1. Facilitate a classroom survey using questions such as those below and asking students to agree or disagree with each statement by using a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” sign to indicate their preference. Track votes on the board/overhead for use later in the discussion.
- Agree or disagree: In the U.S. the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
- Agree or disagree: In the U.S. people who want to “get ahead” financially can if they work hard.
- Agree or disagree: The U.S. economic system unfairly favors the wealthy and powerful.
- Agree or disagree: There is conflict between the rich and poor people in America.
Work as a class to calculate the percentage of students that agree and disagree with each question. Record these for reference use later in the lesson.
2. Discuss the varying points of view on the questions presented in step 1 above, and ask students to provide specific examples to support their opinions about each statement. Encourage students to think about events that have directly affected them and their families along with information they have heard and interpreted from various media sources.
3. Explain that in the upcoming video clip and in the articles they will read, students will learn more about what research says about socioeconomics in the U.S. In addition, it will examine how the class differences affect the feelings people have about government and politics.
4. View PBS NewsHour’s “Land of the Free, Home of the Poor” or distribute a copy of the transcript and read it aloud. Discuss the video/transcript using questions such as:
- What, if anything, surprised you about the statistics related to wealth in the U.S.?
- When you think about the community where you live, which portion of the graph to you believe you represent?
- Based on what you saw in the report, how do you think people from various American social classes feel about one another? Why? Explain.
- Do you agree with the quote below from Christi Pierre-Louis? Why?
“Maybe it's for the wealthy, just not for me, because it doesn't matter how high I reach. You know, I'm reaching up my hands, and it seems like it's still -- I'm still -- still very far away from it. It's like someone literally pulling it. As much as I'm running after it, they're running away with it, and I don't get my piece of the American dream, because I work hard in this country, too. I pay my taxes, just like everyone else. I work here. I go to school. And I'm doing my best, but, still, my best is just not good enough.”
5. Break students into pairs or small groups. Distribute the Data Analysis Worksheet and review the directions with the students. Provide computer access and work time for students to visit Patchwork Nation as well as “Don’t Mind the Gap”, “Rising Share of Americans See Conflict Between Rich and Poor”.
NOTE: Distribute a copy of “Don’t Mind the Gap” and “The Politics of Class Conflict” if there is limited computer availability. This will allow students to read the articles and then use the computers for additional research at Patchwork Nation.
6. Once students have completed the worksheet activity, discuss the worksheet findings as a class. Pay particular attention to questions 4-5 as this will allow students the opportunity to showcase what they have learned about the candidates and connect it to what they know and the data that applies to their communities.
7. Close the activity by asking students to create a Top 10 List of what they hope the newly elected president will do to try to ease the conflict between the social classes in the U.S. once in office. Encourage students to share these lists with one another and explain why they included each item in the list. Students could return to their original pairs or small groups for this sharing activity.
1. Have students conduct a survey using the questions used in step 1 of the lesson or based on the data they heard in “Land of the Free, Home of the Poor” and read in the articles “Don’t Mind the Gap” and “The Politics of Class Conflict”. After compiling the survey, have students analyze the results and determine why they may/may not have been similar to the findings presented in the articles.
2. View the PBS NewsHour story “Rich Shopper, Poor Shopper” and evaluate how what you learned about the facts related to social class translates to when it comes to the retail choices in your community. Create a map of your community and make note of the types of retail stores that are available to you. Use the data you analyzed in the lesson to see if the hypotheses presented in “Rich Shopper, Poor Shopper” hold true in your community.
3. Follow the candidates throughout the campaign and create a virtual bulletin board that showcases what they are saying about social class as it relates to the election. Use a sight such as http://pinterest.com/ or a class website or blog to track articles, videos and other campaign data related to socioeconomic issues. Discuss how candidate comments and ideas might influence voters in the November election.