Lesson Plan: For Teachers - The Cold War: Civil Defence or Nuclear Disarmament?
Ask students the following questions:
Do you think it is possible to survive a nuclear war?
Do you think you would want to survive a nuclear war? Explain.
Why would governments in Canada during the Cold War promote the ideas of civil defence and emergency measures preparedness among the public?
Why would some Canadians question
the reasons for ensuring survival in the event of a nuclear war?
Explain to students that they are going to investigate the the question of whether civil defence or disarmament represented the best hope for survival and peace during the Cold War.
Outline the Opportunity
Direct students to the Cold War Culture topic on the CBC
Digital Archives website. Have them browse the site for 15 to 20 minutes to
learn the different viewpoints Canadians were expressing during the Cold War
era about enacting civil defence measures.
Divide the class into two groups. One group should gather information on the "pro" side of the debate, and argue in favour of civil defence and emergency measures preparedness, while the other is to advocate the position that supports disarmament as the best hope for survival in the nuclear age.
Each group should select several spokespersons whose job it will be to present the ideas of an individual and/or group that was involved in the debate at this time (for example, an EMO representative, a government official, a fallout shelter manufacturer, CBC broadcaster Max Ferguson, journalist Ron Haggart, VOW president Therese Casgrain, composer of "Psalm for Shelter").
Revisit and Reflect
When the groups are ready, have them
present their arguments to the class in a modified debate format. At the end of
the presentation, students should pose questions to the various spokespersons
on each side of the debate, and indicate by a vote or other means which side
they think has presented the most persuasive case. Ask students to explain how
they arrived at their conclusions.
Extend the discussion by asking: With hindsight, which side do you think was right? Why? Can you think of similar debates today regarding world conflicts and Canada's involvement in them that might parallel the civil defence controversy of the Cold War (for example, Canada and the "war on terrorism")? What are the main similarities and differences?
Have students prepare and present a written response to the following quotations from the site, one presenting the pro-civil defence position, and the other arguing against it. Students should indicate which viewpoint they believe to be more persuasive, and why:
"Civil defence can serve a deterrent purpose by demonstrating to a potential aggressor that Canada is determined to survive even a nuclear war and carry on as an organized society and united nation in the face of the utmost perils and hardships" -Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker, 1959.
"Thanks to fallout shelters, we are literally burying our heads in the sand. The mindset that war is inevitable scars our psyches and ruins our concept of normality. The anticipation of nuclear war is becoming so commonplace, people are beginning to believe it really won't be so bad after all. The only choice today is peace" -Toronto "Star" columnist Ron Haggart.Download PDF