Understanding the draft during the Vietnam War era
Project Manager – Kimberlie Kranich, WILL-TV, Urbana, IL
Video Editors – Jeff Cunningham, Andrew Nygard, WILL-TV, Urbana, IL
Lesson Plan Design & Content – Mark Foley, Urbana High School, Urbana, IL
1. Students will be able to describe the Selective Service’s lottery system for drafting soldiers into the military and give
their opinion about fairness of the system.
2. Students will be able to analyze the ways the Selective Service’s lottery system affected perspectives on the Vietnam War.
Overview of Lesson:
Students are introduced to the Selective Service’s lottery system through a bell-ringer that asks them to locate their “number” and then segregates the class into the drafted and undrafted. After a debrief about the bell ringer students are introduced to the processing sheet and the first learning objective. They then read a short description of the Selective Service’s lottery system (which is still the way a draft would be handled today). The key points from the reading are
summarized through a teacher-directed discussion. Finally, students view the oral histories of veterans who discuss the ways the draft impacted their perspectives on the Vietnam War. The lesson concludes with a discussion on the second learning objective. Students turn in their processing sheets or finish watching the videos for homework.
● Document A: 1970 Selective Service Lottery Chart, with explanation
● Document B: Overview of the Selective Service Lottery
● Reading Notes: Overview of Selective Service Lottery
● Document C: pbslearningmedia.org – Oral Histories of Vietnam Veterans (Steve Allen, Thomas Boaz, Timothy Kendall,
Robert Ritter, Paul Wisovaty)
● Processing Chart: Oral Histories of Vietnam Veterans
1. Bell-Ringer: Hand out or project Document A: The 1970 Selective Service Lottery Table. Have students read the instructions and work together to locate their numbers.
a. Tell the class that the United States needs half of them to fight in a war against invading hordes of Canadian Mounties who are determined to turn our bacon into “Canadian Bacon” (ham).
b. In order to be fair about it, the government has decided to hold a lottery and a list will be made of the student’s numbers to determine which students will go to war. The lower your number, the better your chance to go to war.
c. Ask for student’s numbers, starting with the lowest first, making a list on the board. Have the drafted students (the first, lowest half) get up as they give their number and walk to one side of the room.
d. Once half the class has been drafted, have the other students go to the other side of the room.
e. Facilitate a conversation about the simulation.
i. Ask the “drafted” students the following questions:
1. How do you feel about being drafted? Are you happy to serve your country, or resentful that
you were chosen and others were not?
2. Do you feel this system of deciding who is going to war is fair? Explain your thinking.
ii. As the “un-drafted” students the following questions:
1. How do you feel about not being drafted? Are you relieved that you don’t have to fight?
A. Do you feel this system of deciding who is going to war is fair? Explain your thinking.
2. Transition to the learning goal by explaining that this is how the United States government decided to draft young men
into the war in Vietnam. Hand out Document B: Overview of the Selective Service Lottery and Reading Notes: Overview
of Selective Service Lottery. Spend a couple of minutes making sure the students understand their first learning
3. Give students time to read. This could be done in several ways, but partner reading with mixed-ability pairs is often
successful. The reading includes line numbers, double spacing and wide margins for note taking and highlighting. This
may take as long as 10-15 minutes.
4. Once students have completed the reading, have a class discussion about the learning objective. Summarize the class
discussion on the board. This may take from 5-10 minutes. Refer back to the learning objective repeatedly as students
begin to develop the answers to this objective. Some questions to help facilitate discussion might include:
a. How did the US choose which men would fight in Vietnam?
b. What is your opinion of this system? Does it seem fair? Why or why not?
c. Would you be willing to serve if you were drafted under this system, or would you use a deferment? If you
chose to defer, which deferment would you use, and why?
5. Transition to the oral histories by handing out the Processing Chart: Oral Histories of Vietnam Veterans. Spend a couple
of minutes making sure the students understand their second learning objective and the instructions for the chart. Ask
students to consider the effect of this system on ordinary people with questions like:
a. How do you think young American men reacted to this system during the Vietnam War?
6. Project or have the students watch and listen to the veterans. Monitor students during the activity to make sure they are completing the chart correctly.
7. Conclude with a teacher-directed discussion of the main points of the oral histories. Students can hand in their processing sheets on the way out the door or can finish analyzing the oral histories for homework and turn in the assignment at the beginning of the next class period.
Extensions and Connections:
1. Debates over the pros and cons of a “professional army”
2. Discussions about the pros and cons of serving in the military without being drafted.
3. What would need to happen for students today to serve without being drafted?
Source : http://thevietnamwar.info/vietnam-war-draft/