Discussion Questions and Themes for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

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Discussion Questions and Themes for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

If you're wondering how to teach government in a fun way, one option is to use movies. For teaching government and civics, one of the classic movies to use is Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

In Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, a naive scout leader is appointed to the U.S. Senate. He arrives in Washington and gets caught up in a scandal. His naive notions of Washington -  and the politicians who work there - are challenged pretty quickly.

Click the link below for a more full discussion of what themes you can explore using this movie, but in short you this movie helps illustrate: a) the filibuster, b) corruption, and c) the role of the media.

One of the iconic scenes in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is of him filibustering on the Senate floor. The concept is a little strange, and this really makes it concrete for students.

The movie is rife with themes of corruption, from the moment that Jefferson Smith is appointed to the very end. So it's a great vehicle for discussing the corrupting influences of politics.

And the media plays a role here. It would be interesting to think how the movie would have been different today - in the era of C-SPAN, Twitter, and social media.

If you're looking for other movies about government and politics, here's a good list. You probably won't have time to watch too many, but you could use the list to assign an individual assignment and have students write movie reviews and reflection papers.

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