GREAT AMERICAN CONFRONTATIONS
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Students not acting as specific figures participate by playing characters representing various viewpoints, injecting questions that provide a whole-picture portrayal. The six simulations are:
- Who Really Discovered America? Six different explorers who claim to be the “true discoverer of America”—a Chinese Buddhist monk, an Irish priest, a disinherited Welsh prince, a Viking, an Icelander, and a certain Genovese admiral—sit on a panel with a Cree Indian chief.
- Jeffersonians vs. Hamiltonians. Should the Federalists continue to govern America? Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson and their “families” square off in a popular game-show format.
- Calhoun vs. Garrison. In a confrontational talk-show format, Southern politician John C. Calhoun and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrision debate whether Americans should allow slavery to persist in their nation.
- Progressive Era Forum. Eight Progressive leaders gather for a panel discussion on whether America’s emerging “social conscience” will have a lasting impact.
- New Deal on Trial. An imaginary trial complete with judge, jury, attorneys, court reporters, and witnesses has students assess the impact of FDR and his raft of legislation.
- Congressional Fact-Finding Mission. In the thick of World War II, a congressional committee calls for testimony regarding whether Japanese American internment is warranted and if it should continue, and takes questions in a citizens’ forum.
Culminating debriefing sessions engage players in discussions relating the confrontations to the present. Each unit contains an emcee’s guide, role descriptions, essay prompts, and handouts, and may stand alone. Each debate lasts one class period.