navigate to thirteen or ed online
  Lesson Plans
Is There Any Such Thing as a Just War?
Examining War and Morality

Adrienne J. Kupper
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Grade Level
Time Alloment
 Five 45-minute class periods


Should wars ever be fought? Are there ever circumstances that call for the use of deadly force? These questions have plagued humankind for all of its existence. Different people have different individual beliefs about war, and some of these beliefs change based on circumstance. Even religions, which value peace and human life, find justification for war in certain circumstances.

This lesson will examine the theory of a "Just War," which is a Catholic doctrine that dates back to Hebrew Scriptures and has been absorbed into modern political and international relations practices. Through the use of video and Internet resources, students will learn about the Just War theory, examine a specific example of what is commonly considered to have been a Just War, develop their own moral viewpoints on war, and relate their beliefs to current international situations.

Learning Activities

Students will be able to:
  • Use primary sources, such as news reports and video, to gather information about current events and recent world history
  • Examine prevailing religious and political philosophies and compare them to various military actions
  • Analyze the information gathered from these primary sources to draw conclusions about the moral aspects of war


National Standards for History

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.

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

National Standards for Social Studies

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

New York State Social Studies Standards

Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in world history and examine the broad sweep of history from many perspectives. (NYS SS 2)

Media Components


Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly: Religion, War, and Violence
“Just War”

This video segment provides the viewer with an abundance of information about the Just War theory and the morality of war. The video includes news clips, press conferences, and interviews with academic sources.

Web sites:

BBC Yugoslavia Fact File
This Web site provides a history of the political, ethnic, and military conflicts in Yugoslavia in the 20th Century. It includes maps that show the changing landscape of the country, as well as pictures of leaders, landmarks, and civilians.

Kosovo: As Seen, As Told
This report, which is on the Web site for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), details the history of the conflicts in Serbia and Kosovo, as well as violations of human rights and crimes against humanity.

Voices of Dissent
This Web page is a part of the site for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. It includes both an audio file and transcript of the story "Voices of Dissent." It also includes numerous links to related articles and Web sites.


Per class:

  • Chalkboard, whiteboard, or poster paper
  • Appropriate writing utensil for your writing surface
  • Tape (necessary if you are using poster paper so that you can display the students' work)
Per student:
  • Pen or pencil
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Web site hyperlink document
  • Graphic Organizer Response Sheet for student responses