The Political Spectrum
What has shaped my political orientation? What is the relationship between my beliefs and values and my position on political issues?
There are multiple points of view on every political issue and this diversity helps sustain a democracy.
In this lesson, students use the political inquiry process and the concepts of political thinking when reflecting on civic issues and ways to address them. In the ‘Minds On’ activity, students consider different perspectives on the minimum wage debate. Afterwards, students investigate their political leanings by answering a political spectrum quiz, reviewing the associated terms and applying their understanding. In the ‘Consolidation’ activity, students reflect on the aspects of their personal identity that affect their political orientation.
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
- Use the political inquiry process to evaluate and discuss issues of political importance;
- Use the concept of political significance and political perspective to reflect on their own beliefs, values and worldview, and those of others;
- Use the concept of political significance and political perspective to identify some agents of political socialization and how these affect their political beliefs;
- Develop a sense of their civic self-image (Citizenship Education Framework – Identity).
- I can think critically about and discuss issues of political importance;
- I can assess my political orientation by examining my values and viewpoints;
- I can evaluate the most significant agents of my political socialization and how they affect my beliefs;
- I can explain how my learning is shaping my civic self‑image through assessment of my political views.
CPC3O: A1, A2, B1, B2, A1.3, A1.5, A1.6, A2.2, A2.3, B1.1, B1.2, B2.1
1. Open the discussion about minimum wage by asking how many students have part-time jobs. Remind students that they only need to share personal information if they feel comfortable.
2. Ask students if they are aware that the minimum wage increased from $11.60 per hour to $14 per hour at the beginning of 2018. Have students read the brief synopsis about the minimum wage debate in Ontario (Activity 2.1). This can be completed as a class or individually.
3. Afterwards, have students reflect on the following questions using the discussion strategy below.
- What is your opinion about increasing the minimum wage?
- What has shaped your opinion on this political issue? (e.g., family, friends, the media, personal experiences, social groups, religious institutions)
- What questions do you have about policies surrounding minimum wage? What more do you want to know?
- Give time for students to reflect on the questions
- Divide students into groups of three and assign each group member one specific question to share with their group.
- Give groups time to discuss all three questions.
- Conclude by having a class discussion on the three questions and make notes of what questions remain and what they want to know.
1. Review the concept of political perspective:
- Political perspective is a political thinking concept that looks at the way in which a person’s beliefs and values can affect his or her position on, or response to, issues of civic importance.
- Perspective means that what you see or think is affected by your current situation and your life experiences. For example, someone directly affected by an issue sees it differently or has a different point of view from someone who is not directly affected.
Teacher Note: Explain to students that they have developed opinions on the political issue of minimum wage through their life experiences and even through this class activity. All of these experiences help to inform our political beliefs and to a certain extent, help us form an ideology.
2. Individually, have students answer a political spectrum quiz (Activity 2.2). Explain to students that there are no right or wrong answers, but the questions are meant to encourage reflection on their political perspective and civic self-image.
Afterwards have students reflect on the exercise either in a class discussion or in written form: What did you learn about your own developing political orientation/ philosophy as a result?
Teacher Note: Encourage students to reflect on the credibility of the quiz. Who was it designed by? Who was it adapted by? Knowing who produces sites alerts you to what kind of bias may be found in them. Be careful of what and who you believe.
3. Using Slide Deck 2, review the concept of the political spectrum with two scales and the terms associated with the quadrant spectrum.
- The political spectrum provides a way to characterize different beliefs and ideologies, and distinguish between actions on civic issues.
- The political spectrum can also be viewed with two intersecting scales: one for economic/fiscal policies and one for social/personal policies. The underlying question is: To what degree should the government intervene or exert control in these two spheres.
- Liberal/Left-leaning people embrace social services and government intervention in the economy.
- Conservative/Right-leaning people support lower taxes, free markets and less government intervention in the economy.
- Libertarians advocate both personal and economic liberty (freedom).
- Authoritarians favour strict obedience to authority and government control, at the expense of personal and economic freedom.
4. Review the terms: socially conservative, fiscally conservative, socially liberal and fiscally liberal. Have students examine different viewpoints on a range of issues and ask them to label each viewpoint using the terms (Activity 2.3). Reflection questions for students:
- Which viewpoints do you agree with?
- Do you lean the same way on both scales? Does it make sense to have two scales?
- What is the relationship between your beliefs and values and my position on political issues?
5. Review the concept of political socialization agents and provide some examples (e.g., family, friends, the media, personal experiences, social groups, religious institutions). Ask students to create a mind map showing which political socialization agents have impacted their political perspective. Afterwards, provide time for students to share their mind map with their peers.
Ask students to fill out the 3-2-1 Exit Card (Activity 2.4). Teachers can use this as assessment as/for learning and to address any confusions, as well as to structure future discussions.
- Slide Deck 2: The Political Spectrum [PPT]
- Activity 2.1: The Minimum Wage Debate [PDF] [Word]
- Activity 2.2: The World’s Smallest Political Quiz [PDF]
- Activity 2.3: Where do these viewpoints fall? [PDF] [Word]
- Activity 2.4: 3-2-1 Exit Card [PDF] [Word]