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is wal-mart good for america?


Discussion Questions

Featured Lesson Plan
  • Are Low Prices Always a Good Thing?
  • Student Handout: Viewer's Guide
  • Student Handout: Are Low Prices Always a Good Thing?

  • Additional Lesson Ideas
  • Editorial Statements
  • Outsourcing and Campaign Promises
  • Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town

  • Resources

    Printable .pdf of Entire Guide
    (Adobe Acrobat required)

    » About the Film:

    FRONTLINE offers two starkly contrasting images: one of Circleville, Ohio, where the local TV manufacturing plant has closed down; the other -- a sea of high rises in the South China boomtown of Shenzhen. The connection between American job losses and soaring Chinese exports? Wal-Mart. For Wal-Mart, China has become the cheapest, most reliable production platform in the world, the source of up to $25 billion in annual imports that help the company deliver everyday low prices to 100 million customers a week. But while some economists credit Wal-Mart's single-minded focus on low costs with helping contain U.S. inflation, others charge that the company is the main force driving the massive overseas shift to China in the production of American consumer goods, resulting in hundreds of thousands of lost jobs and a lower standard of living here at home.

    » A Note to Teachers:

    For classes in Social Studies, American Government, Current Events and Economics;
    Grade level 9th-12th

    "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?" provides a provocative examination of the impact Wal-Mart has had on the U.S. economy. The documentary highlights the changing relationship between manufacturers and the so-called "big-box" retailers, exemplified by Wal-Mart, that has contributed to the bankruptcy of some American businesses and a growing unemployment rate. While Wal-Mart supporters tout the advantages of one-stop, low-cost shopping, others are alarmed at both the outsourcing that has made these low prices possible and how large retailers affect smaller, local businesses. FRONTLINE examines the winners and the losers as it documents how:

    • Global retailers are superceding manufacturers in making decisions about product quality, type and price.

    • A basic flaw in the United States-China trade relationship is that we can afford to buy Chinese products, but they cannot afford to buy ours.

    • Wal-Mart has approximately 6,000 global suppliers; 80 percent of these are from China.

    • China is becoming the biggest producer of high-tech products in the world.

    • TCL, a Chinese company, is now the largest producer of televisions in the world, and almost all of their U.S. exports go to Wal-Mart.

    • The United States is exporting raw materials to Third World countries and importing their manufactured products, which is a reversal of former economic relations.

    • In 2003, the United States had a $120 billion trade deficit with China, and it is expected to be even higher in 2004.

    » Discussion Questions:

    A list of questions for students to discuss after viewing "Is Wal-Mart Good For America?"

    » Featured Lesson Plan:

    Are Low Prices Always a Good Thing?

    Students will examine the costs and benefits of outsourcing for consumers, manufacturers, retailers and workers in the United States by:

    • Completing a viewer's guide for the documentary
    • Researching the costs and benefits of outsourcing

    » Additional Lesson Ideas:

    Editorial Statements
    Students will use information from the film and/or additional research to create a persuasive letter, poem or cartoon that illustrates their viewpoint.

    Outsourcing and Campaign Promises
    Students will explore the different approaches to outsourcing advocated by the Democratic and Republican political parties in the 2004 campaign.

    Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town
    These online lesson plans will allow students to:

    • Study the advantages and disadvantages of allowing a major chain store into their community
    • Role-play persons involved in the study by simulating a talk show
    • Conduct a cost-benefit analysis of accepting a chain store into a community

    » Purchasing the Film:

    "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?" can be purchased from Shop PBS for Teachers. Also, teachers and students can watch the film streamed in its entirety on FRONTLINE's Web site.

    » Credits

    This teacher's guide was developed by Simone Bloom Nathan of Media Education Consultants. It was written by Patricia Grimmer of Carbondale High School, Carbondale, Illinois. Advisers were Ellen Greenblatt of University High School, San Francisco and Michelle McVicker of the Rutherford County Schools, Tennessee.

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