Guerrilla Guide to Politics

Episode Ideas:
Voting    Politics   The Election Cycle   Government
(clicking on one of the above will take you to that section)

 The Guerrilla Guide to Politics (GGP) is a funny, high energy, content-rich series of lessons in civic participation, filled with contemporary cultural references and featuring energetic, knowledgeable and appealing hosts.    It was created to speak to the middle and high school viewer who has not yet learned the value and critical importance of taking part in the unique American political process.   However, in the course of testing the program for content, we discovered that many adults are lacking this information as well.

Responding to the identified need and growing outcry to reverse the trend towards non-participation or hyper-partisanship in our political process, GGP speaks to people in their own language and in an engaging and entertaining manner.   Contemporary music, high quality computer graphics and the enthusiastic explanations of our hosts make GGP watchable and understandable for ages 10 and up.  

As educators, we are sometimes dismayed by the fast-paced imagery of the “MTV style” of video.   However, this is the medium and style most watched and appreciated by young people.  GGP brings the message in a manner guaranteed to keep them watching.  The content is well researched, non-partisan and covers the electoral process from voting to where our tax dollars go.  With 26 episodes in development, we will investigate all aspects of democracy and the importance of our young people’s active efforts to keep our country’s founding principles alive.

The Washington, DC based, non-partisan Committee for the Study of the American Electorate stated on its website, “Since most voting studies show that the act of voting is a lowest common denominator political act -- that if one does not vote, one tends not to participate in any other form of constructive civic and social activity -- the decline in voter participation robs the nation of its social capital, the human resources needed for the constructive pursuit of a better society.  Conversely, this phenomenon also means that, as voter participation decreases, American politics tends to be dominated by the intensely interested at the expense of the general public, as policies become increasingly adjudicated of, for and by those who vote most heavily.”[1]

In the not too distant past, the electoral and political process was taught in middle and high schools under the topics of “Civics” or “Social Studies” or even “American History”. As the mandated testing in math, literacy and science became critical to ensure a school’s status, these most basic tenets of community and communal responsibility were lost or given less attention.  

As a result, our students are graduating from high school and college without a real understanding of how their involvement in the political process can have an impact on their lives, their futures and their community at large.   Moreover, they can grow up lacking a sense of civic responsibility and belonging to a larger whole.  

There are literally hundreds of organizations that have a specific interest or mission in civics education and virtually all indicate the lack of availability of that information to our students.  They are concerned about the impact this lack of education and awareness will have on our political system.

GGP offers a new method of bringing political education to our students and potentially to adults through commercial cable and network channels.

As we enter a primary election cycle, we have a once-in-four-years opportunity to use the events of the campaigns (conventions, town meeting, caucuses, etc.) to enrich the production of this series and make it immediate, while creating a series that can be used for years as a resource for teachers, parents and organizations.   The first 13 episodes can be completed within this election period.

Fascinating Leaning Factory, a 501c3 non-profit corporation has licensed the series for development and production.   A budget is being developed for 26 episodes.    Each program will be approximately 22 minutes in length and supplemental classroom materials will be created to accompany the programs as well as an interactive Website.   The programs will also be available for broadcast and home sales.  There is interest from the Public Broadcasting System to air them.

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1.    Voting – Learn what it takes to vote:  how to register, how to vote, different ways to vote, when to vote, why to vote and how to find out more about your public officials. Youth and Voting – Wonder why there are so many political commercials about social security and Medicare?  Younger voters have the worst voting percentage of any age group.  Find out why our youth fail to participate in the democratic process, and what you can do about it.

2.    Make Your Voice Heard – Don’t like laws censoring music artists or who can vote where and when?  Find out what you can do about it.  Learn about using the media, donating money to causes, and discover Guerrilla Guide’s top 10 guerrilla field tactics to influence public policy. 

3.    Influencing Government – Lobbying, corporate/special interest vs. small issues, regular people making a difference.

4.   Partisanship - Cable television pundits, taling heads and partisan spokespeople have taken over the airwaves and have successfully torn apart the basics of debate and discussion, civility and basic good manners that are the foundation of a civil society.   A republican democracy cannot function in the 'heat of war'.   Critical thinking and respect for another's viewpoint are urgently needed.   What can we do to bring them back?

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5.    Principles of Democracy – What are the laws that our country is based on?  Why shouldn’t smarter people get more than one vote?  Don’t the separation of powers lead to more gridlock?  How can we promote liberty and equality at the same time?

6.    Women / Minorities and Politics – The glass ceiling is slowly being shattered in politics, and yes, minorities are allowed to be republican.  Find out about the year of the woman, how women took over the governor’s mansion in 2002, the rise of an African American Oklahoma republican, and the influential voting block of Latinos.

7.    The 4th Branch:  Media and Politics – The spin cycle isn’t just a button on your washing machine.  Find out how covering politics winds up influencing public policy.

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The Election Cycle
8.    Campaigns – So you want to run for office?  Learn what it takes to throw your hat in the ring, from declaring, to fundraising, to fieldwork, to Election Day.   Running for President – Running for president isn’t an ordinary campaign.  Find out the unique road to the White House, from the caucuses in Iowa to the Inaugural Ball.   Campaign staff. 

9.    Political Parties – You think they could have chosen better mascots than a donkey and an elephant.  Find out what a party does, who makes up a party, and what they stand for.

10.    Primaries – How is a primary different from the general election?  When are they held?  What’s the big deal about Iowa, New Hampshire and Super Tuesday?

11.    Political Conventions – Looks like a big party, but do they serve any function?  Find out about their purpose, the media coverage, and the all-important convention ‘bounce’.

12.    Political Debates – Does anyone listen to 90 minutes of talking heads?  Find out why debates play a big role in determining your elected officials, and how they could be improved.   Youth Debates.

13.    Day in the Life of a Candidate - Town Hall meetings, get out the Vote drives, bus rides, walking the neighborhoods, pressing the flesh, calling for $$

14.    Follow the Money Trail -- Who’s giving to whom and how much?  How much do elections costs?  And what are the pitfalls to big-money campaigns?   Does money buy votes?

15.    Special Interests -- How are special interests involved in the campaign cycle?   In what ways to they influence decision makers?

16.    Polls – Seems like there’s a poll to everything.  Find out who’s using them and why, how they’re really done, and what are there pitfalls?

17.    Negative Campaigning – Looks like a mud-slinging fest on TV.  Are all candidates really as bad as they say?  Find out how they’re used, why they’re used, and the subtle ways campaigns try to manipulate your vote.

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18.    Federal, State, and Local Government – What’s the difference? – So you think city council handles foreign policy and your state legislature works on traffic lights?  Find out the difference between federal, state, and local government and learn who does what.

19.    Local Government – How to get involved, how to get things done.  What are your responsibilities as a citizen?

20.    Your State Capitol – What the heck goes on in there? – So you’ve got one of these funny looking capital buildings in your town.  What the heck goes on in there, and how is it different from the U.S. Capitol

21.    The Federal Government – The federal government is more than just the White House.  What does the federal government do?  How much money do they spend, and what do they spend it on?  Who are all these cabinet officials?

22.    Where Do My Tax Dollars Go? – When you see federal taxes taken out of your McDonald’s paycheck, where does it go?  The federal government spends trillions and trillions of your tax dollars.  Don’t you want to know what they spend it on?

23.    The White House – Take a tour of the White House, not only the building, but also the roles of staff.  Learn about Air Force One and how the President travels.  And what’s the deal with Camp David?

24.    Hot Air:  State of the Union, Inauguration, and Other Big Speeches – Do you tune out after hearing, “Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States”?  Learn why these are pivotal moments in any president’s career, what the function of these speeches are, and why are they so important.

25.    The Legislative Branch – What’s the difference between a senator and congressman?  What do they do?  What’s their role in passing law? Life of a Bill – Creating a law is like making sausage:  neither is very pretty.  Find out what it takes to cook a bill into a law.

26.    The Judicial Branch – The judicial branch is the most overlooked branch of the federal government…that is unless we’re talking about chads in Florida!  Find out about a job that is yours until you die, and learn about pivotal decisions cast over history.

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[1] Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, 2002