Teaching about Election 2004 through the International Media

Article excerpt

WITH THE ABUNDANCE of excellent primary and secondary internet sources available, teaching about the 2004 elections in social studies classes at the secondary and middle school levels is a cinch. The September issue of SOCIAL EDUCATION contained articles and online internet links addressing various aspects of the upcoming elections. While this piece will first review some basic online sources, such as links to the candidates, the issues, the Democratic and Republican Conventions, and to teacher resources and lesson plans relating to the current elections, the primary focus will be on looking at the elections through the lens of various international media--those that are online and in English. "What is being reported about the U.S. elections in the international media? How does one use these media, with their varied perspectives, to develop lessons on the U.S. elections? How should students evaluate news reports and identify the assumptions and values underlying the assessments of various journalists and pundits?

As students tackle the elections from a comparative media approach, they will need to check the content for accuracy concerning the issues and the positions of candidates. To do this, students may want to refer to the official candidate and party convention websites. Alphabetically, they are located at the following URIc: the George W. Bush official website, georgewbush.com; the John Kerry official website, www.jhohnkerry.com; and Ralph Nader's website, www.votenader.com. The Democratic National Convention is located at www.2004dnc.com, with the Republican National Convention at www.2004nycgop.org. Additionally, students should be cognizant of election issues from the various American perspectives, ranging from the more mainstream sources detailed below, to those of the left, such as MichaelMoore.com at www.michaelmoore.com/mustread/index.php and the right-wing Fox News at www.foxnews.com.

Probably one of the best news websites to bookmark for exhaustive information on the U.S. elections is Politinfo.com, a self-described

   independent and non-partisan
   portal for political resources,
   news, and information. Designed
   for political professionals, and academic
   researchers, PolitInfo.com is
   also aimed at students, librarians,
   political activists, media editors,
   and journalists. PolitInfo.com is
   one of the most comprehensive
   online resources for politics, political
   science, and political information
   (us.politinfo.com).

Politinfo.com includes links to official government sites, the American and foreign media, the candidates and their campaigns, foreign policy and the elections, the issues, polls, the U.S. election process, the Electoral College, and much more. A sampling of articles currently featured on the sidebar includes selections from The Guardian Unlimited (a liberal publication from London), "White House Race Gets Nasty," from BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) News (a venerable world news source from London), "'Bush Stands by al-Qaeda Alert," and the Scotsman.com News International, "US Obsession with First Ladies Stretches Back a Century" Polotinfo.com and these articles may be accessed at us.politinfo.com/Directory/Issues/Presidential_Election_2004 /presidential_election_2004.html.

Some other excellent sources for election coverage from primarily mainstream U.S. perspectives include CNN on the 2004 elections at www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004, The New York Times Campaign 2004 site at www.nytimes.com/pages/politics/campaign, National Public Radio's election news at www.npr.org (click "Politics and Society"), USA Today's pages on the candidates, issues, polls, with cartoons and editorials, www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/front.htm, and C-SPAN's 2004 Election web pages at www.cspan.org. PBS TeacherSource at www.pbs.org/teachersource/social_studies/high_civics_campaign.shtm provides a series of quality ready-made lesson plans on various election topics, ranging from analysis of political ads to exploring "rhetorical strategies and the difficulties inherent in trying to advance arguments in the fact of partisan opposition"

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