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Ask Dr. Helen: How Can I Keep My Students From Becoming Little Marxists?

It's not easy to keep young minds open to a variety of political views.

by
Helen Smith

Bio

December 15, 2008 - 1:30 am
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What about using some games that will stimulate critical thinking skills in your students as well as teach them about how to cope with propaganda? One such set of games is the old WFF ‘N PROOF games which are available at their website.  You might try the Propaganda Game in your classroom (it sells for just $30.00) and is a great way to teach the kids about media spin. The Propaganda Game is described as follows:

The PROPAGANDA GAME: the hilarious but effective antidote for the daily barrage from advertising, public relations, politics, and the mass media — all seeking to manipulate our attitudes and behavior. Inoculate yourself, your family, and students by learning to identify the many blatant and subtle persuasion techniques used by professionals. Soon you’ll be seeing them everywhere and, in the process, learn to stand firmly outside their insidious grip.

PROPAGANDA is a delightful, highly social game in which players first learn to identify techniques such as: prejudice, casual oversimplification, faulty analogy, tabloid and wishful thinking, hasty generalization, attacking a straw man, appeals to ignorance, emotion, flattery, pity, prestige, folksiness, joining the bandwagon, and many, many more.

Once the kids play a game like this, perhaps then you could help them through class discussion to understand that making hasty generalizations based on the media, popular opinion, etc. is not always correct. Plant a seed in their brain and watch it grow for some. Get the kids into debates where they have to make both sides of an argument. Make them argue the other side, one that they don’t agree with. At least the students will be presented different views, even if they never come to adopt them.

Finally, what about assigning books or extra curricular readings such as the work of J. K. Rowling, who has a libertarian bent, or Harry Turtledove books, as they have a non-PC slant. I would add the work of Milton Friedman or F.A. Hayek — true, these are middle school and high schoolers we are talking about but perhaps some would be interested. I wish you luck!

Perhaps PJM readers have some more advice for Scott on how to help the kiddies learn more tolerance for a variety of political views?

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If you have a question you would like answered, please leave it below or email me at askdrhelen@hotmail.com. Your questions may be edited for length and clarity. Please note that your first name only or no name at all will be used to identify your question — if you want me to use your name, tell me; otherwise you will be referred to by your first name or as “a reader,” etc.

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Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at Dr. Helen.
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