Stimulating debate: what Russell Brand can help us with

One of the great things about teaching Politics is that the subject matter is very connected to the world around us: we can see and live what we discuss in the classroom.

With that in mind, it’s always great when that process comes full-circle and you get to bring the world back into the classroom.

Last week saw a great example of this, when Russell Brand (almost as well-known in the States as I am: maybe even more so, given that I’ve failed to marry Katy Perry) was interviewed on a flagship current affairs programme in the UK, Newsnight, about his recent guest-editing of a special issue of the New Statesman.

Here’s someone with ideas (and possibly with access to a thesaurus), willing to expound them and engage in debate. That those ideas are contestable makes it even more watchable and a perfect springboard for classroom discussion.

This would be a great opening to a debate on the role of ideas, or of framing , or the relationship between ‘old’ and ‘new’ politics or indeed of the conceptualisation of left and right. Brand’s articulation of a different model of political action also nicely sets up an class activity on fleshing out that model.

For me, it’s an interesting way into how we represent political arguments and the way we defend them. One can see the potential value of both sides of the discussion, but also the weaknesses, so offering something to everyone.

These kind of found materials are analogous to the fictional examples we’ve discussed before, but have the additional benefit that they connect more explicitly to political situations. And, in this case, some jokes about beards.*


* – for non-UK readers, you only need to know that the interviewer, Jeremy Paxman, recently grew a beard, to much consternation. It’s a small country and we don’t get out much.

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