Here at The Academy at Penguin Hall, we develop highly student-centered, interdisciplinary, courses. One of our courses this year, Drama of Politics, takes a look at different kinds of politics and political performances- from commercials, to architecture, to speeches, to the clothes politicians wear. The students follow various campaigns to look at their ideas, performances, and other elements. Arianna MacNeill from the Salem News visited this class and featured it in the Salem Evening News. An excerpt from the article can be found below.
A dozen high school students watched the video on the projector screen zoom in on the eye of an innocent little girl and then cut to a mushroom cloud of smoke. The content, though shocking and unsettling, was part of a campaign ad from then-incumbent President Lyndon Johnson, who was challenged in 1964 by Barry Goldwater, a Republican senator from Arizona. Watching the ad, and many others from various U.S. elections throughout the decades, is part of what’s called the “Drama of Politics” class at the Academy at Penguin Hall, the new, all-girls private high school at the former Mullen Communications headquarters.
Regardless of their own political beliefs, students are asked to analyze the ads for content, according to Julie Calzini, the school’s director of curriculum and faculty development. They’re also learning how to determine valid sources, and analyzing how politics are portrayed to the public. All of this work and discussion culminates in a class project — students must create their own political ad and consider what to include, such as symbolism, knowing the target audience, and visuals.
After watching the ad featuring the little girl, students learned the context — Goldwater at one point said, “He would not be opposed to dropping bombs on North Vietnam,” explained integrated humanities teacher Doug Healey. Next, students watched a second ad featuring the girl, now a middle-aged woman, speaking about the worrisome political climate and how the use of nuclear weapons remains concerning. This ad came from the Hillary Clinton campaign.