Walls protect. Walls divide. Both these statements are true. Yet perhaps no issue represents the deep political chasm separating this country as a wall — a “big, beautiful wall” in the words of President Trump.
In this lesson plan, students move past the political rhetoric to analyze the function and symbolism of a border wall. They learn about what’s in place already along the United States-Mexico border, they find out what life in the borderlands is like, they learn more about border security and they consider walls as symbols. Then, if you would like to go further, we invite your students to compare President Trump’s proposed wall to other historic walls, from China to Berlin, and we offer a related Student Opinion question about the shutdown and the wall that students can answer.
Ask students to respond to the following prompt:
Both of the following statements are true.
Walls protect.Walls divide.
Which statement do you think is more true? Explain why.
Then have students share their answers as a class.
If you are feeling a little more adventurous, you can have students stand up and respond to this same prompt using a barometer activity. Tape two signs, “Walls Protect” and “Walls Divide,” on opposite ends of the classroom. Ask students to stand along a continuum between the two signs based on how strongly they feel about their answer to the prompt. Give them a minute to find their spot along the continuum, then have students share what they think and why.
For the main part of this lesson, we propose a stations activity. Depending on your goals, however, you may simply choose to do one of these stations, such as the first one about what is currently in place at the United States-Mexico border, as a whole class activity. Each station has one main resource, or set of resources, accompanied by questions for writing and discussion, as well as suggestions for further research if there is time. The activity concludes with a writing activity in which students reflect on what they learned and what they think.
Station 1: The Current U.S.-Mexico Border
Instructions: Close your eyes. Imagine what you think the 1,954-mile United States-Mexico border looks like.
Then scroll through this NYTimes.com interactive to learn about what security measures are already in place at the border.
Then, answer these questions:
1. Describe the current United States-Mexico border as if you were telling a friend who had no idea what the border was like.2. Describe the current United States approach to controlling who and what passes across the border with Mexico.3. Imagine what you think the 5,525-mile United States-Canada border looks like. Then look at some photographs documenting that border. How is the United States’ northern border different from its southern border? Why do you think it is so different?4. Do you think the current approach to United States border security is effective? What ideas do you have to make it more effective? 5. Do you think all, some or no national borders around the world should have walls or fences separating countries? Why?
Here are additional resources showing what the United States-Mexico border looks like:“Before the Wall: Life Along the U.S.-Mexico Border”
Station 2: Life Along the Border
According to this 2014 data from the Mexican government, the total population that lives in cities and counties along both sides of the United States-Mexico border is 14 million people and an estimated one million people legally cross the border every day.
What is life like along the border? Watch this video about two towns separated by the United States-Mexico border, Douglas, Ariz., and Agua Prieta, Sonora. Then answer these questions:
1. How has life in these two towns changed since a border fence was erected in the past decade?2. How do these towns collaborate and maintain ties even though a border fence separates them?3. The binational event in the film features jaguars. What do jaguars symbolize in relation to the border?
Here are additional resources showing life in the borderlands:“Life in Tijuana Means Negotiating ‘La Línea,’ an Always Present Wall”“Crossing With Faith” (3-minute film)“Dealing on Both Sides” (3-minute film)“Far From Washington, the Routine Symbiosis of the Border Plays Out in Texas and Mexico”“Is the Border in Crisis? ‘We’re Doing Fine, Quite Frankly,’ a Border City Mayor Says”
Station 3: A Wall as Public Policy
First, look at the graph above about illegal border crossings from 2000 to 2018. Then look at the graph below, about people apprehended or turned away at the border between 2005 and 2018.
What do you notice going on? What do you wonder? What story might these two graphs tell?
Now look at two more graphs, about the immigrant population and the violent crime rate, from 1980 to 2016.
What do you notice about these two graphs? What story might they tell?
Update, Jan. 15: Here are more Times graphs that help to show what’s taking place at the southern border.
Then, read the introduction of this article debunking some of the rhetoric about “illegal” or “undocumented” immigrants in the United States. It begins:
There are 11 million of them, the best estimates say, laboring in American fields, atop half-built towers and in restaurant kitchens, and swelling American classrooms, detention centers and immigration courts.
In the public’s mind, the undocumented — the people living here without permission from the American government — are Hispanic, mostly Mexican and crossed the southwestern border in secret.
In the eyes of their advocates, they are families and workers, taking the jobs nobody else wants, staying out of trouble, here only to earn their way to better, safer lives for themselves and their children.
At the White House, they are pariahs, criminals who menace American neighborhoods, take American jobs, sap American resources and exploit American generosity: They are people who should be, and will be, expelled.
Illegal immigrants can be many of these things, and more. Eleven million allows for considerable range, crosshatched with contradictions.
There may be no more powerful symbol of how fixedly Americans associate illegal immigration with Mexico than the wall President Trump has proposed building along the southern border. But many of the unauthorized are not Mexican; almost a quarter are not even Hispanic.
After Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, the largest number of unauthorized immigrants comes from China (an estimated 268,000), where deportations run aground on a less literal wall: China is one of 23 countries that do not cooperate with deportations. (The Trump administration has pledged to pressure all 23 into doing so.)
They tend to be younger — the Pew Research Center has found that adult unauthorized immigrants were, at the median, about a decade younger than American-born adults — and skew slightly more male than the rest of the country.
Then answer these questions:
1. How many undocumented immigrants are living in the United States?2. How do advocates see this group of people?3. How does the White House view this same group?4. From where do they come? List the top six countries of origin.
If you have more time, choose one or more of the other five sections in the same article to read: “Strong American Ties,” “Criminal Records,” “Overstayed Their Visas,” “Repeat Crossers” and “Asylum Seekers.” For each section you read, write two things you learn or that surprise you.
Here are additional resources related to people and things crossing the border illegally: “By Land, Sea or Catapult: How Smugglers Get Drugs Across the Border” “The Number of Undocumented Immigrants in the U.S. Has Dropped, a Study Says. Here Are 5 Takeaways.” “The Wall and the Shutdown, Explained”
Station 4: The Psychology of Walls
Walls aren’t just tangible objects we can touch. They can also have real psychological power.
Costica Bradatan, a professor in the Honors College at Texas Tech University, wrote about the power of walls back in 2011, in advance of the 2012 presidential election. Read the following excerpts from his essay, and decide if they feel relevant today:
Walls are back in fashion. Walls and fences. Not long ago, you may recall, Republican presidential candidates expressed their devotion to them. In October Michele Bachmann signed a pledge to support the construction of a fence that would run the entire length of the United States-Mexico border. Not to be outdone, Herman Cain voiced his support for an electrified border fence, one juiced up enough to be lethal: Touch it and die. As someone who grew up behind the Iron Curtain, I happen to know how the device works; in a certain way, we invented it (we should have copyrighted it). The ability to cross the “lethal fence” used to be part of the East-European survival kit.
While walls and fences are certainly physical things — imposing ones at that — a good deal of their power comes from elsewhere. As their role in political discourse makes clear, they are also things of the mind. And it is not a concept confined by American borders. The Germans, who seem to have a name for everything, use the phrase Mauer im Kopf (“wall in the head”) to refer to the phenomenon. The Berlin Wall may have been torn down long ago, but many people in Germany still feel divided; the wall is intact in their minds. (As a native of Germany, Niemann may know a thing or two about this.) Walls can be spectacular as architectural structures but they can be even more fascinating as entities that inhabit our thinking and shape cultures.
Walls, then, are built not for security, but for a sense of security. The distinction is important, as those who commission them know very well. What a wall satisfies is not so much a material need as a mental one. Walls protect people not from barbarians, but from anxieties and fears, which can often be more terrible than the worst vandals. In this way, they are built not for those who live outside them, threatening as they may be, but for those who dwell within. In a certain sense, then, what is built is not a wall, but a state of mind.
Then answer these questions:
1. Costica Bradatan asserts that a good deal of the power of walls and fences come from their psychological power. What does he mean? To what extent do you agree?2. He argues that walls are not built for security, but instead for a sense of security. Why does he make this distinction? Do you agree?3. Do you think walls have a different psychological effect from fences? Or are they really just the same thing with a different name?
Station 5: A Political Symbol
Hours before a partial government shutdown kicked in at midnight on Dec. 22, President Trump released a video reiterating his demand for additional funding for a “wall or a slat fence or whatever you want to call it.” He said, “We need a great barrier.” In the video, he claimed: “It’s very dangerous out there. Drugs are pouring in, human trafficking, so many different problems, including gangs like M.S. 13. We don’t want them in the United States.” The White House previously declared there is a “crisis at the border.”
The Times Editorial Board counters Mr. Trump’s claim that border security is a crisis in this editorial, writing:
Let’s be clear: This fight [about the wall and the shutdown] is not about security. Contrary to Mr. Trump’s claims, there is no flood of savage foreigners pouring across the border. Even so, reasonable Democrats and Republicans acknowledge a need for some mix of a bigger staff, better technology and, yes, fencing — as well as humane and sensible immigration and asylum policies. Achieving all of that has proved a tall order even for competent administrations. But it’s why Congress, on a bipartisan basis, has already been allocating more money for border security — although the administration has spent less than 10 percent of what Congress has allocated in the past year.
To avoid the complex, hard work that has traditionally gone with his job, Mr. Trump has instead manufactured a political impasse over a symbol, a wall, that even his new acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, back when he was a congressman, derided as “an easy thing to sell politically” that “doesn’t really solve the problem.” John Kelly, Mr. Trump’s departing chief of staff, told The Los Angeles Times that the administration long ago abandoned the idea of a concrete wall as irrelevant to the real needs of border security — drawing a heated contradiction from the president on Twitter.
Writing in National Review, a conservative magazine and website, Jonah Goldberg agrees that the wall is in fact a big symbol: “Trump’s wall is now an entirely symbolic affair.” He continues: “The symbolism is more important than the reality. Indeed, the president has offered to compromise, saying that we don’t have to call it a wall and it doesn’t even have to really look like one. But that doesn’t matter either, because for Democrats, any structure that the president could claim victory over would be a defeat.”
Answer these questions:
1. Do you agree that the border wall has become a political symbol for both the president’s supporters and opponents? Why?2. As of Jan. 3, parts of the United States government were closed because the president and Congress could not agree on the president’s demand for billion in funding to begin construction of a border wall. Do you think the two branches of government will be able to get past this impasse? Should either side compromise? And if yes, what should a compromise look like? 3. In its editorial, the Times Editorial Board suggests the need for sensible border security investments and immigration reform. In his essay, Mr. Goldberg writes that the symbolism of the wall fight has made immigration policy itself “something of an afterthought.” First, do you agree with either or both of these positions? Second, do you think the president and Congress will be able to move past the shutdown standoff to address larger issues related to immigration? Why or why not?
4. Walls also can have great symbolic power. The Department of Homeland Security unveiled eight wall prototypes in October 2017, which President Trump visited six months later. None of these prototypes have been selected, and no wall has been built. But these eight prototypes have symbolic power.
Choose one of these eight prototypes and explain what you think it symbolizes from two points of view: first, for the president and his supporters, and second, for the president’s political opponents.
Now, look at some proposals that weren’t selected, including a 2,000-mile pink wall, a shopping mall and a detention center. Again, choose one proposal and explain the symbolic value for both the president’s supporters and opponents.
Here are additional resources related to the wall as a political symbol:National Review | “Shutdown Symbolism” National Review | “The Irrational Allergy to the Wall” “End of Government Shutdown May Depend on the Definition of ‘Wall’”
Conclusion and Reflection
After students have completed the four stations, have them discuss what they learned and what surprised them. Then, ask them to write a response to the warm-up prompt, using evidence from the four stations.
Walls protect. Walls divide. Which statement do you think is more true when it comes to the United States-Mexico border? Explain why.
As an alternative, students can draw their own editorial cartoon offering commentary on the issue.
Going Further: Research Other Walls
In May 2016, in the middle of the last presidential campaign, The Upshot featured 16 walls and fences from history and today. The article begins:
It is lost to history whether Hadrian, Qin Shi Huang or Nikita Khrushchev ever uttered, “I will build a wall.”
But build they did, and what happened? The history of walls — to keep people out or in — is also the history of people managing to get around, over and under them. Some come tumbling down.
The classic example is the Great Wall of China. Imposing and remarkably durable, yes, yet it didn’t block various nomadic tribes from the north. History is full of examples of engineering thwarted by goal-oriented rank amateurs. But Donald Trump has promised to build a wall on the United States-Mexican border that he says will be big, beautiful, tall and strong, and he says Mexico will pay for it.
Select one of the walls included in the article and find out more about the following:
1. Why was the wall built?2. How was it built? Of what material?3. To what extent did the wall fulfill its purpose?4. What, if any, unintended consequences did the wall have?5. What is the wall’s legacy? How is it viewed today?B:
【到】【了】【结】【账】【的】【时】【候】，【豆】【十】【六】【抱】【了】【一】【大】【堆】【东】【西】【上】【去】，【而】【落】【青】【春】【早】【就】【悄】【悄】【的】【出】【去】【了】，【免】【得】【一】【会】【引】【起】【了】【混】【乱】。 【喜】【欢】【摄】【影】【师】【小】【哥】【跟】【着】【豆】【十】【六】【的】，【几】【乎】【所】【有】【的】【东】【西】【都】【是】【摄】【影】【小】【哥】【拿】【的】。 【落】【青】【春】【在】【车】【库】【老】【老】【实】【实】【的】【等】【着】【豆】【十】【六】，【见】【他】【们】【上】【来】【了】，【然】【后】【就】【开】【了】【后】【备】【箱】【摄】【影】【喜】【小】【哥】【将】【东】【西】【全】【部】【放】【了】【上】【去】。 【落】【青】【春】【对】【着】【他】【说】【了】【句】【甜】
【秦】【心】【手】【脑】【并】【用】，【一】【直】【摇】【着】，【不】【要】，【真】【的】【不】【要】。 【沈】【韩】【想】【想】，【说】【道】：“【算】【了】，【我】【的】【都】【给】【你】【好】【了】。”【说】【完】，【他】【很】【赤】【诚】【地】【看】【着】【秦】【心】，【眼】【里】【都】【可】【以】【揉】【出】【水】【来】【了】。 【他】【的】【钱】【都】【给】【她】，【他】【的】【人】【也】【给】【她】，【他】【所】【有】【的】【都】【给】【她】【好】【了】。 【可】【惜】【秦】【心】【真】【的】get【不】【到】【那】【个】【点】。 “【不】【要】，【我】【自】【己】【可】【以】【有】。”【秦】【心】【说】【道】，“【我】【不】【缺】【吃】【喝】，【不】074期:精解跑狗图-信箱红字“【是】【吗】？”【路】【斯】【容】【冷】【哼】【一】【声】，【明】【显】【一】【副】【不】【相】【信】【的】【样】【子】，“【这】【么】【说】【来】【你】【很】【喜】【欢】【喝】【酒】？” “【还】，【还】【好】【吧】？” 【这】【个】【时】【候】【阮】【阮】【用】【眼】【神】【的】【余】【光】【扫】【了】【一】【眼】【曼】【丽】【的】【方】【向】，【那】【个】【女】【人】【已】【经】【不】【见】【了】。 【阮】【阮】【明】【白】【了】，【路】【斯】【容】【的】【出】【现】【一】【定】【是】【曼】【丽】【让】【人】【找】【来】【的】。 【再】【抬】【头】【看】【路】【斯】【容】【时】，【阮】【阮】【觉】【得】【这】【个】【男】【人】【的】【眼】【里】【也】【冒】【火】【了】。 【这】【人】
“【嗯】，【不】【过】【应】【该】【快】【到】【了】，【毕】【竟】【之】【前】【有】【来】【电】【话】【的】【时】【候】，【他】【们】【已】【经】【上】【电】【车】【了】。” 【顺】【着】【邬】【延】【清】【的】【话】【又】【往】【下】【聊】【了】【几】【句】【后】，【郝】【思】【决】【便】【被】【护】【士】【推】【去】【做】【术】【前】【检】【查】【了】。 【须】【臾】，【陪】【着】【郝】【思】【决】【做】【完】【一】【系】【列】【检】【查】【的】【邬】【延】【清】【见】【离】【手】【术】【开】【始】【还】【点】【时】【间】，【便】【将】【之】【前】【去】【庙】【里】【求】【来】【得】【护】【身】【符】【递】【了】【过】【去】。 “【都】【说】【心】【诚】【则】【灵】，【手】【术】【结】【束】【前】，【思】【决】【你】【可】
【洛】【茗】【依】【点】【点】【头】，【她】【想】【到】【了】，【对】【方】【没】【打】【她】，【没】【划】【花】【她】【的】【脸】，【她】【就】【该】【谢】【天】【谢】【地】【了】，【也】【成】，【反】【正】【她】【依】【靠】【自】【己】【逃】【出】【去】【的】【几】【率】【也】【不】【大】。 【只】【不】【过】，【没】【手】【机】，【没】【电】【脑】，【没】【网】【络】，【没】【报】【纸】，【这】【种】【非】【现】【代】【人】【的】【日】【子】，【苦】【啊】。 “【这】【边】【有】【书】【么】？【我】【什】【么】【不】【都】【干】，【容】【易】【出】【闷】【问】【题】”。 Eva【想】【了】【想】，“【可】【以】，【小】【姐】【您】【想】【看】【什】【么】【书】？【我】【去】
【陶】【武】【笑】【了】，【笑】【得】【很】【是】【凄】【凉】。 “【所】【以】……【这】【个】【丧】【尸】【是】【要】【交】【出】【来】【平】【民】【愤】【的】【吗】？”【王】【腾】【挑】【了】【挑】【眉】。 【陶】【武】【拳】【头】【紧】【握】，【指】【缝】【被】【捏】【的】【咯】【嘣】【咯】【嘣】【作】【响】。 【素】【尘】【靠】【近】【他】【耳】【畔】【轻】【声】【说】：“【要】【不】……【你】【把】【我】【交】【出】【去】？” 【交】【出】【去】【她】【也】【不】【怪】【他】，【人】【的】【生】【命】【只】【有】【一】【次】，【何】【况】【是】【在】【末】【世】【之】【中】【经】【历】【了】【无】【数】【苦】【难】【靠】【着】【自】【己】【强】【大】【求】【生】【的】【意】【志】【活】【下】