Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Local teacher helps out C-Span

Campaign lessons posted on Web

By Karen Gutierrez
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Woodland Middle School teacher Mary Beth Albert helps Elliot King in her eighth-grade history class. Albert is one of eight teachers nationwide chosen by C-Span to help students learn about the presidential campaign.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/PATRICK REDDY
TAYLOR MILL - Before this year, Mary Beth Albert didn't even have cable television. Now she's practically a C-Span junkie.

Albert teaches social studies at Woodland Middle School. This year, she was one of eight teachers nationwide selected by C-Span to help U.S. students learn about the presidential campaign.

On Sunday evenings, the teachers watch C-Span's Road to the White House program and write lessons based on video of the candidates. Their guides are posted on C-Span's Web site for use in classrooms around the country.

Anyone can put up a Web site, Albert, a 23-year teaching veteran, tells her own students. So, she urges them, scrutinize the source. Better to base your research on primary sources: the original speeches of Patrick Henry, for instance, rather than summaries by all the advocacy groups that use his name.

•  C-Span's lessons accompanying Road to the White House
•  Credible Web sites for students doing social-studies research, prepared by teacher Mary Beth Albert and Kenton County School District staff member Jan Ryan.
•  Lesson on U.S. Constitution, prepared by Albert for her social studies classes at Woodland Middle School, Taylor Mill.
•  Lesson on Civil War prepared by Albert
•  Directions to students for citing nontraditional sources, such as Web sites, e-mail and online forums, in research papers.
C-Span is great for impartial inquiry, Albert says. The cable channel offers unfiltered video of government in action - often deathly dull but always complete. Candidates' speeches are no exception.

"What we're providing is an opportunity for teachers and students to see the whole thing, so they can decide what's important," says C-Span education manager Meg Steele.

So far, Albert has created two lessons for the Web site. Both focus on Sen. John Kerry, the candidate who happened to be featured on Road to the White House when Albert was assigned to watch.

Teachers strive to be neutral. In one lesson, "The Vietnam War, the Candidate and the Country," Albert directs students to read C-Span's transcript of a 1971 speech given by Kerry, then an impassioned young veteran, before a Senate committee investigating the war.

"Do you think John Kerry's experience as a veteran and a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War will help him in this election or hurt him?" Albert asks students. "Why or why not?

Now, after years of reading about current events, she has even become a TV watcher. Sort of.

"All I get is a bunch of religious channels and C-Span," Albert says with a laugh.


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