Teaching (How to Think) in the Wake of Obama

This past election season, I tried an experiment with the twelve 6th-graders in my history class: I challenged them to develop a fictional candidate and persuade the rest of us to vote for him by creating a commercial.  My hidden agenda was to find out which of the kids' political positions were influenced by their parents and whether, if given the opportunity to evaluate their positions from scratch, they might choose differently. The students were ready -- dare I say waiting -- for it.  See, our school happens to be in Hyde Park, that ivy-covered, venerated neighborhood otherwise known as the Land of Obama. The lead-up was slow going.  First we had to learn about rhetorical strategies -- pathos, logos, ethos.  We watched beer commercials, listened to PSAs for seatbelts, dissected newspaper ads.  It took at least a week, but by the end of it, my students could smell a rat within the first few bars of a campaign commercial's...(Read Full Article)