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Michael Vander Wal

Unit Plan Topic/Theme Statement

This unit is about World War I more broadly, but also puts the war into context by

discussing nationalism, imperialism, and the ideas of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Students

will not only learn the key events associated with the conflict, but also how World War I changed

the way war was fought forever.


19th century nationalism and imperialism, and early 20th century warfare may seem like it

has little to do with the lives of young people today, but many of the themes brought up by this

topic are still relevant to modern times. There are still nationalist movements afoot in areas like

Kashmir, Palestine, and Kurdistan. Imperialism (although more subtle) still exists in some form

from great powers like the United States, Russia, and China. Even issues brought up by the war

itself can be seen in the reaction to chemical gas attacks by Syria. It was because of WWI that

the international community decided to altogether ban chemical weapons from ever being used

again (Abramson 2013).


For this unit, students will be expected to read a few tough secondary sources, and a very

difficult primary source. They will also be expected to learn about very complicated diplomatic

issues relating to the beginnings of World War I. This information and these readings were

chosen because these tenth graders are supposed to be able to handle difficult material, as they

have been tracked into a more advanced school. Giving them difficult material is necessity if

one wants to give them an intellectual challenge, or if one wants to bring forward the students

higher order thinking skills.


If one observes the students in World History, then one would notice that the students are

very interested in the discussion of big ideas and analyzing big ideas in the context of specific

cases. They just wrapped up a wrestling of ideas relating to the enlightenment, and they debated

the merits of both the Haitian and French revolutions. This unit stays with those themes by

discussing the ideas of Marx and giving students specific cases relating to nationalism,
imperialism, and WWI. Imperialism and Nationalism are key topics when discussing WWI,

because, in many ways, the war is the result of both nationalism and imperialism. Germany and

Italy had each just formed a united nation under one monarch forty or so years before, and the

sudden emergence of these great powers made countries like France, Russia, and Austria very

nervous (Sanchez 2012). Imperialism is also a contributing factor to the start of WWI both

because of Germanys desire to form a colonial empire of their own, and because of Frances

continual expansion into places like Western Africa and South East Asia (iun.edu 2017).
Marxs relationship to the unit as a whole is more related to the attitudes and working

conditions of industrial workers during the war, and the desire for Germany to keep their

Socialist Party in line (both before and during the war) (Sassoon 1996). Also, while the Russian

Revolution will not be covered by me, it will be discussed later in the unit, and students should at

least be aware of the Marxist ideas Lenin wanted to implement. So, In order for students to fully

grasp the feelings of both soldiers and workers during the war, the students must know where

these socialist ideas came from.


These topics may be difficult to cover fully in only five lessons, but they contain a good

mixture of fact based learning and use of critical thinking skills.

Bibliography
Abramson, L. (2013, May 1). npr.org. In Why Chemical Weapons have been a Red Line Since

WWI.
Indiana University, . (2012). Nationalism, Imperialism, and WWI. In iun.edu.
Sanches, P. (2012, April 8). Italian and German Unification. In slideshare.net.
Sassoon, D. (1996). One Hundred Years of Socialism. In New York Times on the Web.