Teaching About Paris and ISIS on Monday

A number of teachers I work with contacted me for recommendations about how to address the attacks in Paris and conflict with ISIS in class on Monday. I have no easy answers about the events in Paris or a solution to the problems in the Middle East. I don't think any one does.

Democratic Party presidential candidates discussed what happened at their debate on Saturday. Republican Party candidates have been addressing it in numerous campaign stops. Mostly I hear anger, calls for increased security, and demands for some kind of response, but what kind of response is unclear. In the Democratic Party debate each of the candidates made stated that they thought the opponent of the United States and the west in the Middle East was radical jihadists not Islam. They also called for accepting refugees from the war in Syria, a position Republican presidential candidates generally oppose.

So students are all on the same page, I would start the lesson with a list of headlines, but would avoid video coverage. Based on these headlines from the New York Times and what you know from media coverage, what happened in Paris, France this weekend?

I found Bernie Sanders' comments at the Democratic Party debate the most useful for teachers. Sanders argued that the United States invasion of Iraq played a major role in destabilizing the region and that the United States has a responsibility the respond to what is taking place there. Here is a segment from the transcript.

"International terrorism is a major issue that we've got to address today. And I agree with much of what -- the secretary (Hillary Clinton) and -- and the governor (Michael O'Malley) have said. Only have one area of -- of disagreement with the secretary. I think she said something like, "The bulk of the responsibility is not ours." Well, in fact, I would argue that the disastrous invasion of Iraq, something that I strongly opposed, has unraveled the region completely. And led to the rise of Al Qaeda -- and to -- ISIS.

Now, in fact, what we have got to do -- and I think there is widespread agreement here - 'cause the United States cannot do it alone. What we need to do is lead an international coalition which includes -- very significantly - Muslim nations in that region are going have to fight and defend their way of life.

I don't think any sensible person would disagree that the invasion of Iraq led to the massive level of instability we are seeing right now. I think that was one of the worst foreign policy plunders in the modern history of United States. Not only did I vote against the war in Iraq, if you look at history, you will find that regime change -- whether it was in the early '50s in Iran, whether it was toppling Salvador Allende in Chile or whether it was overthrowing the government Guatemala way back when -- these invasions, these -- these toppling of governments, regime changes have unintended consequences. I would say that on this issue I'm a little bit more conservative than the secretary.

It is enormously complicated. But here's something that I believe we have to do is we put together an international coalition. And that is we have to understand that the Muslim nation in the region, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, all of these nations, they're going just have to get their hands dirty, their boots on the ground. They are going have to take on ISIS. This is a war for the soul of Islam. And those countries who are opposed to Islam [I think he meant radical Islamic fundamentalism], they are going have to get deeply involved in a way that is not the case today. We should be supportive of that effort. So should the UK, so should France. But those Muslim countries are going have to lead the efforts. They are not doing it now."

1. Why does Senator Sanders believe the United States has major responsibility for conditions in the Middle East today?
2. What is the Senator's attitude toward regime change?
3. What does Senator Sanders propose as a way to combat ISIS?
4. In your opinion, what should be done to prevent future attacks like the one in Paris this weekend?