Wal-Mart: Persuasion And Argumentation

In a stack of papers called Connections.

  • Feb
  • 13
  • 2006

I just watched an episode of Frontline this weekend and plan to use it to encourage persuasive and argumentative writing, along with a classroom debate.

Oh yeah. And I plan to make an illegal copy of the DVD for use in the classroom because I don’t want to pay the $20 for a legal copy. But the end justifies the means, right?

Do You Shop At Wal-Mart?

“Is Wal-Mart Good For America?” does a pretty good job at maintaining balance and holding to the definition of a documentary; the show is more expository than editorial, though certainly not free of the latter. The movie Hell House did a good job of this, too, and is another film under my consideration to show to students. Both films present some ideas for the audience to consider, but leave the door open for interpretation. The Frontline show doesn’t come down too hard on Wal-Mart and students could draw their own conclusions about whether or not the Big Box stores are good for the country. Even as I watched the show, the definition of capitalism kept running through my head and I was left wondering where Wal-Mart has violated that definition.

And, true to PBS style, the show comes complete with an online teacher’s guide. It’s a fair attempt, too. Many teacher’s guides provided as companions to videos are garbage, really. Even discussion questions provided are often completely worthless. Frontline and PBS usually do at least a fair job at providing resources and this is no exception.

Another del.icio.us Possibility

The thing that draws me to this teacher’s guide is their preparation of a debate over whether or not outsourcing is a good thing. Even if the movie is more heavy handed against Wal-Mart, this debate would help show both sides of the argument and put students in a position to decide for themselves.

The links for investigating the advantages and disadvantages of buying cheaper parts overseas provide a good beginning for researching the issue. And, of course, I see a way for del.icio.us to play a role in easily letting students look through even more Web resources; with tags for “advantages” and “disadvantages,” adding more pages for students to gather evidence from would be a simple matter of a few Google searches on my part (much of which I’ve already done in the next paragraph).

Take Action; That’s Argumentation

So the convincing of outsourcing as a good or bad thing is the persuasion. Moving the reader to action is argumentation. While the bulk of their links are against the chain, Reclaim Democracy does provide links on both sides of the Wal-Mart issue. There are a few other sites that don’t like Wal-Mart too much and many of those sites have suggestions of what one can do to express discontent. Likewise, sites exist that support Wal-Mart and want to explain why. Not very well organized, but full of good food for thought on both sides, a page on LawMall is worth a visit, as is Always Low Prices — Always?, a blog that Wal-Mart threatened legal action against and caused to become inactive.

What a great excuse to gather some research on an issue or teaching idea: write a blog entry about it!

UPDATE: John Stossel wrote a pro Wal-Mart article over at townhall.com.

1 comment

1. Duane Gran says:

[2/19/2006 - 5:47 pm]

Just a point of clarification — the last link in this entry is to something I wrote which was about Wal-Mart suing a blogger, but I am not a party to the suit or involved in any way. This is the second case where this confusion has emerged, so I’ve added a note to my posting.