This is a lesson that analyzes the rhetoric and arguments of the ratification debates.
- You will need to briefly explain the different types of arguments that are often used in a debate. You might find it helpful to review with students the information on the Types of Argument (pdf) chart.
- The following speeches/documents can be used for this lesson. You can use as many or all of the documents as needed, depending on class size. These items are taken from various state pages in the Ratification Project section of our website.
- A Dialogue Between Mr. Z and Mr. &, Massachusetts Centinel, 31 October 1787 (pdf)
- A Dialogue Between Mr. Z and Mr. &, Massachusetts Centinel, 7 November 1787 (pdf)
- Demosthenes Minor, Gazette of the State of Georgia, 22 November 1787 (pdf)
- Robert Whitehill: The Pennsylvania Ratification Convention: Friday, 30 November 1787 (pdf)
- Demosthenes Minor: To A Georgian, Gazette of the State of Georgia, 6 December 1787 (pdf)
- Valerius Agricola, Albany Gazette, 6 December 1787 (pdf)
- Democritus, New York Journal, 21 December 1787 (pdf)
- Poplicola, Boston Gazette, 24 December 1787 (pdf)
- William Samuel Johnson, The Connecticut Ratification Convention: Friday, 4 January 1788 (pdf)
- Tamony, Virginia Independent Chronicle, 9 January 1788 (pdf)
- Students should be divided into small groups. Each group should be given copies of a speech/documents that it is to analyze together. As students read they should use the Types of Argument chart to assess the rhetoric employed by the speaker/writer.
- They should keep track of the various types of arguments that they see as they read. Students may notice that often there are several types of argumentation within a speech/document.
- Each group should reach a consensus as to what type of argument is used within its document.
- Have each group report its findings to the class. In the process of reporting its findings, be sure each group can point to specific lines and/or phrases that support its assessment.
- Now you may want to lead a classroom discussion centered around the following questions:
- Is there a particular type of argument that is best?
- Is an essay/speech strengthened or weakened if it uses multiple types of arguments are used with it?
- Should only a certain type of argument be used in a debate about the Constitution?
- Should certain types of arguments be off limits in a debate about the Constitution?
Reading and Evaluating Political Satire
This lesson uses five primary sources and evaluates them using a spectrum.
- Before working with the essays/documents in this lesson, you may want to briefly review with the class the two major types of satire; Horatian and Juvenalian.
*Note: Horatian satire is playful and soft satire (The Simpsons), whereas Juvenalian is harsh and biting (The Daily Show). It might be appropriate to have students work with some examples to become familiar in categorizing various works of satire.
- Divide the class into five small groups of 3-5 students.
- Have them create a spectrum that places the labels of “Horatian” and “Juvenalian” at opposite ends of the spectrum. This spectrum will be used later in the lesson. It would look something like the spectrum below.
Horatian Satire Juvenalian Satire
- Distribute the essays/documents to the groups that are listed below. You should give copies of one essay/document to each group. For classes that have higher reading and comprehension levels, you could give more than one item to each of the groupings.
- A Dialogue Between Mr. Schism and Mr. Cutbrush, Boston Gazette , 29 October 1787 (pdf)
- A Dialog Between Mr. Z and Mr. &, Massachusetts Centinel, 31 October 1787 (pdf)
- A Dialog Between Mr. Z and Mr. &, Massachusetts Centinel, 7 November 1787 (pdf)
- Honestus, New York Journal, 26 April 1788 (pdf)
- Bowdoin to James de Caledonia, Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer, 27 February 1788 (pdf)
- Students within their groups should now read their essay/document.
- As students read, they should identify lines or phrases in their piece that are indicators that the item is satire. You should have students create a list of the phrases as they work through the document.
- After each group has read through the document and compiled their lists, have them report its findings to the rest of the class.
- After all groups have shared their findings with the entire class, have them now discuss within their small groups where they would locate their item along the spectrum. This exercise should have them look carefully at the words and phrases they have previously identified. Each group should attempt to reach a consensus.
- Have each report its individual assessments to the entire class.
- You may want to conclude this lesson by leading a discussion centered around the following questions:
- To what extent are these essays
- moral critiques?
- Is satire effective in political debate?
- Is there a line of acceptability when it comes to using satire in political debates? If so, where is that line?
- Is it possible to respect the opposition while using satire within a debate?