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Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

In 2002, in an effort to build support for an invasion, the United States government alleged that Iraq had created nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction; they also alleged that the Iraqi government had committed serious human rights abuses. Because of Iraq's strict control over information, however, confirming these allegations has been difficult -- if not impossible.

In this lesson, students will learn about human rights abuses, human rights organizations, and press restrictions, using the allegations cited against Iraq in 2002 as case studies. Students will watch IN THE MIX: THE NEW NORMAL "GET THE NEWS" and use the Human Rights 101 Web site to learn about basic human rights; they will then use news footage and interviews from FRONTLINE/WORLD, as well as informational Web pages, to gather information about the history of Iraq and the nature of specific human rights abuses in that country. They will also examine Iraq's extremely restrictive press environment and will consider how those conditions make it difficult to investigate allegations of human rights abuses. Students will then discuss the importance of a free press and the connection between free press and monitoring of human rights; finally, they will learn about various human rights organizations and how they operate.

Grade Level:
Grades 9 to 12

Time Allotment:
Five 45 minute classes

Subject Matter:
Human Rights, Social Studies, Journalism, World History

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of major historical events in the history of Iraq.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of specific allegations of human rights abuses in the country under Saddam Hussein's regime.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of free press and propaganda.
  • Use primary sources, such as news articles and documentary footage, to gather information about the experiences of the Iraqi people.
  • Learn about various human rights organizations and how they operate.


From the National Standards for History:
Historical Thinking

5A. The student is able to identify issues and problems in the past and analyze the interests, values, perspectives, and points of view of those involved in the situation.

5B. The student is able to marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances and current factors contributing to contemporary problems and alternative courses of action.

From the National Standards for Social Studies:

5. Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of interactions among individuals, groups, and institutions.

6. Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of how people create and change structures of power, authority, and governance.

10. Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of the ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic.

McREL Standards:

Historical Understanding
Standard 2: Understands the historical perspective

Level IV, Benchmarks 2, 9, 10, 12

2. Analyzes the influences specific ideas and beliefs had on a period of history and specifies how events might have been different in the absence of those ideas and beliefs

9. Analyzes how specific historical events would be interpreted differently based on newly uncovered records and/or information

10. Understands how the past affects our private lives and society in general

12. Knows how to evaluate the credibility and authenticity of historical sources

Behavioral Studies
Standard 4: Understands conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among individuals, groups, and institutions

Level IV, Benchmarks 1-3, 7, 10

1. Understands that conflict between people or groups may arise from competition over ideas, resources, power, and/or status

2. Understands that social change, or the prospect of it, promotes conflict because social, economic, and political changes usually benefit some groups more than others (which is also true of the status quo)

3. Understands that conflicts are especially difficult to resolve in situations in which there are few choices and little room for compromise

7. Understands that even when the majority of people in a society agree on a social decision, the minority who disagree must be protected from oppression, just as the majority may need protection against unfair retaliation from the minority

10. Understands that the decisions of one generation both provide and limit the range of possibilities open to the next generation

Standard 10: Understands the characteristics and components of the media

Level IV, Benchmarks 1, 5, 10-12

1. Understands that media messages have economic, political, social, and aesthetic purposes (e.g., to make money, to gain power or authority over others, to present ideas about how people should think or behave, to experiment with different kinds of symbolic forms or ideas)

5. Understands aspects of media ownership and control (e.g., concentration of power and influence with a few companies; diversification of media corporations into other industries; the commercial nature of media; influence of origins on a media message or product)

10. Understands the influence of media on society as a whole (e.g., influence in shaping various governmental, social, and cultural norms; influence on the democratic process; influence on beliefs, lifestyles, and understanding of relationships and culture; how it shapes viewer's perceptions of reality; the various consequences in society of ideas and images in media)

11. Understands legal and ethical responsibilities involved in media use (e.g., censorship; copyright laws; FCC regulations; protection of the rights of authors and media owners; standards for quality programming; regulations for broadcast repeats; forms of media self-control; governmental, social, and cultural agencies that regulate media content and products)

12. Understands the role of the media in addressing social and cultural issues (e.g., creating or promoting causes: U.N. military action, election of political parties; use of media to achieve governmental, societal, and cultural goals)

Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

Level IV, Benchmarks 1, 2

1. Uses a range of strategies to interpret visual media (e.g., draws conclusions, makes generalizations, synthesizes materials viewed, refers to images or information in visual media to support point of view, deconstructs media to determine the main idea)

2. Uses a variety of criteria (e.g., clarity, accuracy, effectiveness, bias, relevance of facts) to evaluate informational media (e.g., web sites, documentaries, news programs)

This lesson was prepared by: Adrienne Kupper.