Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Analyzing American Aid in the Face of Fear
Stephanie Biggs
Geography/Global Studies
Time Frame:
1 class period (To be used either in an Asia unit or Europe unit depending on curriculum map.)
Middle East
Marshall Plan

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • Students will participate in a group analysis and comparison of political cartoons from the post World War II debate over the Marshall Plan as well as the current American conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Students will also individually complete a short essay explaining their class findings regarding similarities and differences between the two different sets of images.

  • Seventh grade students in the state of Kansas spend one semester studying geography.  Students of all ages grasp content best through historical perspective and in the context of current events.  To help students understand the critical regions of the Middle East and South Asia today, students will draw comparisons with post-World War II Europe.  As seen below, this lesson is helpful in understanding economics through an international lens as well.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

  • KS Standard G7B5I2: (K) describes the consequences of having or not having particular resources (e.g., resource movement and consumption, relationship between access to resources and living standards, relationship between competition for resources and world conflicts).
  • KS Standard G7B2I3: (K) identifies and explains how Kansas, United States, and world regions are interdependent (e.g., through trade, diffusion of ideas, human migration, international conflicts and cooperation).
  • KS Standard E7B3I1:  (A) describes examples of factors that might influence international trade (e.g., United States economic sanctions, weather, exchange rates, war, boycotts, embargos).

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Political Cartoons through Powerpoint Images
  • Student Hand-out

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Political Cartoons from the Marshall Plan

Full description of activity or assignment.
  • Students will view the political cartoons from first the Marshall Plan and then from the 21st century wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  With a partner they will analyze each cartoon by discussing with their neighbor as well as answering the questions on the hand-out provided.  These questions are intended to just start discussion, but students always point out and infer more from the images through discussion.  Give students a couple minutes on each image, and when all students are through, start a class discussion reviewing the questions and sharing student analysis.
  • If there is still time remaining in class, have students start comparing and contrasting the images.  See student hand-out for guidance.
  • Class discussion should continue as students share and explain why these cartoons have similar themes and use similar images despite the half-century difference between the events.


Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
  • Short Essay: Using content and discussion from today’s class, explain how “nation-building” and American aid has evolved and changed since the Marshall Plan.  Do you think today’s methods are more effective, or less, and why?  What steps, if any, should America take to help struggling or war-torn countries in the world today?
  • See rubric on student hand-out for evaluation.