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Teaching Guide

Teaching the Spanish-American War

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The Spanish-American War was between the Spanish and the Americans—that's the easy part. If you want your students to dig a little deeper—and you do—into issues like racism, colonialism, yellow journalism, and other -isms, we've got the tools you need.

In this guide you will find

  • activities analyzing historical documents (and we don't mean a first-edition Harry Potter) and creating a timeline of events, among loads of other activities.
  • essay questions to put the conflict into context.
  • modern resources showing elements of the war that are still raging today.

With all this material in their brains, your students will be able to ace a few Jeopardy! categories someday, too.

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Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 3-5 Common Core-aligned activities (including quotation, image, and document analysis) to complete in class with your students, with detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes to be sure students are looking at the material through various lenses.
  • Resources to help make the topic feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop’s teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the topic and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

In this exercise, your students will evaluate Theodore Roosevelt's description of America's responsibilities in the Philippines and his ideas about the obligations of "great and high-spirited nations."

1. Show your students this quote and explore with them the questions that follow.

"The guns that thundered off Manila and Santiago left us echoes of glory, but they also left us a legacy of duty. If we drove out a medieval tyranny only to make room for savage anarchy we had better not have begun the task at all. It is worse than idle to say that we have no duty to perform, and can leave to their fates the islands we have conquered. Such a course would be the course of infamy. It would be followed at once by utter chaos in the wretched islands themselves. Some stronger manlier power would have to step in and do the work, and we would have shown ourselves weaklings, unable to carry to successful completion the labors that great and high-spirited nations are eager to undertake."
– Theodore Roosevelt, 1899

How, according to Roosevelt, did the United States acquire responsibilities in the Philippines?

If the US does not control the island, what will happen?
What does this imply about the people of the Philippines?

What sort of nation does Roosevelt want the United States to be?
What are the qualities and responsibilities of "great and high-spirited nations?"

Do you agree with any of this?
Do some nations have international responsibilities?
To do what?
Impose order?
Build up economies?
Provide education?
Spread religion? "Civilization?"
Improve health?

How obligatory are these responsibilities?

What if countries resist assistance?
How far should a "manly" nation go in order to save a "wretched" nation from chaos?

Instructions for Your Students

Read this quote, in which Theodore Roosevelt explained America's responsibilities following the occupation of the Philippines:

"The guns that thundered off Manila and Santiago left us echoes of glory, but they also left us a legacy of duty. If we drove out a medieval tyranny only to make room for savage anarchy we had better not have begun the task at all. It is worse than idle to say that we have no duty to perform, and can leave to their fates the islands we have conquered. Such a course would be the course of infamy. It would be followed at once by utter chaos in the wretched islands themselves. Some stronger manlier power would have to step in and do the work, and we would have shown ourselves weaklings, unable to carry to successful completion the labors that great and high-spirited nations are eager to undertake."
– Theodore Roosevelt, 1899

What do you think? Is Roosevelt right? Do certain nations have international responsibilities? 

Be prepared to discuss this in class.

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WANT MORE HELP TEACHING THE SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR?

Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary & Analysis    Timeline    People    Facts    Photos    Best of the Web    Citations    Test Review    
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