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American Writers Video Lessons

Directions: Use the themes, questions and video clips below to teach and learn with portions of C-SPAN's American Writers program featuring Russell Kirk, William F. Buckley Jr and The Conservative Movement. Link to the complete video clip list to identify clip descriptions and create your own lessons. Each theme contains questions and video clips appropriate for varying grade levels. Lesson Credit:
Curriculum Advisory Team Member, Koleta Tilson.

Choose from three themes:
The Conservative Movement
Level One
Watch  Clip 3
Level Two
Watch  Clip 8
Level Three
Watch  Clip 60

1. Identify the conditions in America after World War II that may have influenced conservative thought and Conservatism.
2. How were the three emergent strands of Conservatism labeled?
3. Discuss the writers associated with Conservatism. Into what works were their ideas assimilated?
4. What was the political climate during the1960's and how did the resultant changes and turmoil affect the Conservative movement?
5. What appeals to you about Conservatism, as described? What does not appeal to you? Explain.

The Conservative Theory of Russell Kirk
Level One
Watch  Clip 4-5
Level Two
Watch  Clip 13
Level Three
Watch  Clip 32

1. The Conservative Theory of Russell Kirk What was Kirk's unusual hobby? Does this relate to the importance he placed on the human imagination? If so, how?
2. Do you expect the thesis on which The Conservative Mind was written in 1953 to have relevance today? To what extent does your answer reflect or challenge the "usable past" theory of Conservative thought?
3. Examine Kirk's Six Cannons of Conservative Thought for implications reflecting religious, moral, ethical and social values. In what way is an understanding of this rational basis essential to Conservative practice?
4. Did Kirk and/or members of his family engage in political activities or was the Kirk contribution to the Conservative movement primarily theoretical? Explain.
5. Kirk authored many books, developed quality interpersonal relationships, and, essentially, achieved a role of mentor and teacher that seemed natural. In accordance with his exposed beliefs, speculate on his reasons for discontinuing his association with the University?

A Conservative in Action: William F. Buckley Jr.
Level One
Watch  Clips 45-49
Level Two
Watch  Clip 43
Level Three
Watch  Clip 63

1. Soon after his graduation from Yale University, young Buckley published God and Man at Yale. Why did he choose this title? Discuss how this publication may have altered the course of his life.
2. "On the Right" was the name of Buckley's column. What double meaning does this label evoke?
3. Buckley, whose early years were spent as a child of privilege with opportunity and intellectual diversity, developed exceptional skills in language and communication. This brought both criticism and praise to his work. Do you consider it an opportunity or an insult to communicate with someone who commands exceptional language mastery and/or ability to think and articulate? Explain your answer.
4. "Firing Line", a show hosted by Buckley for 35 years, employed a format which featured discussion and sought to foster an exchange of ideas. With no regard for the subjects which were discussed, consider how the program format Buckley employed reflected Conservatism.
5. Buckley responded to what he perceived as a need for a forum of Conservative opinion by founding The National Review, a publication which he felt must be interesting as well as informative. How does the growth in subscriber volume serve as a testimonial of this achievement?

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