the Guest? Learning About Interest Group Politics
By Jamie Morris, Fairfax County, VA
Students will learn to identify major interest groups and think tanks
and better evaluate the viewpoints of guests on the News Hour.
Estimated Time of Completion: Part of one class period, a research
assignment for homework (or to be completed in school computer lab), and
part of one class period to report findings.
This lesson addresses the following national content standards found at
Standard 9: Viewing
Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual
Uses strategies to analyze stereotypes in visual media (e.g., recognizes
stereotypes that serve the interests of some groups in society at the
expense of others; identifies techniques used in visual media that perpetuate
Standard 19: How Does the Government Established by the Constitution
Embody the Purposes, Values, and Principles of American Democracy?
Understands what is meant by "the public agenda," how it is
set, and how it is influenced by public opinion and the media
Knows how the public agenda is shaped by political leaders, interest
groups, and state and federal courts; and understands how individual
citizens can help shape the public agenda (e.g., by joining interest
groups or political parties, making presentations at public meetings,
writing letters to government officials and to newspapers) (#2)
21: Understands the formation and implementation of public policy
1. Knows a public policy issue at the local, state, or national level
well enough to identify the major groups interested in that issue and
explain their respective positions
to students that the NewsHour often invites experts on the program to
participate in discussions on topics in the news. The program often selects
guests with varied points of view. Often these guests are drawn from public
interest groups (an organization of people with shared policy goals) or
think tanks (research organizations that produce policy proposals). Learning
about these organizations make one a more informed viewer.
for the students how the goals of the NewsHour and interest groups converge.
NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
Background on issue
Views from differing perspectives
Try to get its issues on the policy agenda
Increase its visibility
several Web-based transcripts of interviews with representatives of interest
groups or think tanks from the NewsHour Web site (I WOULD POST SEVERAL
TYPICAL APPEARANCES) or select a portion of a recent show to have students
watch in class.
Some examples are below. Search here for others: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/newshour_index.html
Assign the students to manageable groups (4-5 each). Distribute
work sheets and selected transcripts.
is a set of reproducible directions. After students complete the review
of the transcripts and complete the worksheets, assign them to complete
the following Web-based research using the links on this site: (http://www.pbs.org/now/resources/politics.html).
A) Name of organization
B) Mission statement
C) Brief description of history
D) Source of funding
6. Have the students share their findings with the class when they have
completed their assignment. The teacher should organize the findings on
7. Using the assembled data the teacher should push the students to make
links between the organization's mission statement, its funding, and other
attributes, and the positions the representative took in the interview.
For example, if the NewsHour had an interview with someone from the Healthcare
Leadership Council, an industry group whose mission is to promote a market-based
health care system, were the idea advocated by the guest consistent with
the mission of the organization? Some
possible discussion questions might be:
A) Why might
it be considered bad to have a discussion on television among people who
all have the same ideology?
B) Why does it matter who funds an organization?
C) How can you tell if a person is a Democrat, Republican, or Centrist
by what they say?
D) Why might someone represeting an organization want to appear on a news
E) Why should an organization be allowed to promote their agenda on a
news show? Is there anything wrong with that? Why or why not?