Teacher's Guide and Lesson Plan: Mr Schneider Goes to Washington


While the private financing of American elections impacts the way important issues like health care, education and the environment are legislated, it is arguably not the greatest cost to American democracy.  After all, what could be more costly than democracy itself?

The cost of the quid pro quo relationship between special interests and the elected leaders their political contributions keep in office cannot just be measured in dollars and cents.  Corruption, or even its perception, distances elected leaders from the very constituents they are elected to represent.

The larger the role private financing of American elections plays in government, the more removed Americans get from it.  And the more removed Americans become, the more influential private financing becomes.

In a 2006 Washington Post poll, 58 percent of Americans said they believed there was widespread corruption in Washington.  More than half of the country thinks government is corrupt.  Yet, only 40 percent chose to vote that same year.

Although most people agree America’s system of financing its elections is badly broken there is less consensus on how to fix it.  I made Mr. Schneider Goes to Washington to not only cast a much-needed spotlight on this important issue but also create a dialogue that can lead to a stronger democracy.  I hope the following teacher’s toolkit will help contribute to this effort.  Any suggestions or additional ideas on how to use this film to teach this material would be greatly appreciated.  I can be reached at: jonathan@letsgoape.com

Campaign Finance Glossary (PDF)
What is a 527? The definition of this campaign finance term and many others can be found in this mini-dictionary.

Federal Contribution Limits Chart (PDF)
How much money individuals, corporations and other organizations are permitted to contribute to federal elections can be confusing. This simple chart provides all the answers.

PAC Activity Chart (PDF)
PAC’s can have a lot of influence in elections. Because of this, federal laws have been enacted to regulate their role in the process. Here is everything you ever wanted to know about what PAC’s can and can’t do.

Campaign Finance Workshop (PDF)
While educators like Dean Arterton agree Mr. Schneider Goes to Washington is a “remarkably effective way to teach students on the inner workings of parties, politics and special interests,” we wanted to do more. With the help of Democracy Matters, this exercise was created to help further educate students on the role of money in politics.

Topical Questions From Mr. Schneider (PDF)
Organized by subject, this comprehensive list of questions can be a useful tool to help facilitate classroom discussions and/or individual essays on the various issues explored in the film.

Additional Resources
What to learn more? This exhaustive list of web resources can provide further insight into how campaign financing and lobbying works.

Publicity Aids:

Large Poster (PDF)
Small Poster (PDF)
Congressional Calendar -- 70% Off (PDF)