Common Core Skills and the Cold War in the Third World

1024px-Nasser_cheered_by_supporters_in_1956We’re still hard at work on the Cold War unit. This unit presents an extra challenge because the Cold War lasted for such a long period and involved so many nations. We’ve had to pick and choose among the many proxy wars and crises of the period between 1947 and 1991. These choices have been quite difficult. For example, the second lesson of the world history strand focuses on the process of decolonization and the attempts of Third World nations to find a third way rather than to align themselves with either the US or the Soviet Union. We selected Egypt (the Suez Crisis of 1956) and Cuba (the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1961), after debating furiously over Algeria, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc. But even though the lesson does not cover all the important variations of decolonization and its entanglement with the Cold War, the two case studies of Egypt and Cuba are developed in considerable depth. The goal is to teach students not only about the crises but also about the underlying issues of anti-colonialism, economic dependence and nationalism. With a grasp of those issues, students can begin to grapple with the diverse points of view of the participants in the crisis.

The case study on the Suez Crisis gives students practice in two key Common Core skills: close reading of texts and analyzing diverse points of view.

The case study on Egypt begins with a secondary background reading CWW2.8 Background Suez Canal on the building of the Suez Canal, British colonialism in Egypt, Egyptian resistance, Nasser’s “third way” and the Suez Crisis of 1956. It contains comprehension questions to guide students through the material. Next, the teacher divides students into groups of four to read Gamal Abd al-Nasser’s “Speech at Alexandria,” delivered on July 26, 1956.CWW2.9 Nasser Speech at Alexandria The activity has students analyze propaganda in the speech and determine how the speech would appeal to different groups in Egypt and abroad. Students then read the speech and complete the analysis as a group. After they finish, the teacher has students share examples of propaganda and loaded words.

The next step is a simulation of a conference on the Suez Canal Crisis. The students are divided into seven groups to represent Egypt, the US, the Soviet Union, Great Britian, France, Indonesia and Pakistan. Each group has a national position paper to help them prepare for the simulation, along with general instructions CWW2.10 Suez Canal Crisis Conference Group Assignment. Here are examples of two position papers: for the Soviet Union CWW2.10.2 Soviet Position Paper, and for Indonesia CWW2.10.5 Indonesia Position Paper. The students prepare a speech, a poster, and questions for other groups. In the simulation, each group speaker delivers the speech and presents the poster. The other groups ask questions and the group answers. The group questions can continue as long as time allows.

At the end, the students read a secondary text on the resolution of the crisis and answer the questions about UN Resolution 118. If re-teaching is necessary, this paper also has a brief diagram of the crisis and an explanation of key vocabulary. Students should be able to define Nasser’s version of the Third Way, the views of the US, Soviet Union, Britain and Egypt, and the terms nationalism, sovereignty, and nationalization.

Egyptian Prime Minister Nasser cheered in Cairo after announcing the Suez Canal Company, August 1, 1956, from Ricky-Dale Calhoun, “The Musketeer’s Cloak: Strategic Deception During the Suez Crisis of 1956,” Studies in Intelligence, vol. 51, no. 2 (Central Intelligence Agency, June 2007), pp. 47-58 [Available online from CIA – Studies in Intelligence]. Wikipedia,
I apologize for the incorrect citation given previously in this blogpost. My thanks to Dr. Calhoun for bringing this to my attention.


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