John F. Kennedy once said, “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.” When he stated this, he was reminding citizens that everyone still lives on the same planet. While people may be separated by oceans, seas, and hundreds of miles, we all work to protect the planet. Therefore, countries have to be incredibly mindful of whether or not it makes sense to produce nuclear materials. Due to the amount of destruction, nuclear attacks do not just impact one small area. Hence, students need to truly understand how the decision of one country can impact so many innocent lives in multiple countries. In order to do this, learning about the Cuban Missile Crisis is essential in a U.S History Course. Thankfully, the Cuban Missile Crisis Simulation is the ideal way to show how much thought and debate goes into choices!
What was the Cuban Missile Crisis?
In October 1962, an American spy plane found nuclear missile sites being built by the Soviet Union. However, President Kennedy did not instantly want Cuba to know he was aware of what was going on. Instead, he met with key advisors in order to discuss the problem and develop different solutions. After many challenging meetings, President Kennedy reached his decision. He decided to form a naval blockade around Cuba to stop the Soviets from acquiring more supplies. Additionally, he demanded that the naval sites be destroyed. Thankfully, the Soviet leader understood how devastating a nuclear war would be. Hence, Cuba dismantled the missile sites and the United States agreed not to invade Cuba.
Students may not realize how many decisions the president has to make. While some are smaller decisions, many drastically impact the lives of thousands of individuals. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to please all citizens. Therefore, this means that while some will be happy with the choices the president makes, others will be extremely upset. Thus, the president has to weigh decisions carefully in order to ensure that the needs of citizens are truly considered.
In order to help students gain an understanding of tough decision-making, students will take on the role of President Kennedy. Students will imagine they just received word about the presence of Soviet medium-range missiles in Cuba. In order to fully grasp and discuss the situations, students will meet with members of the presidential cabinet. At this time, it includes Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and Secretary of State Dean Rusk. Furthermore, it includes CIA Director John McCone and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Here, students will read what these individuals had to say in order to make and consider multiple viewpoints.
Higher-Order Decision Making
After students have time to process the information, it is time for them to make a presidential decision. To do this, they will be given options that President Kennedy had to consider while deciding his course of action.
Option #1: Do nothing and just ignore the missiles in Cuba.
Choice #2: Open direct negotiations with Nikita Khrushchev and ask that the missiles be withdrawn.
Option #3: Order a blockade of Cuba until the missiles are removed.
Choice #4: Send a warning to Castro and Khrushchev. If the dismantling of the missile sites is not underway within 24 hours, order an airstrike against the sites.
Option #5: Order an airstrike against the missile sites with no prior warning.
After breaking into five groups, students will have to dive into their selection. As a group, they will work together to build a rationale for their choice. Then, they will teach the class about how they reached their decision. By doing this, students learn to understand that decision-making is not simple. It can be overwhelming, complicated, and messy. Thus, it is essential to think through different options and have a strong reasoning behind the decision.
Voter Opinion in the Cuban Missile Simulation
Honestly, no decision will make everyone happy. However, a strong rationale can help gain support for a choice no one really wants to make. In order to help students understand this, the class will vote on which decision was the best option. They will put themselves in President Kennedy’s shoes in order to understand how he had to consider each option carefully. With the vote, classmates will see who developed a convincing argument to solve the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The Cuban Missile Crisis had the capability to devastate an entire nation. While President Kennedy ultimately made the decision on how to solve the crisis, he relied on trustworthy people to help. As a team, they did not jump to an irrational decision. Instead, they took the time needed in order to ensure that a compromise could be reached. Truly, the Cuban Missile Crisis Simulation will help students see the importance of considering different outcomes. Hopefully, they will understand how hard being a leader is.
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