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 About the Unit.  In this Unit, students are encouraged to think about the morality of modern warfare. They are given some ideas to enable them to structure their thoughts and helped to put these into practice by examining some real contemporary conflicts.

 Age-range.  Years 9-13 (ages 13-18)

 Where the Unit fits in.  This Unit addresses the following aspects of the Programmes of Study for Citizenship at Key Stages 3 & 4:


·        1g: the importance of resolving conflict fairly

·        1h: the significance of the media in society

·        1i: the world as a global community and the political, economic, environmental and social implications of this, and the role of the… United Nations


·        2a: think about topical political, spiritual, moral, social and cultural issues, problems and events by analysing information and its sources, including ICT-based sources

·        2b:  justify, orally and in writing, a personal opinion about such issues, problems or events;

·        2c:  contribute to group and exploratory class discussions and take part in debates.


·        3a:  Use their imagination to consider other people’s experiences and be able to think about, express and explain views that are not their own


Expectations.  At the end of this Unit most pupils know about key events and issues in a recent conflict; recognise human rights implications in world politics; understand moral issues in judging the behaviour of governments and politicians; understand that the outcomes of conflicts may be unpredictable; show understanding of how governments and international organisations seek to establish rules for conflict; recognise the difficulties of achieving reconciliation in a complex situation.

 Resources. Fact-sheets 1, 2, 3, 4



www.nato.inc (NATO)

www.un.org (United Nations)

www.gov.yu (Yugoslav government)

www.kosovo.com (Serbian Kosovans)

www.hrw.org (Human Rights Watch)

(Please add others)

 Time.  Two hours –but more if alternative Activity B is carried out.



  1. Has war done more harm than good?

Learning objectives:

-identify key features of historical situations

-make provisional moral judgements about historical events

-understand the need to evaluate war as a means of achieving ends.

Teaching activities

·        Assess student knowledge of warfare in 20th century by brief questioning (Two World Wars and aspects of Cold War are part of KS3 National Curriculum). Ask for brief judgement aims of the wars they know about  and whether these were achieved.

·        Use Factsheet 1 to summarise 20th century wars. Explain that this unit is about the morality of war.  After a century in which wars seem, mostly, to have done far more harm than good, is it possible to justify war? 


-This is an introduction, not a detailed survey of 20th century wars. If pupil knowledge of 20th century wars is not sufficient to tackle the question, use only Factsheet 1.

-The third section of Factsheet 1, wars in the 1990s, will be new to pupils. Again, don’t try to explain each conflict. It may be possible to discern patterns e.g. newly independent countries, ex-colonial countries.


  1. What makes a war justifiable?

Learning objectives

-devise moral principles for judging political actions

Teaching activities

·        Ask students to write, in groups, their own list of “rules” for a justifiable war.

·        Use Factsheet 2 to introduce Beach’s rules. Explain who Beach is and why he produced this list.

·        Compare with students’ own list.


-Pupils may need some prompts for the first task:

-What situations make war necessary?

-What has to have happened before countries decide go to war?

-Who should declare war? Anybody? Any nation?

-How do you wage a justifiable war? What about civilians?


  1. Are recent wars justified?

Learning objectives

-devise questions for examining current political/military situations

-apply criteria for judging international conflicts

-research and evaluation skills using Internet

--reach group conclusions to big moral problems

 Teaching activities

    • EITHER  A. Use Factsheets 3 and 4 to assess the NATO campaign against Serbia in 1999 against Beach’s criteria. 
    • Reach group, then class, conclusion
    • OR  B. Use Factsheet 3 to assess a current conflict against Beach’s criteria.  Use Internet to find out what is happening. Evaluate this alongside the questions on Factsheet 3.
    • Use Internet to examine political justifications for the current action. Evaluate these against what is really happening as well as the criteria questions.
    • Reach group, and class, conclusion.


-The table below may be useful in using Beach’s criteria to survey either the Serbian campaign in Activity A or the self-selected military campaign in Activity B.

-For Activity B care is necessary in using the internet to research a situation: many sites will be partisan and may not make this clear. News organisations may also fall into this category. Pupils will need guidance. On the other hand, partisan sites are useful in giving points of view and in helping pupils understand how people approach the same situation from very different standpoints.


  1. Can war be successful?

Learning objectives

-reach group conclusions to big moral problems

-appreciate the importance of moral standpoints in evaluating situations and taking action in the contemporary world.

-understand the need to evaluate war as a means of achieving ends.

Teaching activities

    • Return to original big question: Can War Be Successful?  Beach answers: Yes, just about. Is this the group’s conclusion? Are his criteria so difficult to achieve that war will always do more harm than good?


-Encourage wide-ranging discussion here, although the evidence from the preceding three activities should be referred to.

-Encourage a diversity of views.

-Encourage pupils to use some of the judgements they have made, or heard about, when they next hear about a war.



Table to use in Section 3, Activity A or Activity B

Beach’s questions


1. Is the government being attacked guilty of serious aggression or large scale abuse of human rights?


2. Who is waging the war? Do they have a recognised right to do so?


3. Has the war stopped at the point where initial aims were achieved?


4. Is the war winnable?


5. Were all peaceful means of solving the problems given a serious trial and have they clearly failed?


6. Is the destruction caused by military action in proportion to what is needed to achieve the aims?


7. Has every effort been made to prevent civilian casualties?


 Continue   Factsheet 1   Factsheet 2   Factsheet 3   Factsheet 4

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