Sunday, August 14, 2011

Studying political language in 2011?

Every year in my English classes, we learn a lot about rhetoric by studying political language, and I'm pretty sure that a big part of the political debate this year will center on the budget deficit. I feel like my students have to have a grasp of the facts to detect spin, so it almost feels like they should understand the contents of the CBO’s Reducing the Deficit: Spending and Revenue Options. One problem is that this document is 256 pages long, and I’m not sure I can expect my students to read that in addition to covering the curriculum.

Here are some resources I've used in recent years. For the 2008 election, KQED’s You Decide had a series of activities that had you continually state your side on a political issue and then challenged your assumptions by presenting opposing viewpoints. They created a similar resource for economic issues in 2010. That year the Corporation for Public Broadcasting also put together Economy Story that provided stories and resources for understanding the economy from across public media, but it looks like that site went dormant as of May 2010. I know of NewsTrust’s Truth Squad.
Some might say that this should just be taught in social studies or economics classes, but I feel like it's such an important time for our country, and this is such a ripe area for analyzing language use, that I don't want to give up on the topic because it seems so complicated. Anyone have any other ideas for how to teach the language of politics this upcoming academic year?

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