Nuclear threats, propaganda and human rights

3rd May 2013 at 01:00


Cold War got too hot

The Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba is an example of what can go wrong when Western countries attempt to overthrow questionable regimes making bellicose pronouncements.

The invasion force, known as Brigade 2506, was a paramilitary group of 1,400 Cuban exiles, trained and funded by the US Central Intelligence Agency. On 17 April 1961, they travelled by boat from Guatemala to Cuba's Bay of Pigs, in an attempt to overthrow revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. But they were defeated by Cuban armed forces within three days.

The failure was a major embarrassment for the US government. It also strengthened Castro's regime and deepened his resolve to adopt socialism and strengthen ties with the Soviet Union.

This led to the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year, which was one of the major confrontations of the Cold War and the closest the world has ever come to nuclear war.

In July 1962, US surveillance confirmed that the Soviet Union had placed missiles in Cuba. The US retaliated by imposing a military blockade to stop further weapons being delivered. The missile crisis was resolved only after a tense 13-day stand-off, which ended on 28 October. The Soviets agreed to dismantle their weapons in Cuba; the US issued assurances that it would not invade Cuba and agreed to dismantle nuclear missiles in Turkey and Italy.


Start a debate about nuclear weapons and warfare using a prompting sheet from the UK Institute of Physics (iop). bit.lyNuclearWarfare

Introduce your students to the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis with a documentary from TESConnect partner Khan Academy. bit.lyBayofPigsInvasion

Try human rights resources from TESConnect partner Amnesty International, including lesson plans and case studies. bit.lyAmnestyCollection

Refresh students' knowledge of statistics and probability using revision notes by TESConnect maths adviser Craig Barton (MrBartonMaths). bit.lyStatisticsRevision


Born out of the statistics

Helping students to identify with the moral and ethical dilemmas of the developing world is never easy. And many would doubt that this could be achieved through mathematics. But TESConnect partner Amnesty International has created lessons that weave statistics and human rights together.

In a lesson entitled Dying to Give Birth, 15- and 16-year-old students are shown a film about the high number of women who die during childbirth in Sierra Leone. They then analyse a scatter diagram that compares maternal mortality rates and per-capita incomes in countries across the world. Next they look at regional trends, before creating an infographic that represents the link between infant mortality and average income. Finally, they talk about how these issues could be addressed.

"The study of human rights issues in a maths lesson is a great way to make mathematics relevant to young people," says Brandon Block, human rights education manager at Amnesty International UK. "The students discover the power of data and statistics to tell a compelling human rights story."

Dying to Give Birth is from Everyone Everywhere, a free collection of eight lessons that support the teaching of human rights across the curriculum.


Mapping the blast

Over the past two decades, since the end of the Cold War, the prospect of a nuclear Armageddon has faded. But with about 23,000 nuclear warheads still thought to be in existence, more than enough nuclear firepower is available to end life on Earth. And with the threat emerging from North Korea, the subject remains terrifyingly topical.

Alex Wellerstein, associate historian at the American Institute of Physics, specialises in the history of nuclear weapons. He says that students often struggle to understand the implications of nuclear warfare, so he has devised Nukemap (www.nuclearsecrecy.comnukemap). Users can go to the website, pick a destination on a Google Maps interface and drop nuclear bombs of varying sizes to see the impact.

"A lot of people think a nuclear weapon goes off and everybody gets blown up or disappears," Wellerstein says. "The reality is the buildings would collapse and you would be set on fire, which makes it real and scarier."

Explore the implications of nuclear attacks further with a nuclear explosion timeline shared by PeaceEducation (bit.lyNuclearExplosionTimeline).


Help students to understand the history and politics of North Korea and its division from South Korea with cojoa's Cold War revision guide. bit.lyKoreaDivide

- arjohnston's presentation explores the Cold War, from the Berlin Airlift to the fall of communism in Europe. bit.lyColdWarlesson

- Debate the merits of communism versus capitalism using a guide from BiltonStilton. bit.lyCapitalismvsCommunism

Introduce your class to the basics of news writing with TESEnglish's activity. bit.lyNewsReportWriting.

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