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Friday Feature: Stossel in the Classroom

Colleen Hroncich

Continuing last week’s theme, Stossel in the Classroom (SITC) is another great resource for educators regardless of your schooling model. The program had a very simple origin. John Stossel was a long‐​time consumer reporter who turned his attention to government corruption and waste. After he learned some basic economics, he started doing TV stories that explained economic principles. Soon teachers were writing to him to ask for copies of his shows to use in class. That eventually resulted in Stossel in the Classroom.

For many years, Stossel in the Classroom produced a yearly DVD that included around a dozen short videos, along with a teacher’s guide with discussion questions and a quiz. Teachers or homeschoolers could register to receive a free copy of the DVD by mail. The videos are completely online now, with a convenient library that can be searched for specific topics.

To help students go deeper on specific issue areas, some of the SITC videos are grouped into modules. Categories include “The American Constitution in Our Lives,” “Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” and “Global Issues.”

SITC also has a “Both Sides of the Issue” series to help teachers present balanced lessons on the topics covered by Stossel’s videos. The series includes a video from someone championing one side of an issue like minimum wage, socialism, and climate change, with a corresponding Stossel video that supports the other side. An accompanying discussion guide has questions to help students understand the arguments made in both videos.

When my older kids were in high school, I taught a homeschool co‐​op class using Stossel in the Classroom videos as the foundation. Each week, we’d select a few topics from the DVD, watch the video, and have a lively discussion. We saw a direct impact from the classes. Kids who previously weren’t at all interested in current events started following the news and wanted to get involved with speech and debate. At the end of the year—by student request—we held a small mock trial competition. Some of the former students still mention how much they enjoyed that class when I see them.

While the videos and discussion questions are great, one of my kids’ favorite parts of Stossel in the Classroom has been the essay contest. When my oldest competed in it, there was a different topic each year. She won the contest when she was in 11th grade, and the prize was a trip to New York City to meet John Stossel and film a segment for his show. The contest has changed a bit over the years. There are now three topics to choose from with a top prize of $2,500. There is also a video contest using the same topics. In all, SITC awarded over $25,000 in prizes this year. For parents or teachers trying to encourage students to write, essay contests with exciting prizes can be a great incentive.

Stossel in the Classroom has more than 300 videos and new ones are regularly added. More than 150,000 teachers have used SITC as part of their lesson plans. If you’re looking for a way to get your children or students engaged on the important issues of the day, you might want to check out Stossel in the Classroom.

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