Is War a Necessary Evil? – Writing Activity

Ages: 15-18
Suggested length: 1-2 class periods (45-55 minutes each), depending on the choice of assessment.
Device accessibility: 1 device per 1-2 students

Lesson Information

At a glance

In this lesson, students will explore a fully developed Kialo discussion that considers the weighty question, “Is War a Necessary Evil?” Working through such diverse perspectives as history, philosophy, politics, economics, and human evolution, students will grapple with this discussion and then begin to reexamine the core question for themselves. 

To prompt this reflection, students will write an independent, argumentative essay on the prompt: Is war a necessary evil? Give three reasons to support your position, and explain your reasoning.

Learning objective(s)

In this lesson, students will:

  • Explore a cross-disciplinary discussion. 
  • Evaluate opposing perspectives on a controversial issue.
  • Form and defend a position based upon their personal reasoning.

Prior knowledge

Students should have at least a basic concept of international relations, economics, evolution, and the historical events of European colonialism and World War II.

Teacher preparation

  • There is no need to clone this discussion. Students can explore the discussion hosted on the Kialo_Edu account by clicking this link.
  • If you would like to invite students to the discussion using the “Share” button or the Teams feature, create 1 clone of the discussion for yourself.
  • When inviting students to the discussion, give them Viewer permissions.

Provided materials

  • The Kialo discussion, “Is War a Necessary Evil?” This consists of:
    • A brief background on the alleged drawbacks and merits of war.
    • A list of key vocabulary for understanding the Kialo discussion.
    • A fully developed Kialo discussion for students to explore. The discussion covers arguments for and against the necessity of war.
  • Lesson plan for educators (.docx / .pdf).
  • Graphic organizer (.docx / .pdf).
  • Suggested rubric for grading an argumentative essay (.docx / .pdf).
  • Download all additional materials (.zip).

Lesson Plan

Suggested length: 1-2 class periods (45-55 minutes each)

Lesson components:
– Opener (5-10 minutes)
– Activity
– Part A: Exploring the Kialo discussion (focus of 1 class period)
– Part B: Beginning the argumentative essay (5 minutes)
– Optional closer (2 minutes)

Students will write an argumentative essay on the prompt: Is war a necessary evil? Give three reasons to support your position, and explain your reasoning. (see suggested rubric in provided materials)

– Students can be asked to explore the Kialo discussion at home, before coming to class. In this case, you can also discuss students’ impressions of the discussion during the lesson Opener.
– In writing their essays, you can challenge students to defend a viewpoint that they disagree with.

Opener (5-10 minutes)

  1. Present two quotations to the class:
    • “I am sick and tired of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.” (U.S. General William Tecumseh Sherman, 1880)
    • “Perpetual peace is a dream, and it is not even a beautiful dream. War is an element in the order of the world ordained by God. In it the noblest virtues of mankind are developed; courage and the abnegation of self, faithfulness to duty, and a spirit of sacrifice: the soldier gives his life. Without war the world would stagnate, and lose itself in materialism.” (Prussian General Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, 1880)
  2. Ask students to speak with a partner about which of these quotations the students agree with more. Then conduct a brief class discussion on students’ thoughts.
  3. Use the discussion as a segue to introducing the lesson topic: Is War a Necessary Evil?


Part A: Exploring the Kialo discussion (focus of 1 class period)

  1. Go over the suggested rubric and graphic organizer.
  2. Direct students to log into Kialo Edu and begin exploring the discussion, taking notes of any important points or ideas that can be used for the essay.

Tip: Encourage students to explore the entire Kialo discussion with an open mind. Useful points for both positions on the issue can be found throughout the discussion.

Optional extension: Invite students to consider war from the perspective of participants, through two interviews with World War I veterans. Compare the men’s perspectives: How might they answer the question of whether war is a necessary evil? What might be their reasons?
Clip 1: Interview with Jack Campbell, Irish soldier fighting for the British Empire (clip starts at 9:46, duration 1m 37s)
Clip 2: Interview with Stephan Westman, soldier for the German Empire (clip starts at 1:18, duration 3m 47s)
Note: The portion of the interview before the start of the clip is graphic, as it describes hand-to-hand violence. Share this context with students, so they can understand Westman’s commentary.

Part B: Beginning the argumentative essay (5 minutes)

When students are finished exploring the Kialo discussion, direct them to begin planning and writing their essays.

Optional closer (2 minutes)

  1. Share the following quote from American author Ernest Hemingway, who served as an ambulance driver in World War I and worked as a war correspondent in the Spanish Civil War:

    “Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.”
  2. Invite students to consider the question, “Is it possible for something to be both morally wrong and morally necessary at the same time, or are these concepts always exclusive?”

Related Kialo Discussion

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