most preeminent and renowned of the Korean scholar heroes.
  • Imperial Examination, the Gaokao, and the Measure of Success: The imperial examination was the world’s first high stakes examination system in Imperial China, designed to select candidates for careers the state bureaucracy. How do we decide who is intelligent in our society? Qualified?  Successful?  Does everyone have an equal shot at these things, or do certain people have special advantages over others because of their parents, their money, their language, or other factors?
  • Foot Binding and the Standard of Beauty: Foot binding is the Chinese custom of applying tight bandages to the feet of young girls. What is beauty?  Is it universal, or specific to one’s culture?  What effect do concepts of beauty have on the behavior and self-image of everyday people?
  • Trading Card Propaganda: Winning Over the Children of the Revolution (Primary document analysis and critical thinking questions): Those adults who live through a revolution will always remember a time before, but children are considered more impressionable.  Examine Album de la Revolución Cubana, a set of trading cards issued as propaganda in Cuba in 1960 that tell the story of the revolution as intended for young children, and reflect on the sometimes invisible propaganda that surrounds you in your everyday life.
  • “The White Man’s Burden”: Kipling’s Hymn to U.S. Imperialism (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Full text of this imperialist poem, as well as an answer in the form of an anti-imperialist parody.
  • Family History Project: History isn’t just famous people.  It’s your family, too.  In that spirit, this assignment asks you to document your own family history – what kind of interesting stories lie back a generation or more in your family tree?

logoEnvironment and Sustainability

  • Unrecognized Potential: Terra Preta, Ancient Orchards, and Life in the Amazon: Until relatively recently, it was widely believed that the Amazon Rainforest was incapable of sustaining large scale human development.  New findings have challenged this view, and evidence of ancient agriculture suggests that humans once developed this fragile region in ways so subtle that – in the form of carefully managed soils and prehistoric orchards – they have been hiding in plain sight all this time, challenging the basic tenants of “agriculture” as western eyes tend to recognize it.
  • The Pristine Myth: How Native Americans Shaped Their World (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities) For millennia before the arrival of Columbus, Native Americans shaped the environment around them to suit their needs, often in ways that were invisible from a European perspective.
  • The Three Sisters: Background information on the agricultural combination of maize (corn), beans, and squash that formed the backbone of the Mesoamerican and North American civilization, plus suggested activities.
  • Potosi and the Globalization of an Empire: Globalization is nothing new – the indigenous peoples slaving away in the Potosi mines 500 years ago could tell you all about it, while Europeans cracked the whip in order to buy Asian-made goods at affordable prices. Add in the fact that the mines were supplied with food and coca by African slaves laboring away in the low lands, and you have a template for the modern integrated global economy – exploitation, unequal rewards, and all.
  • Manila at the Crossroads of World Trade (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): For more than three centuries, Manila was one of the crown jewels of the Spanish Empire, sitting at the intersection of global trade between Asia, the Americas, and Europe.  How did this global trade shape the Philippines – and how did the Philippines shape global trade?
  • The Aztec: Life Under the Fifth Sun in Old Mexico: A basic overview of the Aztec-Mexica, one of the final great civilizations to arise in the western hemisphere before the paradigm shifting Columbian Exchange, including the dramatic ways in which they harnessed and changed the environment around them to grow their capital city into one of the largest in the world.
  • Pungsu, the Art of Korean Geomancy: A detailed look at an ancient spiritual technique for understanding the flow and balance of energy through and over the earth.
  • Angkor Wat and the Khmer Empire: Splendor and Ruin: What factors account for the rise and fall of ancient societies?  What can we learn about such a society from the ruins of its monumental architecture?
  • The Material Culture of the Soviet Union (Short film, free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): The Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, and with it all of the state-run industries that held a monopoly on the ordinary consumer and commercial products that make up the Museum of Industrial Culture in Moscow, Russia. The Soviet system of government was gone, for better or worse, and so too was the material culture that had defined Russian life for generations.
  • United Arab Emirates Case Study: How would you diversify your single resource economy? (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities):  It is risky for a nation’s economy to be overly dependent on any one business, especially a single raw commodity, like oil.  Such commodities are subject to sudden fluctuations in price.  While world demand for oil is high, and while a nation’s reserves last, that nation might be very wealthy.  But what would happen to that economy if oil prices fell?

logoGender and Norms

  • Foot Binding and the Standard of Beauty: Foot binding is the Chinese custom of applying tight bandages to the feet of young girls. What is beauty?  Is it universal, or specific to one’s culture?  What effect do concepts of beauty have on the behavior and self-image of everyday people?
  • The Dubai Mall, Sharia Law, and Social Norms: No Short-Shorts, No PDA (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): How and why do social norms and laws in Muslim majority countries differ from those in countries like the United States?  Would students still want to visit greatest mall in the world if it meant following a different set of rules than they’re used to?
  • Trading Card Propaganda: Winning Over the Children of the Revolution (Primary document analysis and critical thinking questions): Those adults who live through a revolution will always remember a time before, but children are considered more impressionable.  Examine Album de la Revolución Cubana, a set of trading cards issued as propaganda in Cuba in 1960 that tell the story of the revolution as intended for young children, and reflect on the sometimes invisible propaganda that surrounds you in your everyday life.
  • The Birth of Huitzilopochtli and the Mexica World – A Comic Book Lesson (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Looking for an engaging way to teach mythology in your classroom?  Go beyond Greece and Rome, and introduce your students the folklore of ancient Mexico with Comix Azteca Volume One: Old Mother Coatlicue gives birth to Huitzilopochtli, the iridescent god of war and sun – scandalizing her adult children and setting off a war that will change the world forever.

logoImperialism in Many Forms

  • What is Communism? (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): A short introduction to communism, capitalism, and the ideas of Karl Marx.
  • Who Caused the Cold War? (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): This article guides students through four early, decisive situations during the early years of the Cold War – the development of the atomic bomb, the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and the Berlin Blockade – asking them to consider both sides’ goals and points of view in each scenario.
  • “The Goal of Capitalism: Soviet Anti-American Propaganda (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): What were the primary Soviet critiques of the United States, and what symbols did these posters use to communicate them?  Is there value in studying a rival’s propaganda against your own country? Is there danger in studying a rival’s propaganda against your own country?
  • The Inca: Andean Civilization in the Realm of the Four Parts (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): The tremendous success of the Inca was attained by harnessing and adapting the incredible achievements of the earlier peoples of the Andes, one of only six places in the world where civilization developed independently.  A lesson in two parts:
  • Potosi and the Globalization of an Empire: Globalization is nothing new – the indigenous peoples slaving away in the Potosi mines 500 years ago could tell you all about it, while Europeans cracked the whip in order to buy Asian-made goods at affordable prices. Add in the fact that the mines were supplied with food and coca by African slaves laboring away in the low lands, and you have a template for the modern integrated global economy – exploitation, unequal rewards, and all.
  • Manila at the Crossroads of World Trade (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): For more than three centuries, Manila was one of the crown jewels of the Spanish Empire, sitting at the intersection of global trade between Asia, the Americas, and Europe.  How did this global trade shape the Philippines – and how did the Philippines shape global trade?
  • The Origins of the Philippine-American War (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): How did the Filipinos gain independence from Spain, only to have it snatched away by their alleged ally, the United States?  How does this experience resonate in both Philippine and U.S. history?
  • The Brutality of the Philippine-American War (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Why was the Philippine-American War so violent?  Did this violence help or hinder the goals of each side?  Should there be rules that govern the conduct of war?
  • The Philippines in the American Empire (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): After nearly 400 years, how did independence finally come to the Philippines?  Was the United States conquest of the Philippines an anomaly in its history, or was it business as usual?
  • “The White Man’s Burden”: Kipling’s Hymn to U.S. Imperialism (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Full text of this imperialist poem, as well as an answer in the form of an anti-imperialist parody.
  • Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): This exhibit juxtaposes the visual message presented by the stereoscopic images with excerpts from the letters written by U.S. soldiers that were first published in local newspapers and later collected in the Anti-Imperialist League’s pamphlet, allowing us to get a glimpse of the Philippine-American War as it was presented to Americans at home, reading the news or entertaining friends in their parlors.
  • In The Trenches: Harper’s Weekly Covers the Philippine-American War (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities):  How did the American media cover the war in the Philippines?  An excerpt from “In The Trenches” by John F. Bass, originally published in Harper’s Weekly.
  • Bartolomé de Las Casas and the Atrocities of the Spanish Conquistadors (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): What would you do if you found yourself surrounded by a violent, unjust system?  In the early Spanish conquest of the Americas, Bartolomé de Las Casas spoke out.
  • Conquest or Westward Expansion? – Native Americans and the Stories We Tell: While it is difficult to determine exactly how many Natives lived in North America before Columbus, estimates range from a low of 2.1 million people to a high of 18 million.  Words shape the way we think about the world around us.  Stories shape the way we think about ourselves.  We cannot undo the past, but should we make an effort to ensure that the stories we tell are not simply the ones that make us feel better about ourselves?
  • A Basic History of Nicaragua: A basic overview of Nicaraguan history and culture through the end of the modern period, with a focus on the post-colonial period.
  • William Walker, the Grey-Eyed Man of Destiny: William Walker was an American  who organized several private military expeditions into Latin America with the intention of establishing English-speaking colonies under his personal control, an enterprise then known as “filibustering.”
  • Augusto Sandino, National Hero: From 1927 until 1933, Gen. Augusto César Sandino led a sustained guerrilla war first against the Conservative regime and subsequently against the U.S. Marines, whom he fought for over five years. He was referred to as a “bandit” by the United States government; his exploits made him a hero throughout much of Latin America, where he became a symbol of resistance to United States’ domination.
  • The Sandinistas: The Sandinista National Liberation Front – also called the Sandinistas – are a former guerrilla army and ruling party of Nicaragua. Following a decade of single party rule, they submitted to free and fair elections in 1990, ushering in Nicaragua’s current period of period of peace, democratic stability, and relative prosperity after decades of corrupt dictatorship, civil war, and domination by the U.S. and its corporations.
  • The Duty of the Hour: The Cuban Revolution Part I (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities):  Even after its independence from Spain, Cuba spent decades as a semi-colonial state, its politics and economy guided by the United States. The 1959 Cuban Revolution, headed by Fidel Castro, was one of the first defeats of US foreign policy in Latin America.
  • Reform and Resistance: The Cuban Revolution Part II (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities):  Once in power, the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro faced challenges from within and without.  The Cubans found themselves increasingly under fire from the U.S. government, turning toward the Soviet Union for support and defense – and in turn, further alienating the Americans.  This lesson discusses in context the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the U.S. Embargo, as well as the social reforms of the Cuban Revolution.
  • The Aztec: Life Under the Fifth Sun in Old Mexico: A basic overview of the Aztec-Mexica, one of the final great civilizations to arise in the western hemisphere before the paradigm shifting Columbian Exchange.
  • The Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang and the Projection of Power: Qin Shi Huang (260–210 BC) was the King of the state of Qin (r. 246–221 BC) who conquered all other Warring States and united China in 221 BC. What makes a great leader?  How do we know when a government is powerful? Can these words “great” and “powerful” mean different things?
  • The Great Wall and Borders Beyond Our Control: The largest defensive fortification on Earth is one of China’s most iconic and enduring symbols. How and why do governments regulate the flow of people and information?  Is the government’s interest always the same as the people’s?
  • The Silk Road, International Trade, and Global Prosperity: The Silk Road is an ancient network of trade and cultural transmission routes that were central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the West and East by merchants, pilgrims, monks, soldiers, nomads, and urban dwellers. How do goods, wealth, technology, and culture spread?  What is gained or lost in the exchange?  Does trade benefit all sides equally?  Who sets the terms of international trade?
  • Islands in a Friendly Sea: Some Basics of Filipino History and Culture (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Who are the Filipinos?  What is their history and culture?  How has it been shaped by island geography?  By contact with the outside world?

logoPoverty and Wealth

  • The Silk Road, International Trade, and Global Prosperity: The Silk Road is an ancient network of trade and cultural transmission routes that were central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the West and East by merchants, pilgrims, monks, soldiers, nomads, and urban dwellers. How do goods, wealth, technology, and culture spread?  What is gained or lost in the exchange?  Does trade benefit all sides equally?  Who sets the terms of international trade?
  • Foot Binding and the Standard of Beauty: Foot binding is the Chinese custom of applying tight bandages to the feet of young girls. What is beauty?  Is it universal, or specific to one’s culture?  What effect do concepts of beauty have on the behavior and self-image of everyday people?
  • Imperial Examination, the Gaokao, and the Measure of Success: The imperial examination was the world’s first high stakes examination system in Imperial China, designed to select candidates for careers the state bureaucracy. How do we decide who is intelligent in our society? Qualified?  Successful?  Does everyone have an equal shot at these things, or do certain people have special advantages over others because of their parents, their money, their language, or other factors?
  • What is Communism? (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): A short introduction to communism, capitalism, and the ideas of Karl Marx.
  • The Material Culture of the Soviet Union (Short film, free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): The Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, and with it all of the state-run industries that held a monopoly on the ordinary consumer and commercial products that make up the Museum of Industrial Culture in Moscow, Russia. The Soviet system of government was gone, for better or worse, and so too was the material culture that had defined Russian life for generations.
  • A Basic History of Nicaragua: A basic overview of Nicaraguan history and culture through the end of the modern period, with a focus on the post-colonial period.
  • William Walker, the Grey-Eyed Man of Destiny: William Walker was an American  who organized several private military expeditions into Latin America with the intention of establishing English-speaking colonies under his personal control, an enterprise then known as “filibustering.”
  • Augusto Sandino, National Hero: From 1927 until 1933, Gen. Augusto César Sandino led a sustained guerrilla war first against the Conservative regime and subsequently against the U.S. Marines, whom he fought for over five years. He was referred to as a “bandit” by the United States government; his exploits made him a hero throughout much of Latin America, where he became a symbol of resistance to United States’ domination.
  • The Sandinistas: The Sandinista National Liberation Front – also called the Sandinistas – are a former guerrilla army and ruling party of Nicaragua. Following a decade of single party rule, they submitted to free and fair elections in 1990, ushering in Nicaragua’s current period of period of peace, democratic stability, and relative prosperity after decades of corrupt dictatorship, civil war, and domination by the U.S. and its corporations.
  • The Khmer Rouge: Genocide in the Name of Utopia: How is history used to support ideology?  Is violence by a government against its own civilian population ever justified?  Why are certain events given priority over others in history books?
  • Potosi and the Globalization of an Empire: Globalization is nothing new – the indigenous peoples slaving away in the Potosi mines 500 years ago could tell you all about it, while Europeans cracked the whip in order to buy Asian-made goods at affordable prices. Add in the fact that the mines were supplied with food and coca by African slaves laboring away in the low lands, and you have a template for the modern integrated global economy – exploitation, unequal rewards, and all.
  • Manila at the Crossroads of World Trade (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): For more than three centuries, Manila was one of the crown jewels of the Spanish Empire, sitting at the intersection of global trade between Asia, the Americas, and Europe.  How did this global trade shape the Philippines – and how did the Philippines shape global trade?
  • Unrecognized Potential: Terra Preta, Ancient Orchards, and Life in the Amazon: Until relatively recently, it was widely believed that the Amazon Rainforest was incapable of sustaining large scale human development.  New findings have challenged this view, and evidence of ancient agriculture suggests that humans once developed this fragile region in ways so subtle that – in the form of carefully managed soils and prehistoric orchards – they have been hiding in plain sight all this time, challenging the basic tenants of “agriculture” as western eyes tend to recognize it.
  • The Maya: Illuminated Offspring of the Makers (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): The Maya people’s rich history can be traced back nearly four thousand years, during which time they have refined and extraordinary and vibrant culture all their own.
  • United Arab Emirates Case Study: How would you diversify your single resource economy? (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities):  It is risky for a nation’s economy to be overly dependent on any one business, especially a single raw commodity, like oil.  Such commodities are subject to sudden fluctuations in price.  While world demand for oil is high, and while a nation’s reserves last, that nation might be very wealthy.  But what would happen to that economy if oil prices fell?

logoTravel Writing and Photo Essays

While researching new articles and lessons for Openendedsocialstudies.org, founder Thomas Kenning typically maintains a travel journal.  Educational in their own right, his blog posts offer plenty of history, culture, and photos woven into a first person narrative, which attempts to present honestly and conversationally one traveler’s experience while conducting research abroad.

  • Live From Moscow, 2018:
  • New Horizons in Peru and Bolivia, Travel Writing:
    • Adventure Blog.
    • A Guided Tour of Bolivia, 2016 – Explore the streets of La Paz and El Alto, scramble through the 500 year-old silver mines of Potosi, or race across the barren salt flats of Uyuni.  Supplementary photos and information on Bolivia, past and present.
    • A Guided Tour of Peru, 2016 – Explore the streets of Cusco and Lima, scramble through Inca ruins from Machu Picchu on down, take a slow boat up the Amazon River from Iquitos, and an even slower boat across Lake Titicaca to the floating man-made islands of the Uros.  Supplementary photos and information on Peru, past and present.
  • TEACH in Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, Travel Writing:
    • Adventure Blog.
    • A Guided Tour of the Gulf States is a curated photo essay.  Stroll the streets of Manama and Doha, ride to the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, witness the grandeur of Islamic architecture at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque before spending the evening dune bashing with high-paying tourists in the sands of Abu Dhabi.
  • An American in Cuba, Travel Writing:
  • A Guided Tour of Maya Mexico, 2017 – Explore the ruins of Ek’ Balam, Uxmal, and Chichen Itza, scramble through streets of colonial Merida, and sample the cuisine and culture of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.  Supplementary photos and information on the Yucatan, past and present.
  • Scenes from Cambodia, 2014 – supplementary photos to enhance a sense of place.
  • Scenes from China, 2015 – supplementary photos to enhance a sense of place.
  • Scenes from Nicaragua, 2015 – supplementary photos to enhance a sense of place.
  • A Guided Tour of Moscow, 2017 – Explore Red Square and Gorky Park, race through the Moscow Metro, and participate in the 2017 Victory Day celebrations commemorating the end of World War II.  Supplementary photos and information about Moscow, Russia.
  • Scenes from South Korea, 2015 – From the glistening towers of Seoul to the DMZ, from the bustle of downtown to the sanctuary of its Buddhist monasteries – supplementary photos to enhance a sense of place.

logoWar and Peace

  • Admiral Yi Sun-sin: Despite a complete lack of naval training, during the seven years Korea was consumed by the two Japanese invasions, Admiral Yi never once suffered defeat at sea, emerging victorious in all battles and playing a decisive role in defending Korea.
  • The Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang and the Projection of Power: Qin Shi Huang (260–210 BC) was the King of the state of Qin (r. 246–221 BC) who conquered all other Warring States and united China in 221 BC. What makes a great leader?  How do we know when a government is powerful? Can these words “great” and “powerful” mean different things?
  • The Great Wall and Borders Beyond Our Control: The largest defensive fortification on Earth is one of China’s most iconic and enduring symbols. How and why do governments regulate the flow of people and information?  Is the government’s interest always the same as the people’s?
  • The Aztec: Life Under the Fifth Sun in Old Mexico: A basic overview of the Aztec-Mexica, one of the final great civilizations to arise in the western hemisphere before the paradigm shifting Columbian Exchange.
  • The Inca: Andean Civilization in the Realm of the Four Parts (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): The tremendous success of the Inca was attained by harnessing and adapting the incredible achievements of the earlier peoples of the Andes, one of only six places in the world where civilization developed independently.  A lesson in two parts:
  • A Basic History of Nicaragua: A basic overview of Nicaraguan history and culture through the end of the modern period, with a focus on the post-colonial period.
  • William Walker, the Grey-Eyed Man of Destiny: William Walker was an American  who organized several private military expeditions into Latin America with the intention of establishing English-speaking colonies under his personal control, an enterprise then known as “filibustering.”
  • Augusto Sandino, National Hero: From 1927 until 1933, Gen. Augusto César Sandino led a sustained guerrilla war first against the Conservative regime and subsequently against the U.S. Marines, whom he fought for over five years. He was referred to as a “bandit” by the United States government; his exploits made him a hero throughout much of Latin America, where he became a symbol of resistance to United States’ domination.
  • The Sandinistas: The Sandinista National Liberation Front – also called the Sandinistas – are a former guerrilla army and ruling party of Nicaragua. Following a decade of single party rule, they submitted to free and fair elections in 1990, ushering in Nicaragua’s current period of period of peace, democratic stability, and relative prosperity after decades of corrupt dictatorship, civil war, and domination by the U.S. and its corporations.
  • Victory Day: How The Soviet Union Beat the Nazis and Why You Didn’t Know It (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): A brief account of the Russian war against Hitler’s Germany, its place in Russian national identity, and an inquiry into the question of why this story isn’t better known in the United States.
  • The Great Tokyo Air Raid (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): On the night of March 9, 1945 the United States conducted a devastating firebombing raid on Tokyo, the Japanese capital city.  What were the consequences of this attack for the people on ground, as well as for the nation that has normalized such actions as acceptable?
  • Who Caused the Cold War? (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): This article guides students through four early, decisive situations during the early years of the Cold War – the development of the atomic bomb, the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and the Berlin Blockade – asking them to consider both sides’ goals and points of view in each scenario.
  • The Duty of the Hour: The Cuban Revolution Part I (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities):  Even after its independence from Spain, Cuba spent decades as a semi-colonial state, its politics and economy guided by the United States. The 1959 Cuban Revolution, headed by Fidel Castro, was one of the first defeats of US foreign policy in Latin America.
  • Reform and Resistance: The Cuban Revolution Part II (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities):  Once in power, the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro faced challenges from within and without.  The Cubans found themselves increasingly under fire from the U.S. government, turning toward the Soviet Union for support and defense – and in turn, further alienating the Americans.  This lesson discusses in context the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the U.S. Embargo, as well as the social reforms of the Cuban Revolution.
  • The Khmer Rouge: Genocide in the Name of Utopia: How is history used to support ideology?  Is violence by a government against its own civilian population ever justified?  Why are certain events given priority over others in history books?
  • Conquest or Westward Expansion? – Native Americans and the Stories We Tell: While it is difficult to determine exactly how many Natives lived in North America before Columbus, estimates range from a low of 2.1 million people to a high of 18 million.  Words shape the way we think about the world around us.  Stories shape the way we think about ourselves.  We cannot undo the past, but should we make an effort to ensure that the stories we tell are not simply the ones that make us feel better about ourselves?
  • The Origins of the Philippine-American War (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): How did the Filipinos gain independence from Spain, only to have it snatched away by their alleged ally, the United States?  How does this experience resonate in both Philippine and U.S. history?
  • The Brutality of the Philippine-American War (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Why was the Philippine-American War so violent?  Did this violence help or hinder the goals of each side?  Should there be rules that govern the conduct of war?
  • The Philippines in the American Empire (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): After nearly 400 years, how did independence finally come to the Philippines?  Was the United States conquest of the Philippines an anomaly in its history, or was it business as usual?
  • “The White Man’s Burden”: Kipling’s Hymn to U.S. Imperialism (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): Full text of this imperialist poem, as well as an answer in the form of an anti-imperialist parody.
  • Stereoscopic Visions of War and Empire (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities): This exhibit juxtaposes the visual message presented by the stereoscopic images with excerpts from the letters written by U.S. soldiers that were first published in local newspapers and later collected in the Anti-Imperialist League’s pamphlet, allowing us to get a glimpse of the Philippine-American War as it was presented to Americans at home, reading the news or entertaining friends in their parlors.
  • In The Trenches: Harper’s Weekly Covers the Philippine-American War (Free online text suited for middle or high school classroom use, guided reading questions, and suggested activities):  How did the American media cover the war in the Philippines?  An excerpt from “In The Trenches” by John F. Bass, originally published in Harper’s Weekly.

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