Hobbyhorses: a preoccupation; a favorite topic.
Radicalization: process by which an individual or group comes to adopt
increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and
aspirations that (1) reject or undermine the status quo or (2) reject
and/or undermine contemporary ideas and expressions of freedom
Slough: something that may be shed or cast off.
Nebulous: lacking definite form or limits; vague.
Acquiescence: the reluctant acceptance of something without protest.
Amulet: can be any object but its most important characteristic is its alleged power
to protect its owner from danger or harm.
The Lessons Of Boston
What does the term “drones coming home to roost” refer to?
Does the author believe that “we must scale back our military campaigns,”
“take a humbler posture in the world” and “be more expansive in our
embrace of Muslims”? Or are these strategies other people have offered
that fall short?
What does the author say is “the danger built into the American
Why does the author say the F.B.I. and intelligence agencies declined to
investigate Tamerlan Tsarnaev more thoroughly after questions were raised
about whether he posed a threat to America?
What lessons does the author draw from the Boston Marathon attacks, and
does he offer a strategy for protecting America from a recurring attack?
Part I: First Reactions
Write a draft “Lesson of Boston” essay — a personal hypothesis that
explains what factors caused the Boston Marathon bombing.
Alternatively, you may offer a broad argument on how America should
respond to acts of domestic terrorism, or frame your essay as a direct
response to Mr. Bruni’s main points and conclusions.
Each student’s draft must pose at least three research questions — that
is, three questions that they’ll need to answer in order to develop a final
draft that is based upon clear facts and evidence.
What inspired the Tsarnaev brothers to attack the Boston Marathon?
Three years ago, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a boxing champion with dreams of a
successful life in America. His brother, Dzhokhar, was described by classmates
as a popular and respected high school student. Tamerlan then went on a trip to
the war-torn Caucasus region of southern Russia to visit his parents, where
investigators say he might have met with Islamist rebels and developed radical
Read their stories and watch a video in which neighbors talk about how they
felt when they learned that the brothers were terrorism suspects. Then look
for clues that might explain their transformation.
Is it fair to blame a large group, like immigrants or Muslims, for acts of
terrorism by individuals, and will proposed new immigration laws make
America safer or more vulnerable?
Even before the Boston attack, Congress began debating proposals to overhaul
America’s immigration laws. The bombing prompted some officials
to question whether such changes might be dangerous, while others said an
immigration overhaul would make the country safer.
Immigrants from Chechnya and other regions of southern Russia said they
felt embarrassed and worried about being linked to the bombing. Child welfare
advocates warned that immigrant children often struggle, and suggested that
more support in adjusting to life in America might reduce the risk of becoming
radicalized. American Muslims and their supporters said that radicals or
terrorists have no place in their community. Does an immigration overhaul have
a place in the debate over preventing terrorism, or is that an unreasonable
approach that punishes whole groups for the acts of a radical few?
Did the F.B.I., C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies act appropriately when
they investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaev before the bombing?
Investigators now say they had warnings from Russia that were based on
intercepted phone messages between Tamerlan and his mother, and that they
had placed him on a watch list. Some senators say the government
mishandled such information, and intelligence officials say it’s often hard to spot
true threats amid myriad fragments of information and they’re oftenforbidden by
law from digging too deeply without solid evidence. Should intelligence agencies
try harder or be given more legal authority to conduct surveillance, or are they
doing an effective job of balancing security needs and privacy concerns?
Should suspects’ legal rights be suspended or modified when public safety is
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is an American citizen, but when he was arrested following
the Boston Marathon attack, some people said he should be tried in court as
an enemy combatant, which would give him fewer legal rights. Would this be a
fair approach, or would it simply penalize him for having been born in a foreign
country? And do you support the decision to question Dzhokhar without first
telling him of his right to remain silent, on the grounds that public safety was at
Can new laws or guidelines help the media and bloggers to avoid making
Major news outlets and social media made errors in the early hours of the Boston
Marathon attack, publicizing false rumors and casting suspicion on innocent
people. Is there a lesson to be learned in all of this, or a need for more restrictive
laws on what people can say or write during an emergency? Or should we just
get used to the fact that a free media and the Internet are chaotic news sources
that must be evaluated with care?
Is it possible the Tsarnaev brothers are innocent as their parents claim?
The parents of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev say they couldn’t possibly
have committed the atrocities and suggest there’s a conspiracy to falsely accuse
them. Read the transcript of their news conference and decide whether their
arguments seem persuasive.
Can ordinary bystanders save lives following acts of terrorism?
Are individual citizens helpless or our greatest asset during a crisis? Read
these eyewitness accounts about what people did when the bombs went off in
Boston and during the police operations in Watertown, Mass. Did ordinary
people save lives or make a difference, and what lessons can we draw from that?
Students can also read responses to this question about bystanders on the Room
for Debate blog as well as our Student Opinion question.
Researching and Testing a Hypothesis
Working together or in pairs, ask students to use the archives of The Times or the
links below to answer their research questions. For each Times story they use,
they should write down facts or quotations that support the argument they are
trying to develop. They should also look for facts or quotations that might
contradict their argument, and either respond to them or modify their argument
as they learn new facts. Students may want to use a graphic organizer like
our Fact/Question/Response chart (PDF) to gather and organize their evidence