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Understanding the 2011 NHD Theme – Debate & Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences

At first glance, the 2011 National History Day Theme, Debate & Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences, may appear somewhat difficult to wrap one’s head around. The theme is a brand-new addition to an otherwise rotating list of themes, and we are all looking forward to the creative ways students approach this theme. Let’s take a look at how we can use this theme and relate our interests to it.

The obvious topics include debates among legislations and international diplomacy. Some topics off the top of my head could be: United States Constitutional Congress, Battle of Tippecanoe, Indiana Constitutional Convention of 1851, and the Treaty of Versailles.

During my first school visit of the season last week – shout out to IPS School, Sidener Academy – the teacher followed up something I said with a comment of his own that I thought was interesting and a great way to look at it: “think of debate and diplomacy as a controversy – whenever there is a controversy, there is bound to be debate and/or diplomacy.” Thinking about controversies as a starting point, it opens many possibilities: Indiana Canals vs. Railroads, Indiana Eugenics Laws, Eminent Domain: Lake Monroe and Indiana University, and Jim Jones and the Failure of Debate and Diplomacy

There is debate and diplomacy going on all around us – in the media, around the world, between people like you and me. The challenge for History Day students will be to wade through the talking points of all sides of a debate, and to analyze the causes and outcomes of the controversy. 

So with all of this in mind, let’s use “Mad Libs” to work on our topic: (debate and/or diplomacy) in (time period/era/year): (successes and/or failures) and (consequences).

Using an example from above: The Building of Lake Monroe in the 1960s: Maintaining a Major University and Displacing Small Towns.

Now, we’re off to a great start with our topic, relating it to the theme, and developing a thesis statement. For more topic ideas, see the 2011 theme sheet or ask to see your National History Day teacher’s theme book and Indiana topics list for sample topics.

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