Lessons

Analyzing Nuclear Arms Funding in the United States

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Air force nuclear controls

Air Force Capt. Margaret Ingerslew at the weapons controls of a B-52H bomber. This giant aircraft carries tons of munitions and fuel, but space for the crew is quite cramped. Photo by Daniel Sagalyn. United States, 2016.

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The military commander of America’s nuclear arsenal, Admiral Cecil Haney

The military commander of America’s nuclear arsenal, Admiral Cecil Haney. Image by PBS NewsHour. United States, 2016.

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Gen. James Cartwright

The former military commander of America’s nuclear forces, Gen. James Cartwright (Ret.). Photo by PBS NewsHour.

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Former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Jim Miller

Former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Jim Miller. Photo courtesy of PBS NewsHour.

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B-52

Panorama of a B-52H bomber inside a hangar at Minot Air Force Base, N.D. Inert training bombs sit on carts, at right, ready to be loaded onto the aircraft. These planes, first fielded in 1955, each can carry up to 70,000 lbs. of munitions. Image by Dan Sagalyn. United States, 2016.

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Dummy bombs

These dummy bombs — used for practice mounting airplanes’ payload — lie on a platform inside an aircraft hangar, ready to be loaded into B-52H aircraft for training missions at Minot Air Force Base, N.D. Image by Dan Sagalyn. United States, 2016.

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B-52 tarmac

B-52H bomber on the tarmac at Minot Air Force base is sprayed down with de-icing fluid. Image by Jamie McIntyre. United States, 2016.

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Jet flames

Flames and smoke burst from a B-52H’s aging jet engines, as they roar to life with the help of eight explosive charges. The method was developed during the Cold War to give the bomber a quick kick-start in a crisis. Image by Jamie McIntyre. United States, 2016.

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Nuclear weapons controls

Air Force Capt. Margaret Ingerslew at the weapons controls of a B-52H bomber. This giant aircraft carries tons of munitions and fuel, but space for the crew is quite cramped. Image by Dan Sagalyn. United States, 2016.

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Cruise missile controls

Air Force Capt. Margaret Ingerslew at the B-52H weapons controls, which launches cruise missiles and drop bombs. Image by Dan Sagalyn. United States, 2016.

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Control capsule door

An eight-ton door must be opened to gain access to the missile-launch facility’s underground control capsule, which is buried 50 to 60 feet below the surface. Image by Dan Sagalyn. United States, 2016.

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Launch control center

Right to left, PBS NewsHour special correspondent Jamie McIntyre with 1st Lt. Kathleen Fosterling and Deputy Missile Crew Commander 2nd Lt. Christina Camp, inside the underground nuclear launch-control center. Image by Dan Sagalyn. United States, 2016.

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Underground chamber

Inside the underground chamber protected by the 8-ton blast door. Additional entrances help secure the nuclear launch-control personnel and equipment. Colorful paintings adorn the entranceway walls. Image by Dan Sagalyn. United States, 2016.

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Dragon painting

A fire-breathing dragon, fortress and ballistic missile are painted on the entranceway to an underground Minuteman III launch-control capsule, buried deep underground near Minot Air Force Base, N.D. Image by Dan Sagalyn. United States, 2016.

Objective:

By the end of the lesson, students will be able to analyze how an author unfolds an analysis of the debate surrounding the U.S nuclear weapons program in order to write letters that communicate their positions on funding the nuclear triad.

Warm-up:

1. Write a short response to the following questions:

  • What country do you think currently has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons? Why do you think that country continues to have nuclear weapons?
  • What do you think is the role of nuclear weapons today?
  • How do you feel about potential cuts to the U.S. nuclear program? What about increases?

2. Read the attached project description for "Rearming: America’s New Nuclear Arsenal" and consider the following:

  • What arguments support continued funding of the nuclear program?
  • What are the arguments against it?

3. Predict how you think the author may feel about the issue. Make a list of people you think the author will likely interview to investigate both sides of the argument.

Introducing the Lesson:

Today’s lesson will explore how an author unfolds an analysis of a complicated issue: The funding of a nuclear weapons program that would cost nearly $30 trillion over 30 years.

As part of the lesson, you will review five videos from PBS NewsHour.

  1. First, watch "As Pentagon Overhauls Nuclear Triad, Critics Advise Caution" and answer the questions attached.
  2. Watch the other four videos in any order you choose.
  3. For all four resources, create a chart that reviews the following:
  • Who is interviewed as part of this resource?
  • What do the people interviewed think about funding nuclear weapons?
  • Based on the structure of resource, do you think the author presents an opinion? Which side of the argument is most convincing to you? Keep track of the evidence that is interesting to you.

Here is an example of a chart you can use:

Interviewee Opinion on funding the nuclear program Evidence
     

Reflection:

Write a short analysis of how the authors unfold their analysis of the project. Address the following in your analysis:

  1. Do you think the piece offered equal amounts of evidence supporting both sides of the argument?
  2. Why do you think the authors structured the order of the interviews the way they did?

Extensions:

Option 1. Write a letter to a member of Congress in your state that uses evidence from "Rearming: America’s New Nuclear Arsenal" to articulate whether or not you agree with funding to support the nuclear triad.

Option 2. Create an outline for a television news piece that structures the interviews in a different way. Consider the following:

  1. How could you reorder the interviews to communicate a different point?
  2. How would you order the interviews to present an argument fully for or against funding the nuclear arms project?
Educator Notes: 

The following lesson plan and classroom resources invite students to analyze how authors unfold an analysis of the debate surrounding the U.S. nuclear weapons program. Students will examine six online reporting pieces from PBS NewsHour and analyze how the authors structured the order of their interviews. They will then use the evidence gathered from the videos to write a letter or presentation articulating their own opinion of whether or not to continue funding nuclear weapons in the U.S.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.3

Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.

Lesson Facilitation Notes:

1. The lesson plan is written for students to be able to explore the resources independently and reflection exercises independently.

2. Students may need to have an extra sheet of paper, or a blank online document open, to answer the warm up, comprehension and extension questions.

3. The lesson lists several extension exercises. Students could choose one or work through all of the listed exercises.

4. The warm up and post-reading reflections in this lesson could also lead to rich conversations. You may want to work through the lesson along with the students and denote moments for interactive activities.

5. With questions about this lesson, contact education@pulitzercenter.org

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