ERIC Identifier: ED363569
Publication Date: 1993-10-00
Author: Graseck, Susan
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Social Studies/Social Science Education Bloomington IN.
Teaching Foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War Era. ERIC Digest.
Today the United States finds itself in a world that has changed
fundamentally. For more than 40 years the United States and the Soviet Union
were the foremost powers and rivals in international affairs. U.S. foreign
policy, U.S. domestic politics, and international relations revolved largely
around this intense rivalry. Now the Soviet Union no longer exists, and the
fifteen new states of the former Soviet Union are caught up in the turmoil of
economic and political change. Since the end of the Cold War, there have been
fewer external constraints on the projection of U.S. power abroad than at any
time since the years immediately following World War II. And yet, there are no
longer common understandings among Americans about what the U.S. role should be
in this changing international environment. This ERIC Digest treats the (1) need
and rationale for teaching and learning about current foreign policy issues; (2)
main themes in foreign policy education in the post-Cold War era; (3) balance,
inquiry, and decision making in the classroom; and (4) current classroom
THE NEED AND RATIONALE
In all of the decades of the Cold
War, few Americans stopped to consider what would happen if the Cold War ended.
When it did, the consensus that guided U.S. foreign policy for over four decades
had dissolved. In the new conditions of the post-Cold War world, what
constitutes security? Does our understanding of security need to be broadened to
encompass economic and environmental concerns? Is a world that operates on
democratic principles and respect for human rights a safer world? Are there
dangers inherent in exporting democracy? Can security be realized today without
a global partnership? If we are to enter into a partnership, what must we
sacrifice? Are Americans prepared to share sovereignty with others on issues
that affect our future? What role should the United States play in this changing
world? What role can we afford to play? And can we afford not to play? These
kinds of questions must be examined in our classrooms if American students are
to be prepared for citizenship in the twenty-first century.
The American public needs to come to terms with the changing international
environment in order to provide a framework or standard to guide policymakers.
It is a part of the job of educators at this juncture in history to help
students understand these new issues and be able to take part in the current
national dialogue on the future of U.S. foreign policy in our rapidly changing
world. Students need to understand the past and develop a sense of ownership for
the future. They also need the skills to participate in the development of
public policy in the future.
THEMES IN FOREIGN POLICY
In order to effectively
participate as citizens in shaping U.S. foreign policy into the next century,
students must develop an understanding of the range of forces and issues shaping
international relations in today's rapidly changing world. These include the
following major themes.
* Understanding the International System. Students should understand the
concepts of nation, state, sovereignty, alliances and balances of power,
diplomacy, international law, the use of force, and deterrence.
* Responses to International Conflict. The end of the East-West confrontation
has opened new possibilities for peace. It has also lifted the restraints on
many of the world's old ethnic, religious, and nationalist struggles. In this
environment, conflict is inevitable. How far should the United States go in
spending resources abroad or risking American lives--and to what end:
International stability? The protection of human rights? Economic self-interest?
Safeguarding the environment? What are the alternatives to direct intervention?
Should the United States take the lead or act in concert with other countries?
How do the principles of self-determination, human rights, and national
sovereignty conflict and interact with one another?
* Non-State and Transnational Actors. Non-state and transnational actors such
as international business, non-governmental organizations (NGO), and commodities
cartels are playing an increasing role in international relations. Furthermore,
not all threats to security are initiated within the nation-state system.
Increasingly transnational threats are emerging: drug trafficking, terrorism,
* Understanding U.S. Foreign Policy in Historical Perspective. Traditionally
international relations has involved alliances and balance of power politics.
Initially, the United States tried to remain disengaged from Old World
struggles. Following World War II, however, the United States came to embrace
balance of power politics and played a central role in the formation of NATO.
Students need to understand why the United States has responded in these
conflicting ways in the past. The end of the Cold War is initiating a paradigm
change. What are the forces at work in this change? Students should understand
the tensions among a realpolitik approach to foreign policy, tendencies toward
greater global cooperation, the desire to export democracy, and the pull toward
a new isolationism.
* Linking Foreign and Domestic Politics. The end of the Cold War has given
Americans an opportunity to reevaluate our commitment to the international
community. There is a tendency within the American public to weigh the cost of
foreign involvement against pressing national priorities. In the post-Cold War
era, the balance in our foreign policy is moving from primarily military
considerations to issues involving economic relations and immigration policy.
These issues link foreign policy and domestic politics as two sides of the same
* Successes in the International System. While we tend to focus on the
failures of the international system, some international systems are working
comparatively well (e.g., globalization of information flow, cooperation in
outer space, the Law of the Sea, and the Antarctic Treaty). Why does
international cooperation work? Can we build on this experience?
* Military Technology and Proliferation. During four decades of the Cold War,
the specter of nuclear holocaust loomed over the considerations of U.S.
policymakers. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the control of nuclear
weapons has faded from the public agenda in the United States. Experts in the
field, however, warn that the end of the Cold War has not eliminated the dangers
we face from nuclear weapons. In many respects, the disintegration of the Soviet
Union has added new concerns. Where the Soviet Union once existed, there are now
four states with nuclear arsenals on their territories. Security specialists
fear that scientists who once worked in the Soviet defense establishment may
offer their services to foreign governments. The issue of weapons proliferation
also extends beyond nuclear arms. Chemical weapons hold the power of mass
destruction, and conventional weapons continue to become more deadly and more
expensive. Finally, the development of biological weapons and space-based
weapons could add other chilling dimensions to warfare in the future.
* North-South Relations in the Post-Cold War Era. During the Cold War, the
so-called "Third World" was often the ideological and military battleground
between East and West. Although the Cold War is now over, the developing world
still faces significant dilemmas. Lack of monetary and military security, the
possibility of nuclear proliferation, ethnic and religious conflicts, as well as
myriad food and health problems, make nations of the developing world potential
hot spots for international crises. Has development of the industrialized
nations occurred at the expense of the underdeveloped nations of the worlds? Do
the newly industrialized countries exemplify possible pathways for generating
equitable and mutually beneficial relations between the North and the South?
BALANCE, INQUIRY, AND DECISIONMAKING IN THE CLASSROOM
the changing environment of the post-Cold War era, current foreign policy issues
are usually contested public policy issues. In this environment, the classroom
teacher is ill-advised to teach foreign policy as a settled issue. Rather this
period of reevaluation offers an opportunity for teachers to help their students
to appreciate ambiguity, to analyze divergent perspectives, to weigh the merits
of alternative policies, and to develop an ability to articulate and justify
their own considered opinions on the issues at hand.
If students feel that there are rigid and unchanging "right answers" to the
issues under discussion, the benefits of open discussion will be forfeited.
While there may be a place for materials (or speakers) that advocate one point
of view, these should be presented in the context of equally well articulated
Teachers should use methods and materials that prompt students to reflect,
inquire, and decide about foreign policy issues. Provocative questions should be
raised about current issues, which require students to pose alternative
responses. The likely consequences of the alternatives, positive and
negative--better or worse in terms of clearly stated criteria--should be
examined and evaluated. Students, then, should be challenged to make and defend
decisions about their choices of alternative response to current issues. This
kind of pedagogy involves intellectually active learning and high-level
cognition, which are keys to the acquisition and retention of knowledge and
development of practical and transferable cognitive processes and skills.
KEEPING CLASSROOM MATERIAL CURRENT
In the post-Cold War
era, the constant in international relations is change. Under these
circumstances, classroom materials that are current today may be out-of-date (or
even irrelevant) tomorrow. There are a number of organizations involved in the
ongoing development of high-quality curricular materials and educational
resources, which can keep classroom materials current.
* ACCESS publishes a balanced series of "Security Spectrum" (4-6 pages) and
"Resource Briefs" (2 pages) on a range of current international issues. Although
not curricular materials, these materials can be valuable resources for
classroom teachers. For more information, contact ACCESS, 1511 K St., NW, Suite
643, Washington, DC 20005, (800) 888-6033.
* American Forum on Global Education publishes THE NEW GLOBAL RESOURCE BOOK.
This is a good source of information on current curricular resources. For more
information contact, American Forum, 45 John St., Suite 908, NY, NY 10038, (212)
* CHOICES for the 21st Century Education Project publishes an ongoing series
of reproducible curricular materials on a range of current foreign policy
issues. Units include a "choices" framework of divergent policy alternatives,
historical background readings, original documents, student activities handouts,
and suggested lesson plans. At least three new topics are published annually,
and all units are updated regularly. For more information, contact CHOICES,
Center for Foreign Policy Development, Box 1948, Brown University, Providence,
RI 02912, (401) 863-3155.
* Close Up Foundation publishes CURRENT ISSUES. This presents a synopsis of
ten domestic and ten foreign policy issues. It is updated annually. A teachers
guide is available. For more information contact, Close Up Publishing, Dept.
K94, 44 Canal Center Plaza, Alexandria, VA 22314-1592, (800) 765-3131.
* Foreign Policy Association publishes two ongoing series on foreign policy
issues. HEADLINE is a series of small booklets on individual topics on
geographic areas or global issues. GREAT DECISIONS includes eight topics in a
single booklet and is published once a year. GREAT DECISIONS materials are
designed for public discussion and include background readings and policy
options. A GREAT DECISIONS ACTIVITY BOOK is available for classroom teachers.
For more information, contact Foreign Policy Association, 729 7th Ave., 8th
Floor, New York, NY 10019, (212) 764-4050.
* Scholastic publishes a biweekly current events/issues subscription
publication, SCHOLASTIC UPDATE, for students in grades 8-12. Each of the
fourteen issues is devoted to a single topic, divided equally between domestic
and international issues. For more information contact, Scholastic, 2931 McCarty
St., POB 3710, Jefferson City, MO 65102-3710.
* Stanford Program on International and Cross-cultural Education (SPICE)
offers interdisciplinary, cross-cultural curriculum units for elementary and
secondary students. SPICE materials present multiple perspectives and seek to
enhance critical thinking skills in a range of disciplines. For more information
contact, SPICE, Littlefield Center, Rm. 14, 300 Lasuen Street, Stanford
University, Stanford, CA 94305-5013, (415) 723-1114.
REFERENCES AND ERIC RESOURCES
The following list of
resources includes references used to prepare this Digest. The items followed by
an ED number are available in microfiche and/or paper copies from the ERIC
Document Reproduction Service (EDRS). For information about prices, contact
EDRS, 7420 Fullerton Road, Suite 110, Springfield, Virginia 22153-2842;
telephone numbers are (703) 440-1440 and (800) 443-3742. Entries followed by an
EJ number, annotated monthly in CURRENT INDEX TO JOURNALS IN EDUCATION (CIJE),
are not available through EDRS. However, they can be located in the journal
section of most libraries by using the bibliographic information provided,
requested through Interlibrary Loan, or ordered from the UMI reprint service.
Bahmueller, Charles F., editor. "America and the International System," in
CIVITAS: A FRAMEWORK FOR CIVIC EDUCATION. Calabasas, CA: Center for Civic
Education, 1991, pp. 278-330. ED 340 654.
Brandhorst, Allan R. "A High School Application of the Engle and Ochoa
Reflective Teaching Model." SOCIAL STUDIES 83 (May-June 1992), 104-107. EJ 458
Chan, Adrian. FREE TO CHOOSE: A TEACHER'S RESOURCE AND ACTIVITY GUIDE TO REVOLUTION AND REFORM IN EASTERN EUROPE. Stanford, CA: Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE), 1991. ED 351 248.
Choices for the 21st Century Education Project. AFTER THE COLD WAR: THE U.S.
ROLE IN EUROPE'S TRANSITION. Choices for the 21st Century series, Providence,
RI: Center for Foreign Policy Development at Brown University, 1993. ED number
will be assigned. (Other topics include: former Soviet Union, Middle East,
immigration, trade, environment, Vietnam.)
Cleveland, Harland. THE BIRTH OF A NEW WORLD: AN OPEN MOMENT IN INTERNATIONAL
LEADERSHIP. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1993.
Council for the Advancement of Citizenship. "Making United States Foreign
Policy," Citizenship Education and Peace Project, Resource Packet, May 1990. ED
East, Maurice A. "Preparing for International Affairs: What Should the High
School Grad Know?" NASSP BULLETIN 74 (January 1990): 12-14. EJ 402 361.
Gagnon, Paul. "Why Study History?" THE ATLANTIC 262 (November 1988): 43-66.
EJ 379 293.
Homer-Dixon, Thomas F. ENVIRONMENTAL SCARCITY AND GLOBAL SECURITY. HEADLINE
SERIES NO. 300. New York: Foreign Policy Association, 1993. ED number will be
assigned. (Other topics in this series include: trade, fundamentalism, China,
and former Soviet Union.)
Lindeman, Mark, and William Rose. THE ROLE OF THE UNITED STATES IN A CHANGING
WORLD: CHOICES FOR THE 21ST CENTURY. Choices for the 21st Century Education
Project. Guilford, CT: Dushkin Publishing Group, 1993.
Lynch, Allen. THE SOVIET BREAKUP AND U.S. FOREIGN POLICY. New York: Foreign
Policy Association, 1991. ED 349 257.
National Council for the Social Studies Position Statement. "A Vision of
Powerful Teaching and Learning in the Social Studies: Building Social
Understanding and Civic Efficacy." SOCIAL EDUCATION 57 (September 1993):
213-223. EJ number will be assigned.
Nelson, Jack L., and Roberta Ahlquist. "A Critical Approach to Foreign Policy
Education." SOCIAL SCIENCE RECORD 25 (Spring 1988): 58-62. EJ 376 884.
Norton, Augustus Richard, and Thomas George Weiss. UN PEACEKEEPERS: SOLDIERS WITH A DIFFERENCE. HEADLINE SERIES NO. 292. New York: Foreign Policy Association, 1990. ED 325 406.
Schukar, Ron. "Teaching Foreign Policy and Intervention: An Integrated
Problem Approach." SOCIAL SCIENCE RECORD 25 (Spring 1988): 63-66. EJ 376 885.
SPICE. ALONG THE SILK ROAD. Stanford, CA: Stanford Program on International
and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE), 1993. ED number will be assigned. (Other
SPICE topics are available.)