Looking for a fun and entertaining way to get your students interested in civics and local government? Then consider teaching civics through ABC's new comedy, The Mayor. It's a sitcom about a young rapper who runs for mayor as a publicity stunt and ends up winning. While the premise of the plot may seem a bit outlandish, the show does a good job of portraying local government in a relatable and enjoyable way.
First, find a way to watch the episode. You could watch it in class with your students to ensure that everyone watches it. You could also assign it for homework and have a follow up discussion later in the week. The show is available on a broadcast channel, ABC, so you don't have the same access issues that you would with a basic cable or premium cable channel. A third option is to offer it as an extra credit assignment and let students write reactions to the discussion questions or share their thoughts with their classmates. If you're concerned about time, here are some thoughts on creative ways to incoprorate movies and television shows into your civics and government class.
Once you and your students have watched the pilot episode, here are some discussion questions to frame your discussion.
How do you become a candidate for local office? Students often think that it's hard to become a candidate, and they do not understand the process of getting on the ballot. The main character, Courtney Rose, discusses how easy it is for him to become a candidate for Mayor. This is an opportunity to have your students research the requirements for becoming a candidate in your city. It's also a good opportunity to talk about the role of political parties and primaries, and discuss the difference between non-partisan municipal races and partisan races.
What's the difference between public policy and private philanthropy? In this episode, the main character undertakes a project to revitalize part of the city. However, he does so before he's inaugurated as the mayor. This is a good chance to talk about what is and is not public policy. It's also a chance to talk about the various roles that politicians play. They are both policy makers and community organizers. Often, students have a tough time honing in on policy as a solution.
Do political debates matter? There is a scene in the episode that depicts a debate between the mayoral candidates. Courtney Rose, the main character, performs well. It's not stated explicitly, but it's implied that this debate performance carries him to victory in the election. While debates are a focal point of political journalism, there is no consensus that they have very strong impacts on the outcome of elections. This is a good time to discuss this and consider things like how many people actually see or hear the debate and the power of the media to amplify that.
Can a twenty something millennial become the mayor of his town? The premise of the show is somewhat outlandish on purpose. But setting aside the part about the main character running as a publicity stunt, is it possible for young people to get engaged in politics and supplant older, more seasoned politicians? Yes, it is. This is a perfect opportunity to talk about the idea of "waiting in line" and "doing your time" and other factors that help established politicians keep out younger challengers.
After you discuss these questions, it would be worthwhile to have your students write a reflection on their viewing of the episode and on the discussion. This could be a regular, weekly writing assignment after each episode airs.