Council in the Classroom Teacher Guides

Best of Enemies: US- Cuba relations, 1900-2015 -Teacher Resource Page

With former Cuban Ambassador, Vicki Huddleston

2:00- Announcement of normalization of US-Cuba trade relations… 3:00- The story of Elian Gonzalez, and previous attempts at normalization…  6:20- Castro’s propaganda campaign to get Elian back… 9:25- Student questions…  13:00- Conflicts with Cuba/Cuban missile crisis… 17:20- The Bay of Pigs…  19:15-  Classroom discussion about the decision not to invade Cuba… 21:40- The ambassador’s thoughts on lifting the embargo, discussion of the technicalities of the embargo…  24:15- Classroom discussion of the embargo… 27:15- Presidential powers and the political problems with lifting the Embargo…  31:10 What it’s like living in Cuba as ambassador… 34:25 The story of the political prisoner Alan Gross… 36:00- The possibility of a Cuban migration Crisis… 36:55- Cuban Adjustment Act, wet foot/dry foot policy… 40:25- Classroom discussion of wet foot/dry foot policy, and Cuban Visa Program… 49:30- Beginning of the Q&A… 51:10-Environmental issues with Cuba’s economic reform… 53:50- Small business and free enterprise in a changing Cuba… 55:25- Cuba and US politics…

Elian Gonzalez

Gonzalez was a young Cuban boy who was found on the coast of Florida after his mother and the rest of migrants aboard his raft drowned on the journey across the Gulf of Mexico.  His story became international news when Cuba requested his return and US officials attempted to get him political asylum.  The battles that followed between Elian’s family in the US and his father in Cuba unfolded in the courts and in the press, and cooled US-Cuban diplomatic relationships in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.  Elian was eventually returned to his father in Cuba.

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Key Vocab and Figures:
Elian Gonzalez: Cuban boy who whose raft washed up on the shores of Florida and became the center of an international legal struggle between the US and Cuba.
Fidel Castro: The leader of the Communist Party in Cuba from 1959-2008 who was in power when Elian Gonzalez washed ashore.
Asylum: the protection granted by a nation to someone who has left their native country as a political refugee.

Discussion Questions

How is it that single news stories can unravel years, or even decades of diplomatic progress?

Do you think we are still feeling the effects of the Elian Gonzalez controversy in US-Cuba relations today?

In situations like this, how much should the opinions of the child be taken into account?

Additional Resources

Timeline (PBS)

How The Battle Over Elián González Helped Change U.S. Cuba Policy (NPR)

Elian Gonzalez: 15 Years after his Rescue, a Quiet Life. (CBS News)


The Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a pivotal moment in the Cold War. Fifty years ago the United States and the Soviet Union stood closer to Armageddon than at any other moment in history. In October 1962 President John F. Kennedy was informed of a U-2 spy-plane’s discovery of Soviet nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba. The President resolved immediately that this could not stand. Over an intense 13 days, he and his Soviet counterpart Nikita Khrushchev confronted each other “eyeball to eyeball,” each with the power of mutual destruction. A war would have meant the deaths of 100 million Americans and more than 100 million Russians.”

-From “About the Crisis” by the Harvard Kennedy School for Science and International Affairs.

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Key Vocab and Figures:
John F. Kennedy: President of the United States during the Cuban missile crisis.
Nikita Khrushcev: The leader of the USSR’s communist party during the crisis.
Mutually Assured Destruction: A doctrine of international policy and military strategy which calls for immediate and severe nuclear retaliation for any nuclear attack. Supporters claim the doctrine deters aggression prevents nuclear attacks.

Discussion Questions

Who do you think is most responsible for the Cuban Missile Crisis?

What role (if any) do you think the Cuban missile crisis had in the proliferation of nuclear weapons across the world?

Are large countries like the United States and Russia justified in trying to prevent nuclear proliferation, despite having their own large arsenals?

Additional Resources

The Real Cuban Missile Crisis (The Atlantic)

Cuban Missile Crisis: The Anatomy of a Controversy (The National Security Archive)

Key Documents (Belford Center for Science and International Affairs)


The Bay of Pigs Invasion

“In March 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower directed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to develop a plan for the invasion of Cuba and overthrow of the Castro regime. The CIA organized an operation in which it trained and funded a force of exiled counter-revolutionary Cubans serving as the armed wing of the Democratic Revolutionary Front, known as Brigade 2506.”

-From “The Bay of Pigs Invasion and its Aftermath,” by the US Department of State.

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Key Vocab and Figures:
Covert Operation: an operation that is so planned and executed as to conceal the identity of or permit plausible denial by the sponsor.
Democratic Revolutionary Front (Frente Revolucionario Democratico): anti-Castro revolutionary group that was funded by the CIA. Their military wing, Brigade 2506, fought against the Castro Regime in the failed Bay of Pigs attack.

Discussion Questions

Should the CIA use covert operations to compromise unfriendly regimes, despite the risk of backlash or failure?

If such an operation were to topple a dictatorship, what should the United State’s role be in building and supporting the replacement government?

Additional Resources

The Bay of Pigs Invasion (The Central Intelligence Agency)

Chronology (The National Security Archive)

‘Official History’ of the Bay of Pigs (The National Security Archive)


Cuban Immigration

“Cuba has occupied a unique place in U.S. immigration law and policy as a result of fraught political relations and geographic proximity between the two countries. Cubans have been one of the ten largest immigrant-origin groups in the United States since 1970 and are currently the seventh largest. As of 2013, more than 1.1 million Cuban immigrants resided in the United States, accounting for 2.8 percent of the total U.S. immigrant population.”

-From “Cuban Immigrants in the United States,” by the Migration Policy Institute.

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Key Vocab and Figures:
Immigrant: a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.
Emigrant: a person who leaves their own country in order to settle permanently in another.
Wet-foot, Dry-foot: the name given to a consequence of the 1995 revision of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 that essentially says that anyone who fled Cuba and entered the United States would be allowed to pursue residency a year later.

Discussion Questions

Does the United States have a moral obligation to take in immigrants, exiles, and/or asylum seekers from oppressive regimes?

How do you think the migration of a million Cubans to America has affected US-Cuban relationships?

Additional Resources

Cuban Exiles in America (PBS)

Cubans Rush to U.S. Shores before easy entry ends (USA Today)

Why the ‘Wet Foot, Dry Foot,’ Debate could soon be coming to a Head (Washington Post)



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Immigration, Cultural Exchange, and Arab-American Relations: Where do we go from here? -Teacher Resource Page

With Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

0:00 Introduction of classes… 4:58 Introduction by Imam Rauf about his first tastes of America… 7:00 America as an immigrant society… 9:00 Immigration to the United States and cultural exchange… 10:30 Immigrants and how they improve relations with the countries they come from… 11:00 Classroom discussion about immigration… 11:50 Brief history, treatment, and cultural lessons of Native Americans… 14:00 Perspectives from Native students in Deer Lodge, response about Native culture… 18:35 Question about the difference between perceptions of the Middle East as a monolithic figure and the reality of an ethnically and culturally diverse region… 22:00 The evolution and splits in Christianity…24:00 Christianity in the Middle East… 26:00 Authoritarian regimes co-opting religions to maintain power… 27:00 Question about “World Trade Center Mosque…” 29:30 Question about how the US can improve its foreign policy… 34:00 “Do you believe there will be a time in the world where people won’t be persecuted for their religions?”… 36:40 “Is the problem religion or politics?”… 41:55 Question about Israel and Palestine… 44:00 Question about Muslims integrating into communities in America.

America’s Culture of Immigrants

The United States of America is a relatively young culture compared to societies like Egypt, which has maintained its cultural identity in various forms for thousand of years.  Imam Rauf uses this contrast to draw comparisons about the two cultures, and discuss how the fact that American society is relatively young allows it to better integrate people from other cultures into our society.  It is because of this general openness to immigration that, from pizza to curry, the American palate is accustomed to food inspired by cultures around the world.  America’s cultural youth allows it to integrate the cultures of other countries, and according to Imam Rauf, “This story of America welcoming people from all of the world, embracing them, and making them a part of its culture is something that is very special about America, is very unique about America, and this is what enables America to relate to the rest of the world.”

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Immigrants Change the World:
A look at a handful of the cultural, scientific, and political icons who have immigrated to United States gives a small taste of how different our country would be if it had been less welcoming to immigrants throughout its history. What would the world be like if Albert Einstein had been sent back to Europe when he tried to escape Nazi Persecution? Would our musical tradition be as rich is Carlos Santana and Bob Marley had never found a home on our shores? Click here for a list of famous immigrants from

Discussion Questions

What are the benefits of open immigration policies? What are the drawbacks?

Make a list of your favorite foods. Where does the cultural inspiration for these dishes come from? Do some research, and try to find some meals that are distinctly American.

What are some other areas the cultural link that immigration creates between the United States and other countries has impacted American culture?

Additional Resources

“The Gifts of Immigration” (Harvard Gazette)

“American Culture: Traditions and Customs of the United States” (Live Science)

“Trends in Migration to the US” (Population Reference Bureau)


Native American Culture

It often goes unacknowledged that Native Americans had rich cultural traditions on this continent long before it was colonized by the British or became the United States of America. As we begin to acknowledge the past injustices towards indigenous people, Imam Rauf contends we should embrace many aspects of Native American culture. “We have a lot to learn from the Native Americans… The highest aspects of their culture is something which really ought to be preserved, ought to be taught, ought to be advanced. Because they are no doubt a part of our heritage, and they are much needed in society today. The Native Americans respected the environment they respected the balance of nature, they respected the notion that all beings… have rights.”

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Unacknowledged Diversity:
One of the challenges with trying to preserve Native American cultures and languages is the staggering amount of diversity between native tribes. The cultures and traditions of each tribe are highly dependent on geography, climate, and the resources available to them as their societies developed and changed. This makes it difficult to preserve Native American “culture,” because there is no single indigenous culture.
Click here for a lesson plan about indigenous diversity from the National Endowment for the Humanities

Discussion Questions:

What lessons should modern Americans of all backgrounds learn from Native American tribes?

What, if anything, can the United States do to atone for past treatment of Native Americans?

How are indigenous groups similar to other minority groups in the United States? How are they different? What unique challenges do Native Americans face as they try to keep their cultures alive?

Additional Resources

“Revitalizing Native Cultures” (Montana PBS)

“Native American Cultures” (Native Languages of the Americas)

“Why it’s hard for Successful Native American Restaurants to Expand” (The Atlantic)

“Native American Festival keeps Traditions, Culture Alive” (The Reading Eagle)


The Diversity of Islam and the Middle East

What we know as the Middle East is a massive geographic space with dozens of unique and sometimes conflicting cultures, that should not be reduced to stereotypes or viewed as a monolithic society. None-the-less, western media outlets and discussion tend to characterize the Middle East as a largely homogeneous region. This makes informed conversation about the problems facing the region impossible, and oversimplifies the incredibly complicated reality that underlies the many conflicts and alliances that exist within the area. According to Imam Rauf, “The Middle East is, although it is a region of the world, it really encompasses many counties with different cultures. So if you’re talking about Egypt, Egypt has its own history, it’s own culture… Until about a century ago these countries… by and large were very multicultural. They had people of different faith traditions. We’ve had Christians from the beginning of Christianity, in almost all those countries. We’ve had Jews from the very earliest times of Judaism. Because the Middle East… is the cradle and the birthplace of all of these religions.”

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Is Islam Oppressive?
There is much discussion in the Western world about Islam’s supposed oppression of women, and religious and ethnic minorities; but do these assertions hold up when the enormous diversity in the Muslim world is taken to account? Islam is practiced by 1.5 billion people world-wide, and is the dominant religion in some progressive countries. Notably, several Muslim-majority countries, including Indonesia, Turkey, and Pakistan elected women as their heads of state long before many Western countries.

Discussion Questions

Why do you think conversations about the Middle East typically don’t acknowledge the enormous diversity in the region?

Islam is sometimes characterized as an “oppressive” religion. Do you agree or disagree with this assessment and why? How does it differ from Christianity or Judaism?

Additional Resources

The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity” (Pew Research Center)

“The Diversity of Islam” (New York Times Opinion)

“Reform Muslims Stand up to Take on the Ideology of Islamism” (The Daily Beast)


Park51, or “The Ground Zero Mosque”

In August of 2010, the blogosphere exploded with the news that Park51, a Muslim community center that was quickly labeled “the ground zero mosque,” would be built blocks away from the World Trade Center. This elicited fierce reactions from some who claimed that building the structure was unconscionable and an insult to those lost on 9/11, and others who saw the right of Muslims to build the structure and practice their faith as the epitome of the religious freedom we enjoy in America. Imam Rauf is a member of the community center which caused the outcry, and sees the decision to open a Islamic community center four blocks from ground zero as a decision necessitated by the geographical constraints of Manhattan.

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What was the Project?
“The plans for the centre were ambitious. At a cost of $100m-$150m, its 13 floors were intended to house a cultural centre, a 500-seat performing arts centre, culinary school, exhibition space, swimming pool, gym, basketball court, restaurant, library and art studios. The top two floors would house a domed space for prayers. ‘We insist on calling it a prayer space and not a mosque, because you can use a prayer space for activities apart from prayer. You can’t stop anyone who is a Muslim despite his religious ideology from entering the mosque and staying there,’ said Imam Rauf’s wife and partner, Daisy Khan… ‘With a prayer space, we can control who gets to use it.'” –Via FT Magazine

Discussion Questions

What inferences can you draw from the controversy surrounding the Park51 community center regarding American’s attitudes towards Islam and religious freedom?

The community center has been referred to as an Islamic version of the YMCA. Do you think this description is accurate? Why or why not? Can you propose a better description?

Could cultural centers like Park51 ever be used to educate and inform non Muslims about the Islamic faith? Why or why not?

Additional Resources

“Why Park51 is much more than ‘the Mosque at Ground Zero'” (The Guardian)

“Developer ditches plan for ‘Ground Zero mosque'” (New York Post)

“‘Ground Zero Mosque’ Park51 Not a Triumph of Radical Islam” (TIME)

“What Obama got wrong about the Mosque” (The Daily Beast)

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AMES Panel: Global Population and the Challenges Ahead- Teacher Resource Guide

With Dr. Bradley Layton, Arnold Sherman, and Robert Seidenschwartz.

0:00- introduction of Dr. Layton… 2:30- introduction of Arnie Sherman… 4:30… overview of discussion… 7:00- Arnie on global megacities, and population growth… 10:00- Arnie on pollution and air quality in China… 12:00- Discussion about Montana coal exports to China… 13:45- effects of urban migration… 16:00- why are people moving to urban centers? Discussion about Chinese middle class and command economies… 18:00- Discussion about AMES energy conference… 19:15- general questions from classrooms about Chinese life… 22:30- Chinese exchange student and Arnie discuss life in Montana and China… 25:15- Dr. Layton on bicycle transit… 30:25- Alternative energy and the transportation of the future… 32:50- story about Craig Thomas and the wood-fire filter; innovation in emissions technology… 37:45- Why aren’t there carbon scrubbers in China’s coal factories?… 39:40- Who owns the factories in China?… 40:30- Nuclear energy discussion… 42:45- Where does most of the pollution in China comes from?… 45:30- Mao and Chinese cultural unrest in the past… 48:20- what will it take to change America’s attitude towards bicycles?…50:00- trade-off between the environment and economic growth… 50:50- why don’t we use more alternative energy sources?…

Megacities and Pollution

The rush to major city centers over the course of the last century has been rapid, and countries are struggling to cope.  Some, like China, build massive megacities in the hopes of urbanizing more of their population and fueling greater economic growth, but this urbanization comes at cost.  Air quality in many of these global megacities is horrendous, and we are still grappling with the environmental costs of having so many people packed so densely into city centers.

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“Megacities, not nations, are the world’s dominant, enduring social structures:
Cities are mankind’s most enduring and stable mode of social organization, outlasting all empires and nations over which they have presided. Today cities have become the world’s dominant demographic and economic clusters…

It is not population or territorial size that drives world-city status, but economic weight, proximity to zones of growth, political stability, and attractiveness for foreign capital. In other words, connectivity matters more than size. Cities thus deserve more nuanced treatment on our maps than simply as homogeneous black dots.”
-Parag Kannah, via Quartz

Discussion Questions

What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in urban, suburban, and rural areas?

What do you think cities of the future will look like? Will technological advancement make the megacity a sustainable model?

Can you think of any megacities in the United States? When do major, connected cosmopolitan areas (like much of the central East Coast) become “megacities” in their own right?

Additional Resources

NASA Megacities Project

The World’s Fastest Growing Megacities (Forbes)

Megacities of the World: a glimpse of how we’ll live tomorrow (Christian Science Monitor)

List of the World’s Megacities (Demographia)

Megacities’ explosive growth poses Epic Challenges (CNBC)



Urbanization, Poverty, and the rise of the Global Middle Class

Coinciding with the rise of global megacities we have seen a remarkable period of progress, with nearly one billion people rising above the global poverty line ($1.25 USD per day) in the last two decades.  Many global economic, political, and technological forces coincided to produce what amounts to a humanitarian miracle, but there is still much work to be done.  Connectivity and proximity to resources allows us to make the most out of our potentials, but the challenges created by global urbanization should not be understated.

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Where we stand:
Extreme poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 1990. While this is a remarkable achievement, one in five people in developing regions still live on less than $1.25 a day, and there are millions more who make little more than this daily amount, plus many people risk slipping back into poverty.

Poverty is more than the lack of income and resources to ensure a sustainable livelihood. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making. Economic growth must be inclusive to provide sustainable jobs and promote equality.
-Via UN Sustainable Development Goals

Discussion Questions

What can developed nations do to help developing nations enter the global economy in a way that is sustainable and equitable?

Can you imagine trying to get by on $1.25 a day? What basic services do you take for granted that would be inaccessible to you if you lived in extreme poverty?

Should all human beings have the right to clean water, shelter, and nutritious food?

Does taking the time to recognize and congratulate ourselves on the progress we’ve made distract from the push for future progress?

Additional Resources

No Poverty: Why it matters (UN)

Poverty and Urbanization (The Joint Urban Studies Center)

Poverty is Urbanizing (The Guardian)

Poverty and Urbanization (The World Bank)



Innovation and the Future of Energy Consumption

The world is changing. That might seem like an obvious statement, but it’s hard to recognize at any given point in time how massive the changes made over the course of the last few centuries have been. These technological, social, and economic advancements have created opportunities for the impoverished, allowed us to explore the far reaches of our world and our universe, and sustained a population of more than 7 billion human beings on this Earth. But, as we evolve and make life more comfortable for ourselves, we are rapidly changing the conditions on this little planet we call home. What should, can, and must be done in order to allow human beings to create a more just, sustainable society?

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How will the experiment end?
“For generations, we have assumed that the efforts of mankind would leave the fundamental equilibrium of the world’s systems and atmosphere stable. But it is possible that with all these enormous changes – population, agricultural, use of fossil fuels – concentrated into such a short period of time, we have unwittingly begun a massive experiment with the system of this planet itself.”
-Margaret Thatcher(From “Can the World Economy Survive without Fossil Fuels”- The Guardian)

Discussion Questions

To what capacity do we need fossil fuels going forward? Is cheap energy worth irrevocably changing the climate? On the other hand, should we focus on improving the quality of life for the world’s poor using fossil fuels, despite the possible long term consequences?

What do you imagine the energy source of the future to be? Will one type of renewable energy win out over the rest, or will we use many resources in concert?

To what degree are past generations responsible for the issues we face today? To what degree should our generations be held accountable for the mistakes we are making today?

Additional Resources

Today in Energy (US Energy Information Administration)

Energy in 25 Years: Who’s producing, who’s buying (CNBC)

What is our Energy Future? (Forbes)


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