Teaching Government in an Election Year

It’s almost too easy.

Find a Romney press release, an Obama speech, a Giuliani interview, a Clinton endorsement, a Ron Paul viral video, an Edwards green-on-white-background lawn sign, Huckabee’s Chuck Norris ad, a Gravel crazy-fest at the debate, a McCain town hall meeting and some news story about Kucinich doing what Kucinich does.

Throw in for a set induction the funniest thing this side of a Night Elf Mohawk, and voila. You have at least two periods worth of material, up to a week if you take your sweet time. Here’s how I have it figured.

Each of those candidates has a unique medium of campaigning attached to them. Ads, lawn signs, debates, ad nauseum. Each of these is for the expressed purpose of persuading voters.

For each of these, have your students fill out a chart that details each of these methods in the most basic terms — which candidate, which party, which method — and then have them infer some more information.

What demographic does this appeal to? Who is the audience audience? Is it effective? Are you convinced? Why or why not?

Does Huckabee seek to foster support for him among youth for just fans of “Walker, Texas Ranger,” or the young, as well?

What are some shortcomings of Ron Paul’s viral marketing? Beside the very low costs, what are some upsides?

Why do fringe candidates like Mike Gravel tend to actually answer tough questions at debates, and why are they always so angry?

There are almost too many questions to answer in a short amount of time. Fortunately, for those of us without fancy projectors, all it takes is an audio recording to really capture the essence of the videos — substitute a CD player for laptop and screen. At the very least, we can substitute a transcript and have students act it out.

That sounds like even more fun, actually. Forget I even brought technology into it.

Even better, one good lesson plan on an election year will carry another three years worth of government classes, especially when the little iconoclasts really start hating the incumbent Commander-in-Chief.

“How did that bozo get elected?”

That question will be the sound of an out-of-date lesson plan suddenly becoming timely again.

Moral of the story? Last year’s current-events-based lesson plan is never more than a tweak away from relevancy.

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