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Lesson Plans
Changing Perspectives on the Japanese Internment Experience
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

In this interactive and multi-disciplinary lesson, students learn about the role that perspective plays in the writing of history by focusing on the changing views about Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. Students will demonstrate what they've learned by creating a project that demonstrates a biased view of the Internment camps.

During the Spring and Summer of 1942, the United States Government carried out one of the largest controlled migrations in history when it relocated 110,000 Japanese Americans from their homes into wartime communities called internment camps. While some viewed this action as a necessary safety measure taken during wartime, others viewed it as an extreme measure fueled by racist sentiment. Initially most history books recorded the internment experience as a necessary safety action - if it was recorded at all. Today, this view of history is being revised.

So why is it that one version of a story can pass as history and later be revised to reflect contemporary thinking? Is history subjective, objective, or both? These are the kinds of questions that students will address in this lesson as they examine the camps and our nation's changing attitudes about the internment. Along the way, students will be asked to identify the ways in which biases affect what gets retold as a "history".

Grade Level: High school (This unit would work well as part of a World War II study.)

Time Allotment: Four to six class periods, depending on how long it takes to do research

Subject Matter: World War II, Japanese Americans, internment camps, racism

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Understand the subjectivity of history;
  • Identify key characteristics of the Japanese internment experience and the events that led to the internment;
  • Examine racist government policies and actions;
  • Find primary source materials on the Web to write their version of history;
  • Write from different perspectives about the same historical event.

National Standards:

United States History Standards for Grades 5-12 from the National Center for History in the Schools

Standard 1: Chronological Thinking
  • distinguish between past, present, and future
  • reconstruct patterns of historical succession and duration
  • interpret data presented in time lines
  • establish temporal order in constructing historical narratives of their own
Standard 2: Historical Comprehension
  • reconstruct the literal meaning of a historical passage
  • identify the central question(s) the historical narrative addresses
  • read historical narratives imaginatively
  • draw upon visual sources
Standard 3: Historical Analysis and Interpretation
  • identify the author or source of the historical document or narrative
  • compare and contrast differing sets of ideas, values, personalities, behaviors, and institutions
  • consider multiple perspectives
  • analyze cause-and-effect relationships and multiple causation, including the importance of the individual, the influence of ideas, and the role of chance
  • challenge arguments of historical inevitability
  • evaluate major debates among historians
  • hypothesize the influence of the past
Standard 4: Historical Analysis and Interpretation
  • obtain and interrogate historical data
New York State Social Studies Standards

Standard 1: History of the United States and New York

Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in the history of the United States and New York.
  • Students will analyze the development of American culture, explaining how ideas, values, beliefs, and traditions have changed over time and how they unite all Americans
  • Interpret the ideas, values, and beliefs contained in historical documents
  • Prepare essays and oral reports about the important social, political, economic, scientific, technological, and cultural developments, issues and events from U.S. history
  • Analyze historical narratives about key events in U.S. history to identify the facts and evaluate the authors' perspectives
  • Consider different historians' analyses of the same event or development in U.S. history to understand how different viewpoints and/or frames of reference influence historical interpretations

This lesson was prepared by: Anna Chan Rekate