Students who want to be politically astute should spend time reading the transcripts of political speeches (perhaps even before listening to them). Professors and teachers who show speeches in their classrooms should also make use of the speech transcripts that are widely available on news sites. Doing so can help students both separate sizzle from steak and think deeper about what was said.
Here’s a case in point from President Obama’s acceptance speech:
I want to reform the tax code so that it’s simple, fair, and asks the wealthiest households to pay higher taxes on incomes over $250,000, the same rate we had when Bill Clinton was president; the same rate we had when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, the biggest surplus in history, and a whole lot of millionaires to boot.
Now, I’m still eager to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission. No party has a monopoly on wisdom. No democracy works without compromise. I want to get this done, and we can get it done. But when Governor Romney and his friends in Congress tell us we can somehow lower our deficits by spending trillions more on new tax breaks for the wealthy, well, what’d Bill Clinton call it? You do the arithmetic, you do the math.
I refuse to go along with that. And as long as I’m President, I never will.
I refuse to ask middle class families to give up their deductions for owning a home or raising their kids just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut.
Students don’t need Ph.Ds in political science to ask their teachers, “I did the math and it looks like the president thinks that a person who has an income of $250,000/year is a millionaire. I thought you needed to make a million dollars a year to be a millionaire. Why is the president saying this?”