Storytellers: Pearl Jam

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VH1/Cable in the Classroom

Lessons for High School Social Studies Classes

"Never Let Truth Get in the Way of a Good Story"

Lesson 2 of 3

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Note to teachers: Please view this videotape for appropriateness for your classes. This lesson is appropriate for government/civics classes 7th grade and above. Links are included for selected campaigns, however teachers can adapt and use links for campaigns of a more local nature.


  1. Students will extrapolate from the opening quote by Eddie Vedder, "Never let truth get in the way of a good story" to explore the concept of truth in political advertisements.
  2. Students will examine, in depth, political contests of their choice to attempt to verify truth versus falsehoods in political advertising.


  • Videotape of
  • Television and VCR
  • Links (Internet, or television ads can be used) to adverstising by two or more political campaigns. As the presidential campaign begins, even national campaigns can be adapted to this lesson.

Prior Knowledge and Experience

  • Students have a basic understanding of how advertisements are used in political campaigns.
  • Students may collect signs, pamphlets, advertisements on their own or use the links provided.


  1. Have students view and listen to the video VH1 Storytellers: Pearl Jam. (Day 1)
  2. Initiate a discussion immediately following the video about the opening quote by Eddie Vedder. (possible second day)
    1. What "truth" is Vedder referring to?
    2. How can we ever know the truth about something we haven't experienced (like the Iraq war).
    3. Are there examples from our history where the government hasn't told the truth?
    4. Should governments always reveal everything? What is the role of secrecy in the security of a county?
    5. Who is responsible for the security of secrets in America? (depending on the level of students, discussion may include the Foreign Intelligence Courts, legislation that involves national secrets. World history/government classes may even at this point compare American security issues with another country like Great Britain.)
    6. What is the role of the press/media in exposing secrets? (History students may bring up examples from the past e.g. the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, Iran/Contra issue).
    7. What role does modern media (news, Blogs, newpapers, television/radio) play in presenting "the truth" to the American public?
    8. What strategies for media literacy can any citizen employ to ensure accuracy and truth in information gathering? Examples? (multiple sources, foreign sources, knowing the political angles each media has)

3. On the third day, have students prepare a report on an election of their choice. The report should include an analysis of claims in at least two multi-media or print advertiesments. Students should begin by examining a variety of advertisements in any campaign using the questions below. Students should try to find sites that examine the veracity of the claims. A sample collection based on an Ohio election follows. Students can either use this collection as a sample to study, or as a rubric to do their own research on an election more local to their area. Students should begin by examining the basic information (who is running, what is their background) to get familiar with the issues.

What is the race? The Election of a governor, state of Ohio, fall, 2006

Who are the candidates? (find the offical site for each candidate and basic biographical information)

Find a source of multimedia for each campaign

  1. Blackwell media here
  2. Strickland media here

Find a source for news media reporting on the Campaign. In particular students should try to find analysis sites that compare ads.

  • Cincinnati Enquirer election coverage - see governor race
  • Ohio Elects - student site examining Ohio election issues.
  • Read this sample Enquirer article, Political Integrity. What issues about the campaign advertising are being raised in relation to the election for governor?

Questions to consider as you prepare your report.

  1. What appear to be the key issues presented in the print media?
  2. What appear to be the key issues presented in the tv ads?
  3. Are there issues in the campaign about negative advertising? What are the main issues.
  4. What major claims have each candidate made that appear as "negative"? Do these claims (whether judged to be true or not) appear to help or hurt the campaign?
  5. In your opinion, does "negative" campaigning appear to work? Read this article before offering your answer - "Negative Ads"

    National Standards for History/Social Studies
    National Center for History in the Schools

    1. Era 9 Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)
      1. Standard 3: Domestic policies after World War II
      2. Standard 4: The struggle for racial and gender equality and the extension of civil liberties
    2. Era 10 Contemporary United States (1968 to the present)
      1. Standard 1: Recent developments in foreign and domestic politics
      2. Standard 2: Economic, social, and cultural developments in contemporary United States
        1. (2D) Explain the influence of media on contemporary American culture. [Explain historical continuity and change]

This lesson plan was created by Tim Dugan, 2005 Cable in the Classroom National Teacher Advisor and Social Studies teacher at Princeton High School, Cincinnati, OH.

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