Politics & Philosophy / Capitalism vs. Socialism

I teach this as part of a “Shark Tank” learning cycle. It is really good at bringing in politics and philosophy into the classroom.

Note, the videos contain some “classic art” pieces in the background, two of which contain partially clothed people. I say, “pretend you are in a museum.”

Watch the History of Capitalism and make a t-chart of the pros and cons of it:

    • Efficient as there is a much higher level of specialization, so there can be a much higher level of production
    • Higher specialization means people have a narrow, alienating focus on life
    • People at the bottom are exploited
    • good business is good for business
    • Value based on monetary worth and not necessarily on the things that make us happy.

Watch a video on Marxism which does a good job and looking at the ills of capitalism and shows the ideals and shortcomings/impracticality of socialism :

Problems identified with capitalism include

  • modern work is alienating
  • modern work is insecure
  • big gap between rich and poor
  • capitalism is unstable (lots of peaks and crashes)
  • capitalism is bad for capitalists (wealth doesn’t equal happiness or fulfilling lives)
  • Ends with the quote, “Philosophers, until now, have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point is to change it.”

How can kids change it? Learn about politics and voting. 

List the political parties in North American and have students try to plot them from left to right.

  • Left = high taxes and high services
  • Right = low taxes and low services

Talk about the differences between Canada and the USA. What are the biggest differences? E.g., health care (impact of no health insurance (heart attack or premature babies = huge bills) , cost of education and the impact of higher tuition costs, the distribution of wealth, and opportunity.

The American Dream? The Canadian Dream? What should our dream be?

Tell students to ask their parents who they vote for and why.




What are the potential pros and cons of the minimum wage increase?


Intro to Entrepreneurism

This is a scaled down version of a “Shark Tank” learning cycle I do.  It gives you the outline without getting into the specifics. Having done this several times with students, there are a lot of different ways it could go, depending on your timelines. I will often drift into politics, capitalism vs. socialism – which leads into conversations about current events (increase in minimum wage, housing boom, wants vs. needs).

Intro Project

Key Terms

  • Discuss the difference between “Goods” & “Services”
  • Discuss “Supply & Demand”
  • revenue (gross) vs profit (net),


  • With the goal of selling something in the student’s home school, think of a good or service that they could sell for an upcoming event (e.g, Christmas, valentine’s day, graduation).
  • List as many ideas as you can. Split them into goods and services
    • Some samples of what my students have come up with E.g., hot chocolate, open gym, candy canes, valentine’s, school merchandise, movie in library, Stationary Supply in each homeroom available for purchase from teacher. Proceeds go to school.

Warm up activity:

Do this Google Doodle activity. I usually just do the phone as a warm-up activity. What are the problems with current phones (breakable, battery charging, privacy, expensive, disposable, easy to lose) and then design a new phone that fixes the current issues.

google doodle

Next, as a group, brainstorm the problems with grocery shopping. Then show them the video about Amazon Go and how they solved the problem of the long check-out lines. See if they come up with any more ideas to revolutionize shopping.

Finally, watch the video How to be an Entrepreneur by the School of Life and/or “How to Start a Business“.


When you start a business, you need to look at the market in which you are entering. Your task for this element is to analyze your industry (school demographics).

  • Can use SCAMPERto discuss what has been done before, whats worked or hasn’t worked and then tweak to fit the desired event.
  • Supply & Demand: This depends on many factors
    • Demand considerations: E.g., Age, Sex, Local. others?
      • Local (Time and space):  TIME: E.g,. In winter, what types of events would be in higher demand (e.g., indoor events, hot chocolate).  SPACE/Location: what is in scarcer supply in school? Junk food? Computers? Free time?  
      • Sex/Gender: Raffle tickets for a video game might be in higher demand for boys.
      • Age: E.g., Fidget toys might be more popular with kids than teachers.
      • Other?

Project Profitability

How much will each individual item cost? What will you sell it for? How many will you sell? What is your projected revenue? Profit? Costs? 


item cost price profit per item sales Profit Overhead Costs Revenue
Bath bomb $2.75 $5.00 $2.25 200 $450.00 $550.00 $1,000.00
candy canes $0.10 $0.25 $0.15 1000 $150.00 $100.00 $250.00
hot chocolate $0.25 $1.00 $0.75 500 $375.00
pencil $1.00 $2.00 $1.00 25 $25.00 $68.75 $50.00
eraser $1.00 $1.50 $0.50 100 $50.00 $275.00 $150.00

What might your Shark ask?

If the Principal is your “Shark” invite them in to discuss all of their considerations: safety, chaos, mess, teacher time, hall congestion, health, permission forms, etc…The principal will likely ask where the money will be going to (field trips, technology, etc..)

Create a Business Plan  

Now that you know what you’re selling, a successful business needs a plan to follow. Develop a business plan that outlines what your business will do, your staffing needs (labor), your sales and marketing approach and how much start-up financing you will need (how much $$ to start everything). Once you have your business plan, you can follow it to create your successful business and use your business plan to interest investors in your company (aka the “Sharks”)

Questions to answer

  1. Company name
  2. Product name
  3. Product: Are you providing goods or a services?
  4. Who is your target audience (don’t say everybody!)
  5. What words would you associate with your brand?
  6. What would you pay for your product?
  7. Where/how would you sell your product?
  8. What would be some of your expenses as a business (what do you need to buy before you can sell? Would you need a loan from the school?)
  9. Who would you need to hire (set up crew, clean up crew, money counters, teacher supervisor)?

In this case, keep your Principal in mind. What would they consider most important (safety, staffing, lack of chaos, not disrupting the school day, etc…)


How will you get people to know your business exists, how will you market your product/service and advertise it to your target audience?  This could be part of your business plan but if it is not you MUST include some marketing and advertising strategies in this project.

  • Signs, announcements, school Twitter or Facebook pages, school website?
  • How will you make your product seem attractive? Research successful sales techniques and try to implement them (catch phrase, make it seem cool, limited time only, bargain, etc…)

Your Business Proposal  (the Pitch)  

You and your group will be creating a business proposal.  In this proposal you will include all of the elements listed above.  Research what makes a successful business proposal (body language, key phrases, being prepared, enthusiasm, etc…). Be creative & good luck!

Co-create rubric with class

Here’s one idea to get you started: https://www.gallup.unm.edu/pdf/shark-tank.pdf

shark tank rubric

Resources (some places to start)

Mensa for Kids – I need a Super Hero Unit


I Need a Superhero

Download the PDF version of this lesson plan.


Hereos pin

The idea of the hero is something that even very small children understand at some level. Many perennially favorite picture books feature heroic characters (such as Max in Where the Wild Things Are — a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey). As children grow, their exposure to different manifestations of the hero broadens. They encounter heroes in television, movies, books, magazines and music, and on the pages of their local newspapers.

The heroic archetype features prominently in literary analysis at the high school level. A clear understanding of, and the ability to manipulate and apply, this idea is critical to any approach to world literature for the high school student. Unlike most of the Mensa Foundation’s lesson plans, this one includes the reading of a long novel as its culminating assignment.

This lesson plan was designed to tie into the Mensa Hero Bracket Challenge that began in the October 2010 issue of the Mensa Bulletin, with the results announced in the March 2011 issue. It is not necessary to read the article, however, for students to benefit from the lesson plan. If you are a member of Mensa, you (or your students) may read about the Hero Bracket Challenge in the October 2010 issue.

Guiding Questions

  • What makes a hero?
  • Where do we find heroes?
  • How are heroes in books different from heroes in real life?
  • What is the journey of the hero and how does the archetype manifest itself?

Learning Objectives
After completing the lessons in this unit, students will be able to:

  • Explain what makes a hero and the elements of the heroic journey.
  • Recognize heroic figures in multiple media.
  • Analyze a literary work for the heroic archetype.
  • Analyze a piece of literature for elements of the hero and the heroic journey.
  • Write an essay comparing and contrasting heroes in two works.


  • Ensure Internet access to look up relevant sites.
  • Get a copy of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
  • Print out copies of this plan as needed.

Conducting a Debate (+ Rubric)

A debate is a discussion or structured contest about an issue or a resolution. A formal debate involves two sides: one supporting a resolution and one opposing it. Such a debate is bound by rules previously agreed upon. Debates may be judged in order to declare a winning side. Debates, in one form or another, are commonly used in democratic societies to explore and resolve issues and problems. Decisions at a board meeting, public hearing, legislative assembly, or local organization are often reached through discussion and debate. Indeed, any discussion of a resolution is a form of debate, which may or may not follow formal rules (such as Robert’s Rules of Order). In the context of a classroom, the topic for debate will be guided by the knowledge, skill, and value outcomes in the curriculum.

Structure for Debate

A formal debate usually involves three groups: one supporting a resolution (affirmative team), one opposing the resolution (opposing team), and those who are judging the quality of the evidence and arguments and the performance in the debate. The affirmative and opposing teams usually consist of three members each, while the judging may be done by the teacher, a small group of students, or the class as a whole. In addition to the three specific groups, there may an audience made up of class members not involved in the formal debate. A specific resolution is developed and rules for the debate are established.

Debate Preparation:

• Develop the resolution to be debated.
• Organize the teams.
• Establish the rules of the debate, including timelines.
• Research the topic and prepare logical arguments.
• Gather supporting evidence and examples for position taken.
• Anticipate counter arguments and prepare rebuttals.
• Team members plan order and content of speaking in debate.
• Prepare room for debate.
• Establish expectations, if any, for assessment of debate.

Conducting Debate:

Debate opens with the affirmative team (the team that supports the resolution) presenting their arguments, followed by a member of the opposing team. This pattern is repeated for the second speaker in each team. Finally, each team gets an opportunity for rebutting the arguments of the opponent. Speakers should speak slowly and clearly. The judges and members of the audience should be taking notes as the debate proceeds. A typical sequence for debate, with suggested timelines, is as follows:

  • the first speaker on the affirmative team presents arguments in support of the resolution. (5 – 10 minutes)
  • The first speaker on the opposing team presents arguments opposing the resolution.
    (5 – 10 minutes)
  • The second speaker on the affirmative team presents further arguments in support of the resolution, identifies areas of conflict, and answers questions that may have been raised by the opposition speaker. (5 – 10 minutes)
  • The second speaker on the opposing team presents further arguments against the
    resolution, identifies further areas of conflict, and answers questions that may have been raised by the previous affirmative speaker. (5 – 10 minutes)
  • The rules may include a short recess for teams to prepare their rebuttals. (5 minutes)
  • The opposing team begins with the rebuttal, attempting to defend the opposing arguments and to defeat the supporting arguments without adding any new information. (3 – 5 minutes)
  • First rebuttal of the affirmative team (3 – 5 minutes)
  • Each team gets a second rebuttal for closing statements with the affirmative team having the last opportunity to speak. (3 – 5 minutes each)
  • There cannot be any interruptions. Speakers must wait their turns. The teacher may need to enforce the rules.


Criteria 1 2 3 4
  1. Organization and Clarity:

viewpoints and responses are outlined both clearly and orderly.

Unclear in most parts Clear in some parts but not over all Most clear and orderly in all parts Completely clear and orderly presentation
  1. Use of Arguments:

reasons are given to support viewpoint.

Few or no relevant reasons given Some relevant reasons given Most reasons given: most relevant Most relevant reasons given in support
  1. Use of Examples and Facts:

examples and facts are given to support reasons.

Few or no relevant supporting examples/facts Some relevant examples/facts given Many examples/facts given: most relevant Many relevant supporting examples and facts given
  1. Use of Rebuttal:

arguments made by the other teams are responded to and dealt with effectively.

No effective counter-arguments made Few effective counter-arguments made Some effective counter-arguments made Many effective counter-arguments made
  1. Presentation Style:

tone of voice, use of gestures, and level of enthusiasm are convincing to audience.

Few style features were used; not convincingly Few style features were used convincingly All style features were used, most convincingly All style features were used convincingly


Source: http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/cur/socstud/frame_found_sr2/tns/tn-13.pdf

Additional Resource:  http://csdf-fcde.ca/UserFiles/File/resources/teacher_debate_guide.pdf

Peer Evaluation checklist: http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/cur/socstud/frame_found_sr2/g_blms/g-15.pdf


Post your “Be it resolved that …” statement below.

Four Corners Debate (Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree)

Four Corners Debate*

Grade Level: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12


  • Language Arts/Debate

Duration: 45 minutes

Description: This activity introduces students to persuasion. By the end of the lesson, students are able to express their positions, as well as opposing arguments, on a particular issue. Objectives:

  1. Students will work in groups to clearly verbalize their positions on a specific issue/topic.
  2. Students will practice listening skills while other groups present their positions.
  3. Students will be able to use convincing arguments to sway others’ opinions.
  4. Students will write a 5-paragraph persuasive essay that presents point of view clearly and

addresses opposing positions. Materials:

  • 4 large pieces of paper with these words written on them:
    • Strongly Agree,
    • Somewhat Agree,
    • Strongly Disagree,
    • Somewhat Disagree


  1. Post the four pieces of paper in the four corners of the classroom.
  2. Write a controversial topic on the board (for example: Schools should eliminate report cards).
  3. Have students move to the corner that best matches their position (Strongly Agree, Somewhat Agree, Strongly Disagree, Somewhat Disagree). If social cliques are a problem, have students write their choice on a card first in order to ensure honest reactions.
  4. Each corner will have 2 minutes to discuss and solidify their reasoning/logic. Each group selects a spokesperson to express the group’s position. He/she has 30 seconds to express thoughts concisely and persuade their classmates. Other groups must listen intently.
  5. After the first corner presents, invite those who have been persuaded to move to the appropriate corner. Direct each group to present their group’s position in turn.
  6. Allow students to move to the appropriate corners if they have changed their minds.


Each student will write a 5-paragraph persuasive essay. In order to receive a maximum score, the student must express his position clearly, use appropriate logic, and address opposing viewpoints.

Special Comments: My students love this debate exercise! In fact, they bring up new issues almost daily and want to have a go. This is an excellent opportunity for the teacher to instruct on debate etiquette (ie. no put-downs, one speaker at a time, respect other viewpoints, etc.).

* Submitted by: Lisa M. Shearer Email: bshpgirl@earthlink.net School/University/Affiliation: Home Street Middle School, Bishop, CA