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The Art and Social Studies Lens: How to interpret political adds
 We mentioned earlier that it would be good to teach our students how to decode and critically interpret various kinds of political images, videos and texts. Here are a few links I've found that might be good resources. I'll be adding more websites, images, and videos at a later time.


"The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal is the ultimate indignity to the democratic process."
-Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson, 1956

"Television is no gimmick, and nobody will ever be elected to major office again without presenting themselves well on it."
-Television producer and Nixon campaign consultant Roger Ailes, 1968

In a media-saturated environment in which news, opinions, and entertainment surround us all day on our television sets, computers, and cell phones, the television commercial remains the one area where presidential candidates have complete control over their images. Television commercials use all the tools of fiction filmmaking, including script, visuals, editing, and performance, to distill a candidate's major campaign themes into a few powerful images. Ads elicit emotional reactions, inspiring support for a candidate or raising doubts about his opponent. While commercials reflect the styles and techniques of the times in which they were made, the fundamental strategies and messages have tended to remain the same over the years.

The Living Room Candidate contains more than 300 commercials, from every presidential election since 1952, when Madison Avenue advertising executive Rosser Reeves convinced Dwight Eisenhower that short ads played during such popular TV programs as I Love Lucy would reach more voters than any other form of advertising. This innovation had a permanent effect on the way presidential campaigns are run.

About The Political Ads Database

The database includes political advertisements funded by campaigns, parties, committees, and independent advocacy groups. Most of the ads are tied to specific U.S. House, U.S. Senate, or gubernatorial races throughout the country. Some of the ads are more general "issue" or advocacy ads not tied to a particular race or candidate. You can search for ads based on the criteria listed below.

Channels. News and Information. Description. Relive some of the most iconic campaign ads from the 1950s through 1980s.

Political Ads News Cartoon directory - the world's largest on-line collection of news related cartoons and comics, all searchable in directory form.

Political Cartoon Collections Editorial Cartoon Sites Political Comic Strips, Web Cartoons

(This source may be questionable depending on the age of your students)

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Love, love, love the idea of looking at political ads through history. I sympathize with Mr. Stevenson's appraisal of the political marketing game, but you have to question how else a candidate can reach 300 million Americans these days. The key, I think we would all agree, is making people aware of the hyper-rhetoric without turning them away from the political system.

I was thinking about my post the other day (the one regarding people who have "tuned out" the system), and I decided I might create fewer cynics if I treat political analysis as a game. I always enjoyed examining movies for symbolism in high school English, possibly because my teacher made it fun to take a simple scene and unpack all its possible implications. I know you do that a lot in art. Any ideas for making it engaging in the social studies and math classrooms, too?

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