by Andi Stix, Ed.D. and Frank Hrbek© 2003 Middle States Council for the Social Studies
As we begin a new century, one in which globalism is no longer a concept but a growing reality, it is important for our nation’s students to understand and analyze current issues of public debate with an eye toward the varied interpretations and approaches various players bring to the discussion of each problem. Indeed, current social studies standards require that students be able to view events from multiple perspectives. This article outlines a new strategy, from Social Studies for Active Learners, for cultivating among students the ability to consider the varying viewpoints of players in any number of debates where opinions differ and parties have their own agendas.
The Lobbyist Hearing strategy requires students to familiarize themselves with an assigned issue that is to be debated before a Congressional audience. When all students understand the general issue at hand, groups are then given one perspective to learn in greater depth. Later in the lesson, they are called before a committee to argue for their point of view, whether they personally agree with the assigned perspective or not. Through the assignment of multiple perspectives and the use of primary sources as well as historical fiction, students are offered the opportunity to expand their understanding of an issue to include perspectives and opinions with which they may not have been previously aware.
This strategy can be adapted to any number of issues studied in the middle school social studies curriculum, but we will be using an example from the Lakota Indians debate to illustrate the strategy. The question of what to do with the Indians was a prominent one in the late 1800s—should they be removed from their land, allowed to stay, or something else? The perspectives examined in this unit include the Lakota, the United States Army, the Homesteaders, and Businessmen. The Army was sympathetic to the Lakota, and simply wanted to keep the peace between them and the homesteaders. The homesteaders wanted to keep the Lakota in check, limiting their allotment of land. The businessman wanted to exploit the land and shrink the size of the reservation on which the Lakota were located. The Lakota themselves wanted to maintain their way of life and to be free to roam and settle the land as they wished.
We begin by providing a rationale for the strategy before moving on to a description of it and its implementation in the middle school social studies classroom. It is our hope that the strategy will be incorporated into the social studies classroom for various units of study in an effort to provide students with opportunities for considering multiple perspectives in context.
Current standards for the Social Studies require that students be able to “locate, access, analyze, organize and apply information about selected public issues—recognizing and explaining multiple points of view” (Standard Xc). Other standards require students to “explain how information may be interpreted by people from diverse cultural perspectives and frames of reference” (Standard Ib) and to “demonstrate an understanding that different scholars may describe the same event or situation in different ways but must provide reasons or evidence for their views” (Standard IIa). These standards, while necessary for their own sake, imply that students must be encouraged to consider problems and issues from perspectives that differ from their own, in an effort to sensitize them to the needs and concerns of others. The strategy described in this article was designed not only to meet these standards but also to meet the implicit call to cultivate in our students better critical thinking skills and broader sensitivities to the needs and goals of other cultures, groups, or individuals.
According to Arias, Hitchens, and Roupp, “Discerning fact from opinion and identifying multiple perspectives in cross-cultural encounters are desirable outcomes of instruction in our increasingly interconnected world” (Ask Eric). One might assume that in the past only white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant males made decisions in this country, but it would be a mistake to believe that problems have always been considered from just one point of view. And in this world, where the boundaries separating peoples of different races, religions, and ethnicities are becoming more and more blurred, one thing has not changed: multiple perspectives need to be considered in the making of public policy and the resolution of disputes that affect the nation, the states, the towns, and each and every household. The multiple perspectives brought to bear on issues of local, national, and international affairs will help our modern society decide some of the most problematic issues of our time. And students at all levels need to understand that there are always different opinions on issues of great import. Further, they need to learn to consider these differing perspectives, and to put themselves in their “adversary’s” shoes in order to become more sensitive to the views that come to bear on decisions and the consequences of those decisions for all parties involved.
Important to this process of sensitizing students and encouraging them to use critical thinking skills, is the use of primary source documents as part of the curriculum, in addition to the use of historical fiction, which places fictional characters in historical situations, or real historical persons in fictional situations. It introduces students to real people from history, and engages them in the tapestry of historical events and epochs. Primary source documents are important for obvious reasons, but many social studies teachers ask why it is important to include historical fiction in a classroom not dedicated to the study of the Humanities. The response, as Suzanne Miller writes, is that “The few studies of the influence of literature in history classes suggest that reading, discussing, and writing about historical fiction and biographies provokes strong historical interest/understanding and development of critical thinking strategies. For example, middle school students learned to compare sources and evaluate issues and events from multiple perspectives. Although these studies did not specifically focus on students’ developing understanding of cultures or diversity, taken together, they suggest that literature-history integrations may have promising influences on student understanding and thinking”.
Historical fiction, as we define it, includes any work of fiction that uses historical events, situations, people, or places as part of the setting or the story. Including young adult literature in the Social Studies classroom allows students to easily identify with protagonists set in historical contexts, and to extend their imaginations to the varied consideration of problems and issues throughout history. Historical fiction does not replace primary sources; instead, it complements primary sources and inspires students to engage in the literature, and they are more interested in reading imaginative materials that bring color and life to an historical period that might otherwise seem out of reach. Such literature allows students “to make personal connections with their learning and to approach it from a number of perspectives”. The vicarious experiences provided by young adult historical fiction offer students a more personal connection to material that can otherwise seem disconnected from their own lives. In this lesson, historical fiction is used to present the competing viewpoints and to engage students in the situations being studied.
This Lobbyist Hearing strategy engages students on multiple levels, but more importantly, it teaches them to consider that there is always another side to every argument, issue, or problem. Incorporating this activity into any number of different units will help train students to consider varying perspectives in myriad situations, so that they might learn to apply such critical thinking in their own lives, as they grow and face situations that demand sensitivity and understanding. Opening students’ minds to the possibility of different points of view, and asking them to analyze and explain points of view that differ from their own, teaches them about compassion, tolerance, and understanding just as it requires students to raise their thinking to new levels. Using the historical fiction presented on the “teaser sheets” introduces them to the situation or event and is the springboard for further research; the teasers are meant to provide background while encouraging students to go out and find the primary sources that detail the factual side of the topics they are studying.
Methods and Materials
Teachers will need at least three class periods to complete the strategy, allowing time for students to conduct research, either at home or during class time, and to meet with their groups at least twice before presenting their arguments before “Congress.”
Preparation for the Lobbyist Hearing
After breaking students up into groups, the teacher starts by asking them to describe a time when someone tried to persuade them to do something. They should discuss their responses with members of their group and then chart their responses on the board. The teacher should then explain to students that lobbyists in Washington represent the views of the specific interest groups they represent. These interest groups would like to persuade Congress to set policies or pass laws that benefit their group and/or society at large. In this activity, students will take on the roles of lobbyists trying to persuade Congress to accept their position on the fate of the Lakota Indians. Each group will prepare a speech to deliver before a mock Congressional committee.
At this point, the teacher and students should determine the criteria for assessment. By placing themselves in the position of the teacher, students should consider what should be taken into account when assessing each group’s speech. When they come up with some ideas, the teacher should chart the responses on chart paper and post it where everyone can see them and where they can be referred back to easily. Some sample criteria for the lobbyist hearing include: addressing the key issues, good eye contact, good sequencing, a strong opening, persuasive speech, and a powerful closing. Teachers may then draw up rubrics for the final criteria. Each student should receive a copy of the rubric chart, which should have a space for each point of view. Later on, while listening to the arguments, students should rate the other groups, using the criteria decided upon.
For this strategy, instead of using longer historical fiction such as books, we recommend using “teaser” sheets, which summarize the various viewpoints using a historical fiction format. The teasers are not meant to be the only reading on the issue the students do. Instead, they are intended to be springboards for further research. Each teaser sheet provides one perspective on the issue that is detailed through the narration of a representative of the particular viewpoint and helps guide groups and individual students toward an understanding of a given viewpoint. For instance, in the Lakota Indians debate, four teaser sheets are written from the perspectives of those who were directly involved in the debate (the Lakota, the homesteaders, the U.S. government, and businessmen); they use historically factual information but are written as fiction. Because they are brief, each group receives a balanced amount of reading, and the information provided offers an accurate but fairly detailed background for the students. And though each teaser sheet is fictional, the information is historically based and brings the information to life, stimulating the students’ imagination. Finally, because students are asked to conduct further research, uncovering primary source documents, considering scholarly interpretations, and analyzing various forms of information, no student can be left behind. The teaser sheets provide enough information so students who do not conduct further research, or only conduct minimal research, can still participate in the hearing, relying on the teaser sheets for information. Teachers may write their own teaser sheets, or they may be obtained through the Exploring History series.
To begin, students are broken into groups, where each student is assigned a different letter—A, B, C, and D. They are then “jigsawed” into new groups of students who were assigned the same letter, so all As sit together, all Bs, all Cs, etc. Each new group is given a teaser sheet representing one of the perspectives on the issue. The groups must read the teaser sheets at a very minimum, but they will also be asked to conduct further research on that particular point of view in order to become experts. They will have to present their “side of the story” to a congressional committee, which will decide the outcome of the situation, so the teaser sheets are important for getting students started. Students may find that they do not agree with the perspective assigned to them, but the nature of the strategy is to get students to consider viewpoints that may differ from their own so that they may become more sensitive to the needs and goals of others and so that they might improve their argumentation skills by taking on a viewpoint they may not espouse.
After the groups become experts, they are jigsawed back into their original home-based groups, where they share their knowledge and viewpoints with the other members, so each student has a preliminary understanding of all perspectives. Knowing the perspectives of the other players will help students to structure effective arguments that take into account the opposing side’s point of view. Again, students are jigsawed back into their expert groups, where they identify the main points of their argument on an organizational sheet provided by the teacher to each student. The organizational sheet should have room for students to note the brainstorming ideas the group comes up with and a separate section where the group can organize the final points it will cover in the final speech. For example, the group that must present the Lakota Indian point of view might decide to focus its argument before the committee on the importance of hunting to the Lakota, the lack of trust the white man inspired by his empty promises, the problem of hunger among the Lakota, and the importance of the wildlife that helped to sustain their way of life.
Each group member is then given one or two key areas to research on their own. They are asked to prepare a 30 second to one minute speech on their assigned areas. A draft may be written on scrap paper and rehearsed, but when it comes time to present their portion of the speech, students may only use index cards with cue words and phrases written on them as a guide. In other words, students should not be reading their speeches from a sheet of paper, but rather rehearsing and practicing their arguments ahead of time and relying on cue words to help them along.
When each member of the group has completed his/her research and searched for primary source documents to support his/her argument, the group comes together to prepare a unified speech to deliver before the committee. Each student must deliver part of the speech, providing specific reasons and evidence that supports his/her own group’s perspective. Before finalizing the speech, however, one member of every group is pulled out and designated as part of the congressional hearing committee. The remaining members must incorporate that student’s research into their finalized speech. While the groups finalize their arguments, the new group, made up of an odd number of committee members, should discuss their views with each other and abandon their biases in preparation for making a reasoned decision based on the arguments the other groups will present. It is important to give the committee time to bond as a group so that they can make an informed and fair decision at the end. And while they work together, the other groups should be practicing their speeches, concentrating now on their speaking skills and their arguments. Of course, the teacher should be circulating around the room, offering assistance and guidance as needed.
Now it is time for the lobbyist hearing. To set up, arrange desks for the committee members at the front of the room, facing the class. Each member should have sufficient paper and pens or pencils in order to take notes. The teacher should begin the hearing by calling the room to order and announcing the date, time, and location in addition to the issue about to be addressed. The congressional committee members should then stand up and introduce themselves to the lobbyists to set the stage.
The groups are then called upon, one at a time, to argue their cause before the committee, which must decide the case based on the arguments provided. Each group should stand on the side wall, facing the rest of the class so that members of other groups and the committee can see and hear them clearly. Because the various arguments are presented before the entire class, students are able to listen and consider more closely the opposing viewpoints, and must think about the issue from a variety of perspectives. As they listen, each student must fill out their rubric chart, commenting on the skills each group demonstrates. The teacher, of course, can do the same, while also noting each student’s speaking skills, knowledge of the subject matter, and effectiveness in lobbying for the cause.
After each group ends its address, the congressional committee must ask follow up questions. Each member of the committee is responsible for asking at least one open-ended question addressed to a different lobbyist speaker. The process should be repeated with each group.
Finally, the committee will discuss in private (usually in the hallway) all the viewpoints they have heard. The privacy allows them to freely discuss each group’s performance and arguments without being interrupted by or inhibited in front of their classmates. They need to render a majority decision, offering their reasons for choosing that point of view. While they debate the positions, the rest of the class should write down their predictions of the outcome. When ready, one of the committee members will stand before the class and render the group’s decision. The teacher may then collect the charts to assess how well students paid attention.
As a post-activity, students are asked to return to their home-based groups, where the points of view on the issue were mixed. Tell students they are no longer lobbyists arguing for one particular viewpoint, but rather the general public, trying to decide upon a solution to the problem considering all the positions and arguments offered. They should brainstorm all the possible solutions and discuss the committee’s decision, deciding which approach is the best. The teacher should then call on each group to offer its resolution to the issue, charting the responses on the board. After each group has offered its answer, the teacher should take a vote of the rest of the class, charting the responses in a bar graph format. For homework, students should write their reflections on the experience and whether or not they agreed with the outcomes.
Another post-activity that works well with the lobbyist hearing simulation involves asking students to find out more about their government. Ask them, for homework, to find out what is happening in their own local, state, or national government. They can watch cable news channels that air congressional debates or court proceedings, read newspapers, search the web, or listen to radio broadcasts to find out more. Teachers may ask students to record their responses, discussing what they found and their thoughts about it. Or, they may ask students to write to their local representatives in Congress expressing an opinion on an issue of local import, stressing reasons and evidence for their position. In whole class discussion format, students may share what they have found as the teacher charts some of the information and analyses on the board.
Ultimately, the teacher will review the outcome of the case, noting whether or not students became more insightful about various points of view. A whole class discussion can even be held to discuss what students thought before the simulation, and what they thought after hearing the other points of view. Did anyone change his/her mind? How did they feel about the issue before, and how do they feel now? The teacher should reveal to the students the actual historical outcome to the issue; in this case, the Lakota were forced to remain on the reservation, which was made smaller and smaller, until it finally consisted of only useless land.
It is important to keep in mind that this strategy can be used to explore a number of historical problems and issues, in which varying perspectives affected the ultimate outcome. Some examples of issues for which this approach would be appropriate include slavery, prohibition, women’s suffrage, entering WWI and WWII, and immigration, among others. Ultimately, we believe this approach to learning and considering multiple perspectives will engage and interest students as they consider, research, argue and persuade others to look at things from “their” perspective.
Lobbyist Hearing of the Lakota Indians, Late 1800s
In this simulation, students participate in a congressional hearing, where panel members listen to the persuasive arguments of different interest groups to determine the fate of the Lakota Indians in the late 1800s. The participants become lobbyists representing the Lakota Indians, the United States Army, the Homesteaders, and the Businessman. They argue and cajole, trying to persuade the congressional panel to their point of view of what should be done.
Panel Members Listening to Persuasive Arguments
Setting the Stage
- Pose the following question to the students: Describe a time when someone tried to persuade you to do something? In cooperative groups, have students discuss their personal experiences with the other members of their group.
- After they have finished the discussion, pose the following questions: Generate a list of what each of the stories had in common with one another. Describe in detail the techniques in which someone tried to persuade you. Have the students record their responses.
- Bring the class together and chart the results on chart paper, so that their responses can be saved and referred to from time to time.
- Describe the lobbying simulation to the students: The class with be divided into four groups, each taking a different point of view of a controversial, open-ended issue. Each group will research that viewpoint and will have to write key issues on index cards. These key issues will cue them as to what to say before a congressional hearing committee. Each student will be given one key issue to cover. The major objective of every group is to compose a speech that, with the very first words, captivates the audience, holding their attention and pulling them to their side. The last speaker is just as important. For when this person is finished, the listeners should be right in the speaker’s pocket. It is every group’s job to sway the committee to their way of thinking, using persuasive speech and intelligent arguments, so that when the congressional representatives vote, they will vote for those who spoke most persuasively.
- Negotiable Contracting of Rubric Criteria: Ask students to place themselves in the position of the teacher. Now that they have a good idea of the task, what criteria should be used for grading the simulation? Allow students to brainstorm criteria in their cooperative groups. The teacher lists the results on large chart paper as a reference guide, which can be posted in a visible area of the classroom. The following are sample ideas:
- Address key issues in their speech
- The first person grabs the audience
- The group’s speech is sequenced well
- The last person’s speech leaves the audience with something to think about
- Good eye contact
- Speak persuasively and to the point
Determine how much each section is worth for the entire grade.
Preparing the Lobbyists
- Begin by breaking the class into cooperative groups of 4 students in each group. Call each cooperative group a “home-base group.” Designate each student within the group as letter A, B, C, and D. There should be within every home base group an equal number of students. Assign the lobbying roles to students A, B, C, and D. You might have students sign up for a particular lobbying role, but that might present a problem when too many sign up for a favored or “popular” part. (Now you are confronted with the problem of how you’ll be handling the rest of the class. To which students do you assign the least favored lobbying role? Will you be accused of “favoritism?”)
- “Jigsaw” the class into new groups. Ask all As to sit together, all Bs, etc. This way you will be dividing the class into four major lobbying groups. Each letter will lobby for their particular cause. For example, in the “End of the Frontier” lesson, which deals with the west from the 1860s to the 1890s, there was considerable controversy over the Indian issue. In this case, A students could represent the homesteaders, B: the Army, C: the Native Americans and D: big business. Depending on the size of the class, you may have more than one cooperative group per point of view: In other words, two groups of four students for the “A” point of view, two groups for “B”, etc.
- In advance, photocopy each point of view found on the following pages. We call them “teaser sheets.” We use this term because they are suppose to motivate students to do their own individual research beyond this handout. Distribute each particular view to each group of students. For their specific point of view, have students highlight the essential points with a marker. Distributing a teaser sheet prevents student failure for those who would not go beyond the handout. These teaser sheets are historical fiction. It is our aim to encourage students to do individual research to find their own primary sources, beyond the handouts they’ve been given. They may use the classroom library or different centers in the classroom where the teacher has placed resource materials, primary sources, trade books, textbooks, CD ROM applications, or an access to the Internet. Sample primary source document suggestions are:Perspectives on History Series by Discovery Enterprises, Ltd., Lowell, MA, or Jackdaws Packets of Primary Sources, Amawalk, NY
- To simply “mouth” phrases from the handout is self-defeating. If they haven’t ventured beyond the handout material, they have gained very little from the lesson, though they will still be able to participate. It is the individual research, knowing the essential facts, becoming a “true believer” in a cause, which gives the speaker the passion and the drive to score his or her points and win over the audience.
- In their lobbying groups, students discuss what they individually highlighted. They share the information they culled from their research sources. They now become “experts.”
- Jigsaw the students back into their original home-base groups, having one student from each lobbying, expert group. Each student shares their expert knowledge with the others in the group. This is important as it gives every student a general background of the other perspectives as they begin to prepare for their expert, lobbying groups.
- Jigsaw students back into their expert, lobbying groups. Distribute the Organizational Sheet that follows–one per group. In a brainstorming fashion, students generate a list of notable points in the section titled “Brainstorming Key Issues.” Every idea that is generated is listed without making any judgment of its validity. Allow students 5 minutes to complete the task. Timing students will increase production.
- Once their ideas have been reported, students decide which issues they should cover. They now decide the sequence or order and write that in the bottom section of the handout. Students discuss which ones should come first, second, and last during their speech. The class will be instructed, and this should be emphasized, that the first person must make a powerful opening speech. This begins the buildup to the last person’s “keynote” address, which should have the impact of leaving a lasting impression.
- Distribute 3×5 index cards to all students. Ask each student to take on one or two points from the list and to write a 30 second to one minute speech first on scrap paper. (As an option, the teacher may wish to ask the students to write a formal speech where the writing process is used.) Obviously, each student should have different point(s) to make before the Congress. Each student constructs a speech to “win” the listener over through persuasion, by using a good hook so that Congress will listen, working on emotions to get them involved, emphasizing facts to substantiate the point(s). Once the speech is written, the student highlights the essential words. Only the essential words may be written on index cards. The teacher must oversee that students do not write out the speech in full sentences on the index cards. This will prevent them from reading off a card. Tell students that you will be grading them not only on the content of what they have to say, but also on good speaking behavior. Review the criteria of assessment: persuasive speech, presentation skills, and proper sequencing ability. Ask your students to generate a list of what good speaking behavior means: good eye contact, punctuating important points by using different tones of voice, showing that you care about what you are saying as you show personal interest and emotion. Students may wish to add a background song, a chart, a picture, gestures or body language, or a drawing to embellish their speech. If students have the passion for their cause, they will carry the audience with them. And if they can do that, they’ll carry the day.
- Pull one student from each group. These students will now form the panel that will hear the groups. Make sure that there is an odd number of students. If need be, pull one extra student to make it an odd number. At the end of the simulation, they will have to vote to make a decision. Obviously, this can only be achieved with an odd numbered group. As each student is pulled, the index card is given back to the lobbying group who must now incorporate those points into their speeches. This structure provides for a well-balanced panel, containing members from all different points of view who have “expert” knowledge. However, they are now told to discuss their views with each other and abandon their original bias. They must now serve impartially, as they are being called upon to render a decision. While the rest of the lobbying groups practice, the students on the panel discuss their positions and collectively write open-ended questions that they hope will be answered. It is important to give them time to bond as a group in their new role.
- While the Congressional group is working together, the other groups practice their speaking skills as they take on their roles of lobbyists who try to convince or persuade the Congress to their way of thinking. The teacher circulates from group to group, giving assistance.
Point of View: ____________________________________________
Students’ Names: ______________________________________________________________
Brainstorming Key Issues:
Which issues will you cover? Place them in order:
1. ________________________________ 2. __________________________________
3. ________________________________ 4. __________________________________
5. ________________________________ 6. __________________________________
7. ________________________________ 8. __________________________________
9. ________________________________ 10.__________________________________
- Have the congressional committee sit in front of the room behind desks, with notepaper and pens or pencils, to take notes and to jot down questions they might want to ask of each lobbying group. Each Congressional member stands up and states his or her name to set the stage.
- To begin the simulation, the teacher announces the day, time, and location of the hearing as well as the issue that is about to be heard.
- Call on one lobby group at a time. Ask them to stand against the side wall, facing the rest of the class in the order they will be giving their speeches. This way the rest of the class can see their faces as well as the committee’s faces, and clearly hear the presentations.
- Before beginning to speak, the first speaker in each group states the person and the special group or cause they are representing.
- Each member gets a turn to speak. This lesson, the “lobbying” enactment, can also serve as an opportunity for the teacher to observe speaking skills, knowledge of subject matter, and the effectiveness of each student to lobby for the cause.
- As students listen to other groups, they fill in the chart that follows.
- At the end of their address, the congressional committee asks follow up questions. Each panel member should be required to ask at least one open-ended question of the lobbyist, focusing on one speaker, to engender full participation of the class.
- Repeat the process with the rest of the lobbying groups.
- In private, the committee discusses what they have heard. They need to render a decision and state reasons why they rendered the decision.
- At the same time, the rest of the lobbyists quietly write down their prediction as to what the committee will decide.
- A committee member stands up and renders its decision.
- The teacher collects the charts to assess how well each student paid attention.
Post Activity: Charting the Results
- Tell the students that they are now the public and have heard the congressional committee render its decision. They are no longer lobbyists, and this has become a personal decision. Ask all of the students to get back into their home base groups, which were their original groups before they were sectioned off to a particular point of view. Inform the groups they will be given enough time to brainstorm all of the possible solutions to the controversy. They should discuss if they agree with the congressional committee’s decision, or if they formulated a decision that was far better than anything else offered as a solution.
- The teacher asks the class for the different decisions that emerged in the cooperating groups. The teacher creates a chart with the issues. Then the instructor takes a vote on each decision and charts the results with a bar graph.
- For homework, student may write their reflections on the experience and whether or not they agreed or disagreed with either of the decisions.
Post Activity: Analyzing the Government
- Now that students have had the opportunity to be lobbyists and analyze one another’s performance, ask them to find out what is happening in their own local, state, or national government. Often times, there are cable television channels that air congressional debates and speeches where the lobbying technique is used. Some students may wish to view Court Television to listen to the techniques that are used there.
- Distribute another piece of chart paper and ask the students to fill in their responses from what they view on the television.
- Hold a class discussion on what they have analyzed. You may wish to chart the results.
Post Activity: The Actual Results
- Of course, the lesson isn’t complete until the teacher reviews the actual outcome of the case. Most of the times, the students will be more caring and considerate than what actually happened historically. Ultimately, the Lakota were forced to remain on the reservation, which was made smaller and smaller, until it consisted only of useless land.
If you have tried the Lobbyist Hearing, in what ways were your students engaged? Please describe in detail how your classroom environment became more interactive. (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.)
Lobbyist Hearing: View Points
Name: _________________________ Teacher: ________________________ Date: ___________________________
Ellis Island National Monument, New York; US Department of the Interior, National Park Service; Artifacts/Archives Gallery, Second Floor Display
(Letter sent from Omaha, Nebraska, to Bohemia in Austro-Hungary, May 5, 1890. This letter prompted the writer’s four nephews to immigrate to the New World. They entered the USA through Ellis Island. The family donated the letter and other items to the Ellis Island Archives Gallery.
Mila Maminko a Tatinku’
(Dear Mother and Father)
Tady v America jsem bohac. Mam velke majetek….
(Here in America I am a rich man. I have much land…)
(For our purposes we will give only the English translation:) and I am prospering. The first ten years you already know were hard and lean, and I worked 10 or 12 hours daily, six days a week, sometimes seven days. Working in the foundry nearly killed me. But I saved money, and when the government opened public lands again for settlement, Mariana and I decided to get our own land.
My dear mother and father, you are now grandparents to 5 boys and 3 girls. Little Josef was born two months ago and is a healthy baby. If God is good to me, I will have five sons to help me work my land in a few years time. Mariana and I will not have to worry in our old age. My 160 acres are in Nebraska. The soil is like a sponge, as black as coal, and my wheat and corn sparkle the color of gold. The wheat sprouts up to my chest, and the corn grows higher than the head of a horse.
We have plenty to eat, and with our livestock we will never go hungry. Back home, with all this land, I would be a sedlak (“landlord”). My next door neighbor was killed when he was kicked in the head by a horse. His widow sold me their homestead when she decided to go back to her family in Ohio, and I now have over 300 acres of good farmland. What a country, this America.
The government gave me 160 acres of land to work and live on for 5 years. When I worked it and stayed, it became mine. This is a big country, with plenty of land. All of the wild Indians that we always heard stories about back home are gone. The government put them away on their own special lands. Those that make trouble and attack settlers are quickly hunted down and punished. I keep a rifle in the house, but I only shoot at the woodchucks that eat up my vegetable garden. The soldiers make certain that the Indians do not bother the homesteaders. The Indians were only in the way, and everyone hates them because they are savages and commit horrible atrocities. More and more, people are moving onto the plains, farming the land like I do. They come not only from our country, but also from all over Europe. I met some Czech people from Horazdovice and Tabor (Czech villages in Austro-Hungary), and there is also a large Czech community in Iowa.
Tell Milos and Jarda that this is a land for their sons to come to, to live in and to work and prosper. If God keeps us all in good health, by next year I will be selling my corn and wheat in the marketplace. Buyers from the big cities come in early spring, buying the crops we grow to sell in Europe.
I will try to send more money to you and the family after the harvests.
Mily rodice (my dear parents). I pray for you often. May the Almighty keep you safe and in good health.
Your loving son, Jirka
OPERATIONS REPORT: United States Army
HEADQUARTERS: Third Military District
ORGANIZATION: 5th Cavalry Mounted Troops
Colonel Steven Neustadter
POST: Fort Lincoln, Nebraska
DATE: November 9, 1889
EFFECTIVES: Officers 9
Enlisted Personnel: 405
POSTING/ASSIGNMENT: Apprehension of Cheyenne hostiles.
(1) Information is being received at several military posts, and here at Fort Lincoln, that a Messiah has made his appearance among the various plains tribes. The Indian’s name is Wovoka. He is reputedly the son of a Paiute prophet. His is a shaman of the Paiute Tribe. Our informants indicate that he has an English name, Jack Wilson, given him by a rancher’s family that took him in.
(2) Wovoka, or Jack Wilson, claims he died and paid a visit to God in the heaven. He preaches a religion that is a mix of Christian teachings and old Indian beliefs. It is being called the Ghost Dance religion by all the Indian tribes.
(3) Wovoka, or Jack Wilson, preaches the coming of a new millennium. It will be a world where only Indians live and the buffalo and other game will again flourish, and all the previous generations of Indians will be resurrected. All will be happy and content, living for all eternity, free of misery, hunger, want, hardship, and disease. All the Indians must do is dance the Ghost Dance and observe the teachings of the new faith. Wovoka tells the Indians they must not fight. They cannot be violent. They must not hurt anyone. For everything to come to pass, they must do what is right.
(4) The Army posts have observed that the tribes have taken to Wovoka’s teachings with a passion. They dance peacefully, awaiting the coming of this joyous new world of “bliss and plenty” for Indians. However, there are ominous rumblings at the Lakota Sioux Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations. The Lakotas are in a belligerent mood. Their shamans and medicine men are inciting the Indians to violence. The Indians are told that the day of deliverance will come even quicker if the white people are destroyed.
(5) The Lakota are suffering. They complain that the Indian agents cheat them and steal. Many of the tribes took to the commanders of the military posts for help and assistance. They trust the “blue coats,” and have only bitter feelings for the agents. The tribes see that reservation lands are being taken away. They are suffering from disease and illness, and receive no help. The Congress has cut funds for the Indians, and they do not have enough to eat and go hungry. Severe droughts over the past years have destroyed their crops, and starvation is prevalent. Beyond the reservation, the Indians are subjected to ridicule, abuse, humiliation, and murder.
(6) The 5th Cavalry Mounted Troops have been placed on constant alert in case of unrest, mutiny, insurrection, or an uprising.
Chief Hungry Wolf
The equal of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, spoke to the Lakota people at the Ghost Dance ceremony, at Wounded
Knee, January 1, 1891.
(Moments after speaking, Sitting Bull and more than a hundred other Lakota, including Hungry Wolf, were cut down by the gunfire of the reservation’s Indian Police and soldiers of the US Army. Casualties included scores of old men, women and children.)
There will be a new day soon for our people. Once again the buffalo will be found in large numbers on the plains. The spirits of our ancestors will join with our people, and we will again be a nation of great warriors. We will again hunt as we did in the old days, before the White Man came like a flood to our land. We will live as the Lakota nation had always lived, a free people, enjoying the freedom of the earth beneath the sheltering sky.
The Lakota nation will not fight the White Man. That will not be our way. We have never lied as the White Man has lied to his Lakota brothers. We have never cheated the White Man as the White Man has cheated us. Whenever the Lakota nation has given its word, we have always kept our word. All the White Man did was to make treaties that he never honored. Every treaty the White Man made was broken. The Lakota are a great nation. We do not lie. We do not cheat. And we are not driven to kill others for the yellow metal that is dug from the ground.
But on this day our hearts will not be heavy as we celebrate the Ghost Dance. We prepare for the day when our world will again be as it was before the White Man’s coming. Our hunting grounds will again be filled with game. Our young warriors will ride free across the Great Plains. The buffalo will once again give life to our people, so that they do not go hungry and starve because their bellies are empty. There will be no fences and the land will be open to everyone. There will be no Iron Horse running across our sacred lands. The White Man’s talking wire will be no more.
The Great Spirit will smile down on the Lakota nation, for the Earth will be as it was. Clean water will flow again. Fresh grass will cover the earth as the buffalo robe covers the ground in the teepee. The buffalo will be everywhere. The deer and elk and antelope will again roam the land in plentiful numbers. And once again, the land that stretches form horizon to horizon will be here for all to enjoy.
The Ghost Dance calls to the spirits of our ancestors to join with the Lakota nation. Their spirits will make our people free. Their spirits will once again make our people great warriors. It is their spirits that will make us great hunters again. The White Man is like a swarm of grasshoppers. He devours and destroys everything in his path. The White Man’s way is not the way of the Lakota. We do not need the White Man’s whiskey. We do not want the White Man’s gifts. We do not want to live as the White Man lives. And we do not want his sicknesses. We only want to be as we always were, before the White Man stole our land. Before he cheated us and broke every treaty he made with his Indian brothers. The White Man has a heart of stone. He has a forked tongue like the snake.
We will celebrate the Ghost Dance and honor the spirits. The Lakota nation will once again be a great people. We will live in peace. We will live with honor. We will live with dignity. And the Lakota nation will again be proud and free.
Article submitted to the New York Times Op-Ed page, August 9, 1884. Written by
Mr. Christian Wiley,
CEO of Marathon Mining Corp. with headquarters in Denver, Colorado.
(Marathon Mining Corp. has large holdings throughout the Western states. Gold, silver, copper and other industrial minerals are the corporation’s major source of revenue. Over the past six years the corporation has paid increased dividends to its stockholders every quarter of every year.)
“Do-Gooders and Anarchists”
Americans are a great people and the United States is a great nation. One-hundred-and-eight-years after we spanked our British cousins and became a nation, we have truly attained greatness. We are one of the richest nations in the world. We are blessed by God with all the natural resources a nation needs to be an industrial powerhouse. It has all been given to us in abundance. There is nothing that we can point to and say it is lacking.
The nation’s factories are manufacturing goods that are the best the world has seen, and sold in all the marketplaces. Our farmlands make us a well-fed people. With our excess, we can even feed the rest of the world’s hungry masses. Immigrants flock to our shores, for freedom, opportunity and the chance to attain a good life that eludes others elsewhere. And if the United States continues to grow by such phenomenal leaps and bounds, we will indeed astound the rest of the world. We will make more steel, mine more coal, suck more oil out of the earth, grow more crops, and raise more livestock than any of the world’s other two great powers combined. And that, my dear friends, is not bragging; that is confidence.
But in order to accomplish this phenomenal growth, to attain our rightful place in the sun, we cannot allow false prophets to stand in our way. We must turn away from professed “do-gooders” who will lead us astray. Who but a total fool would speak of giving the land back to the Indian? Who but a lunatic would call for an end to the reservations? I ask, what would they have? They would have an end to the progress that in one century has made us the envy of the world. Can you imagine no progress? Do we take several steps backward, to simply placate a warrior/hunter society whose time has come? Let the Indians join the Dodo bird if they cannot adapt to the New World sprouting up about them. The world we live in is a “dog-eat-dog” jungle, where only those through natural selection will advance, and only the fittest survive. Darwin’s ideas are just as applicable to the nations of the world as they are to any species, and any sane person can see that the Indian is not fit either culturally or by inclination to survive in our modern industrial world.
The land is ready and waiting for exploitation. The worker and laborer numbers in the millions, ready and able to confront the task. The mighty rivers can be harnessed to provide inexpensive energy. The forest that replenishes itself by nature’s own laws is waiting to provide millions of board-feet to build homes for a growing population in growing towns and cities. The open plains are being plowed and food graces the tables of our millions and can also at the same time feed Europe’s and the world’s hungry. The hills and mountains beckon, for there is gold and silver and precious metals all waiting the miner’s pick-and-shovel to send it to the smelters. For what other reasons did God give the United States such a bounty of wealth and natural resources if not to use it? And God answers: “Use it to make the United States an example for the rest of the world to emulate. Democracy is on the rise.”
We will be the envy of the world. And when the anarchists agitate to conserve, when “do-gooders” beg for favors to save the land for the Indian, let us not forget that our kind government has provided for these hapless people who cannot fend for themselves in this 19th century world. For what do we conserve when we must build? The treasure is boundless, and we are making a better world for our people. The ideas of the anarchists and “do-gooders’ are destructive to the orderly improvements being made in our great nation. Conserve? Stop progress? Save the Indian? Why, I say, it would be easier to try and stop the tide from sweeping in to shore! We are a rich nation. Our workers are well paid. The people are content. We will continue the march of progress. And as the West gives us its treasure, we will build the better world. The West is too precious to our growth and well being to turn it over and back to a pitiable people who have learned nothing better of this world than to be scraggly warriors, hunters and thieves.
(This article was originally a speech given by Mr. Christian Wiley to the Colorado Chamber of Commerce on July 4, 1884.)
SAMPLE RUBRICS FOR THE LAKOTA INDIAN LOBBYIST HEARING CASE
Addresses Key Issues/Punches Points
|¨ A minimal to an absence of key issues is presented.¨ Accordingly, any of the important points are not accentuated during speech.¨ A total absence of organization.||¨ A moderate amount of key issues is presented.¨ Of those, some are emphasized during speech.¨ Some organization can be detected.||¨ The key issuesare addressed.¨ The speaker emphasizes pointsas a highlight during the speech.¨ The organization is competent.||¨ Major and minor key issues are presented.¨ The speaker varies the intensity of accentuated points that are relevant.¨ From beginning to end, it is superbly organized.|
Clarity of the Speaker
|¨ Words are difficult to comprehend and wholly inadequate to what the speaker is trying to express.¨ Text is difficult to understand and is vague.||¨ Words are muddled, and a proper choice of words is lacking.¨ This presents the audience with some difficulty in understanding what is being said.||¨ Spoken words are reasonably clearand most thoughts are described in a complete manner.¨ Most of the words can be followed and understood with ease.||¨ Superb and crystal clear speaking, each word accurately describes the thought and intention of the speaker.¨ Easy to follow and understand.|
|¨ A total lack of emotion is revealed, as expression is “wooden” and bland.¨ Body language and gestures are totally nonexistent as little to no effort is made to give an animated presentation.¨ It leaves the audience bored.||¨ Sparse and mediocre attempt at displaying emotions.¨ Presentation has brief sketches of bodily animation that make the moment lively, but they are far and in between.¨ The movements occasionally engage the audience.||¨ An effective use at displaying emotions.¨ The presentation is bodily animated, and gestures and emotions are expressed facially and with the body.¨ The movements hold the attention of the audience||¨ A highly effective use of emotions is revealed to the point where the audience instantly reacts.¨ The observer feels the effect of the expressions, gestures, body language and facial expressions.¨ The audience is mesmerized.|
|¨ No eye contact is made with members of the audience/ peers; eyes are not focused on the audience.¨ In this manner, it does not command or hold their attention to what is being said.||¨ A brief attempt is made to make eye contact with the audience/peers; it is done occasionally.¨ There are moments that the audience is not attentive because of the speaker’s mannerisms.||¨ Frequent use of eye contactis made with the audience/ peers.¨ The speaker looks out at his/her audience/peers, and frequently looks directly into their eyes to attract attention to his/her words.||¨ Eye contact is made with the audience/peers on a regular basis.¨ There is a determined effort to command attention, the eyes wandering from face to face on a rotating basis; anchors listeners to the spoken words.|
|¨ A total and complete absence of any supporting evidence.¨ It renders the work/performance superfluous and lacking in scholarship.||¨ A moderate amount of evidence is provided to support the work/ performance.¨ Some of the material is worthy, and it does indicate a minimal effort at scholarship.||¨ A substantial amount of evidence is provided to supportthe work/performance¨ Much of it is first-rate, adding substance and a great deal of scholarship to the effort.||¨ The amount of evidence provided is plentiful, which supports the work/performance.¨ All of it excellent, first-rate, prime material at the highest level of scholarship|
“Teaching World History: The Global Human Experience Through Time.” ERIC Digest. ERIC Identifier: ED419772. (ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies. ( April 1998).
National Council for the Social Studies. Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. (Washington, D.C., 1994).
Miller, S. “Making the Paths: Constructing Multicultural Texts and Critical-Narrative Discourse in Literature-History Classes.” Center on English Learning and Achievement. No. 7.8. (1996). School of Education, University at Albany.
S. Steffey and W.J. Hood. If This Is Social Studies, Why Isn’t It Boring? (York Harbor, ME: Stenhouse Publishing, 1994).
A. Stix and F. Hrbek. Exploring History: The Oregon Trail. (Westminster, CA: Teacher Created Materials, 2001).
Andi Stix,Ed.D. and Frank Hrbek specialize in middle school education and are known for their work in assessment, social studies, teaching strategies, and increasing literacy throughout the content areas. In 1991, Dr. Stix founded and educational consulting company, The Interactive classroom in New Rochelle, NY. Their program Exploring History received the Social Studies Programs of Excellence Award from New York State as well as the Social Studies Program of Excellence Certificate from the Middle States Council for the Social Studies. Most recently, their program received the Outstanding Curriculum Development Award from the National Association of Gifted Children.
 National Council for the Social Studies. Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. (Washington, D.C., 1994), 105.
 National Council for the Social Studies. Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. (Washington, D.C., 1994), 79.
 National Council for the Social Studies. Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. (Washington, D.C., 1994), 82.
 “Teaching World History: The Global Human Experience Through Time.” ERIC Digest. ERIC Identifier: ED419772. Apr. 1998. ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies. April 1998. <nttp://220.127.116.11/databases/ERIC_Digests/ed419772.html>.
 S. Miller. “Making the Paths: Constructing Multicultural Texts and Critical-Narrative Discourse in Literature-History Classes.” Center on English Learning and Achievement. No. 7.8. 1996. School of Education, University at Albany. <http://cela.albany.edu/paths/miller.html>
 stenhouse.com— from S. Steffey and W.J. Hood. If This Is Social Studies, Why Isn’t It Boring? (York Harbor, ME: Stenhouse Publishing, 1994).
If you have tried the Lobbyist Hearing, in what ways were your students engaged? Please describe in detail how your classroom environment became more interactive. (To reply, please click on the comment link next to the title or scroll down.)
Andi Stix is an educational consultant & coach who specializes in differentiation, interactive learning, writing across the curriculum, classroom coaching and gifted education. For further information on her specialties or social media, please email her on the Contact page.
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