Expanding the Debate October 22, 2012

In preparation for tonight’s presidential election debate, we are pleased to share with you a live stream of Democracy Now!’s “Expanding the Debate” series. Amy Goodman will moderate the debate between third party candidates, Green Party’s Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, as they respond to the same foreign policy questions asked to President Obama and Mitt Romney in real time. The debate will be streaming below or you can watch on television at DirecTV: Link TV Ch. 375 or Free Speech TV Ch. 34 or DISH Network: Link TV Ch. 9410 or Free Speech TV Ch. 9415

Long Beach, Calif. teacher Michelle Montooth used the “Expanding the Debate” series to launch a unit on the elections in her high school language arts classroom. Here is a brief description she shared with us last week on the Zinn Education Project Facebook page:

We started the topic of elections by listening to the first 13 minutes of Democracy Now’s Expanding the Debate which talked about why only two parties are invited to the debates. The students then asked (or begged, even) for lessons about what each party believes so they could make informed decisions.

I made charts on different high-interest topics (budget, immigration, civil liberties, etc., for a total of ten) with five columns, one for each of the top five parties. (I narrowed them down based on which parties had candidates in 26 or more states and then by the membership number of the parties). None of the columns have the party’s name: it’s just Party A, Party B, and so on. Inside each column are statements from each party’s platform with regards to the topic.

It took a LOT of work to prepare, but it’s paying off. Students have highlighted what they like in each party in one color and dislike in another. (There’s a third color for “I’m lost” which is so I know when to come over and help explain things).

Today is the third day, and students are going to register for a party (we’re going to have a mock election) based on what they learned and which group they agree with most. Then I’m going to reveal the real names of the parties they chose.

Coming up: internet research on different parties, listening to third-party debates, in-class debates by students pretending to be candidates from different parties, debates on the propositions (after study), and the mock election.

This has reminded me to squeeze in lessons about the struggles people have gone through to earn the right to vote. Thanks for that reminder.

My students are super excited — I don’t think I’ve seen them focus and work so hard on anything so far this year. They know that they’ll be old enough to vote in two years, and many of them have noted that it’s going to be hard work to learn all the skills necessary to be an informed, critical voter.

We would love to hear from you too. How you are “teaching outside the textbook” about the debates and the elections overall?  Please send us your “teaching outside the textbook about the elections” stories, via email, to: zep@teachingforchange.org.


Add your comment:

Thanks very much for leaving a comment.