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Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States (2017) and the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)

THINK-PAIR-SHARE ACTIVITY 1: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States (January 27, 2017) and the “Chinese Exclusion Act” (May 6, 1882)

Step 1) In this activity, students will THINK about the January 27, 2017 Executive Order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” and compare it with the “Chinese Exclusion Act” of May 6, 1882. Print out as many of copies as are necessary for your students. Give each student a different document, evenly distributing them among your students. (For example, if you have 20 students, give 10 students one document and 10 students the other document.) Use either the full-text versions or edit the documents depending on time availability and purpose. Below is the text of the two primary sources needed for the activity:

  1. Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States, (January 27, 2017)
  2. “Chinese Exclusion Act.”  Formal Title: An Act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to Chinese (May 6, 1882)

Step 2) Introduce students to the activity, provide justification (history lesson? civics lesson? current events?), and give necessary background on the topics. State that you are going to work with primary sources relevant to the topics.

Step 3) Discuss the questions that you want students to think about as they read the documents. Direct them to be prepared to write their answers down as they will need to share these with their fellow classmates. Potential questions to include are:

  • What is the stated purpose of the actions taken in the document you read?
  • Who is impacted by these measures, and in what ways might they be impacted?
  • Put yourself in the perspective of someone impacted by these measures. How might they impact you and your family? How might you feel about this?
  • Are there any potential unintended consequences to the proposals that the authors may not have considered at the time?

Step 4) Give students the necessary amount of time to read the documents and write down their answers to the questions.

Step 5) PAIR students with others in small groups of 2-4 (would advise to keep group size as small as possible to ensure participation by all students) with those who have the same document. Have them discuss their answers to the questions with each other.

Step 6) Open up the discussion to the entire class and have each group SHARE their findings. Give a representative in each group the opportunity to speak to one or several of the questions you posed. Ensure that every group gets the opportunity to participate.

Step 7) Pose questions to the entire class designed to compare and contrast the two documents and encourage discussion. You will be responsible for moderating the discussion and ensuring that assertions are based on the facts presented. Potential new questions to consider are:

  • Can any comparisons be made with one document to the other?  How are they similar?  How are they different?
  • What are the political and social commonalities between the eras in which the two documents originate?  What are the differences?
  • What are the motivations of those in support of banning the groups in each document? Are these motivations justified?
  • 61 years after it was originally passed, the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in the United States during World War II. What can we make of this?
  • Does learning about the “Chinese Exclusion Act” of 1882 have relevance in the 21st century?

Step 8) Conclude the activity. Follow up with another activity of your choosing designed to compliment and build upon the topics discussed in class. For resources and readings, see the #ImmigrationSyllabus.