Teaching Guides

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1) POV Lesson Plan 1: Do the Actions of Whistleblowers Help or Hurt Society? (grade level: 6-12)

2) POV Lesson Plan 2: Ethics in Journalism (grade level: post-secondary)

3) The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (grade level: high school and college) – See below:

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This teaching guide was prepared for high school and college classrooms to enhance student understanding of the issues raised in the film, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. The lessons are appropriate for U.S. history, government and language arts classrooms. The guide was developed by the Zinn Education Project in collaboration with Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith.

Using a variety of teaching strategies, including role play, critical reading, discussion, mock trial, small group imaginative writing, and personal narrative, the teaching guide encourages students to consider some of Vietnam’s lessons. One key lesson of the film is that we all have the potential to be “truth-tellers.” While not all students will have the opportunity to affect the course of history as Daniel Ellsberg did, all will be in positions to make important decisions in the name of justice.


Lessons One through Four are for use prior to showing the film.

Lesson One helps the teacher assess what students already know or think they know and surfaces essential questions that can be referenced while viewing the film.

Lessons Two and Three introduce the history of the Vietnam War that Daniel Ellsberg sought to make public with the Pentagon Papers and is still missing from most textbooks.

Lesson Four prepares students for the people, themes, events, and issues that are in the film through a simulated reception with close to 30 characters.

Lesson Five, for use during and after the film, provides a wealth of discussion questions and writing prompts.

Lessons Six through Eight are for use after students have viewed the film. Lesson Six is a mock trial that invites students to determine what precedent might have been set with the trial of Ellsberg and Russo if the case had not been dismissed. Lesson Seven provides students with an opportunity to explore the ways they themselves regularly make important choices about whether or not to resist injustice or remain silent.

Lesson Eight helps students explore how human agency shapes history. Using the choice points of the Vietnam War, students can recognize the important consequences of decisions and actions by people in history and how they can be agents who can co-shape their world today.

While it would be ideal to use all the lessons, each lesson is a stand-alone activity.