Students assess the effectiveness of our current federal practices in promoting and holding accountable Members of Parliament (MPs) and Senators, and write a persuasive paragraph in favour of or against the current practices.
A. Assess the effectiveness of our current federal practices in promoting and holding accountable elected and nonelected government officials.
Introduce elected vs. appointed representatives
Announce that you have a number of student jobs to fill and you want advice from the class on the best way to select individuals to fill these roles. Present students with the following student jobs:
- a representative from the class for student council
- a student to join school staff in visit of a local family that recently experienced a tragedy
- a participant in a school board panel on the challenges of school life
- a student judge to sit on a school committee that resolves disputes between students
- a school representative for a national academic contest.
Ask students to consider the pros and cons of filling the jobs by electing students in a secret ballot versus asking a group of teachers to appoint the students. Ask students to consider what mechanism could be used to remove students from the jobs if the students do not perform well. Should the teacher or should the class be empowered to remove a student? If so, should the student be removed for any reason or only for certain reasons?
Determine criteria for effective methods to select representatives
Use these examples to generate criteria for judging the adequacy of our methods for selecting and holding accountable our representatives. The criteria may include the following:
- competency because the method attracts talented individuals to the position
- representative because the method gives voice to the needs and interests of those who should be represented
- inclusive because the method allows for representation of majority and minority interests
- sound decision making because the method increases the likelihood of selecting individuals who will make careful, informed decisions
- protection because the method provides safeguards in case of unacceptable behaviour and poor decisions.
Research methods for selecting representatives and holding them accountable
Explain to students that will consider the methods for selecting government officials and holding them accountable and assess the adequacy of these methods.
Provide students with information about the processes for selecting MPs and Senators and for holding elected officials accountable. See Senators (Background Information) and Members of Parliament (Background Information).
Form pairs of students and ask half of the class to research MPs and the other half to research Senators.
To help students take useful notes, review the criteria for effective note taking:
- concise and in their own words
- relevant and important information.
Ask students to organize their information so that they are able to decide how well each process satisfies the criteria for selection and accountability of representatives. You may wish to suggest that they use a PMI (Plus–Minus–Interesting) decision-making chart to organize their information (see References).
You may want to adapt one of the charts and assessment rubric in Collecting Information (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.
After the students have completed their PMI charts, ask them to form new pairs, with one student knowledgeable about Senators and the other about MPs. Invite students to share their conclusions about the pluses and minuses of the methods for selecting MPs and Senators. Each student should record the new information on a second PMI chart. For example, if a student earlier researched MPs, he or she should use a new PMI chart to record the information on Senators.
B. Write a persuasive paragraph arguing in favour of or against the effectiveness of Canada's current processes for selecting government officials.
Practice identifying effective thesis statements
To prepare students to write persuasive paragraphs, review the characteristics of a clear and powerful thesis statement.
Present students with one pair of thesis statements at a time. For sample statements, see Sample Thesis Statements (Background Information). As each pair is revealed, ask students whether the statement in list A or list B is more effective. After sharing the third pair, ask students to work with a partner to identify criteria to judge the quality of thesis statements. Use the last two pairs of statements to test their criteria.
Possible criteria for effective thesis statements include the following:
- offers a clear preview for the paragraph
- focuses the paragraph
- makes an assertion or offers a conclusion.
Write a thesis statement
After students have agreed on the criteria for an effective thesis statement, ask them to write a thesis statement on the effectiveness of the methods we use to select and hold accountable our MPs and Senators. Encourage students to exchange their thesis statements with a peer for feedback.
Write a persuasive paragraph
Ask students to write a draft paragraph prior to submitting a final version. Remind students to consider the criteria for an effective means of selecting political representatives and to build their arguments using the evidence they have gathered. Review the criteria for an effective persuasive paragraph:
- takes a strong position
- gives relevant evidence for position
- convinces others.
For more information, see Developing Effective Arguments (Support Material).