Lesson Idea: Celebrity vs. Expert Testimony

Introduction

In this lesson, students will examine the role of celebrities and experts testifying in front of Congressional Committees. Specifically, they will a) understand the function of Congressional Committee hearings and b) evaluate the effectiveness and importance of celebrity and expert testimony.
Vocabulary
  • Congressional Committee
  • Testimony
  • Committee Chair
  • Expert Witness
 
Procedure
 
1) Introduce the topic of Congressional Committee hearings through an assigned reading and engage in a class discussion regarding their procedure and purpose.
 
2) Show the following C-SPAN video regarding Celebrity Testimony in Congressional hearings (1 min). 
Have students summarize the pros and cons of celebrity testimony according to Ted Johnson of Variety.
 
3) Have students participate in a “Take a Stand” activity:
       a) Post a “celebrity” sign on one side of the room and an “expert” sign on the other. Pose the
           question, “Whose testimony before a Congressional Committee do you think would be more   
           effective?”
       b) Have students summarize their opinion in a brief paragraph. Students can use this to compare
            their positions after completing the lesson.
       c) Have students divide themselves into the two categories. Explain that the students may fall
           somewhere in between the two choices, and should position themselves accordingly.
       d) Have students from each group explain their rationale for their position.
 
4) Divide students into groups to view videos of celebrities and experts testifying before Congressional Committees. Group size will vary depending on class size, time available, and the number of videos you want each group to watch.
 
5) Assign each group one or more hearings to watch from below. As they are watching the testimony, have them complete the following handout and discuss their findings within the small group: Celebrity vs. Expert Testimony Handout (.PDF) or (Word Doc)
 
6) Have a member from each group report on their findings to the entire class. Ensure they summarize the issue and present the testimony of each participant and explain the effectiveness of each.
 
7) After hearing from each group, have students write an essay that should include:
        a) The role of Congressional Committee hearings
        b) The importance of testimony at the hearings
        c) The effectiveness of both celebrities and experts giving testimony
        d) Their opinion on the appropriateness and impact of celebrity testimony
 
Hearings:
1) Seth Rogen, Actor
Dr. Francis Collins (12 minutes): National Institutes of Health (NIH), Director
Seth Rogen (6 minutes): Actor
 
2) Steve Colbert, Host and Executive Producer, The Colbert Report
Complete Program: Immigrant Farm Workers
Phil Glaize (6 minutes): Represents the U.S. Apple Association and the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform and Farmer
Arturo Rodriguez (6 minutes): United Farm Workers President
Stephen Colbert (5 minutes): Host and Executive Producer, The Colbert Report
 
3) George Clooney, Actor
Nancy Lindborg (6 minutes): USAID Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance Bureau – Assistant Administrator
George Clooney (6 minutes): Actor, Satellite Sentinel Project Co-Founder and Human Rights Activist
Jonathan Temin (5 minutes): U.S. Institute of Peace Sudan Director
 
4) LL Cool J, Rapper and Actor
Complete Program:  Illegal File Sharing
LL Cool J (6 mins) Rapper and actor.
Mitch Bainwol (6 mins) Chair and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America
 
5) Oprah Winfrey and John Walsh, Television Hosts
Oprah Winfrey (12 mins) Talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist
John Walsh (10 mins) Television host of America’s Most Wanted
Gordon Hardy (5 mins) Inspector General for Texas Health and Human Services Department
 
6) John Travolta
John Travolta (10 mins) Actor and Scientologist
Rev. Drew Christiansen (8 mins) U.S. Catholic Conference
 
7) Gabrielle Union, Actress (****Contains violent descriptive content which may offend****)
Complete Program: Violence Against Women Act
Gabrielle Union (4 mins) Actress
Karen Tronsgrard-Scott (6 mins) Director, Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
  
8) David Banner and Master P, Rappers and Actors (****David Banner testimony contains derogatory language which may offend****)
David Banner (6 mins) Hip Hop Artist (Contains language which may offend)
Master P (6 mins) Hip Hop Artist now against violent content
Dr. Michael Eric Dyson (6 mins) Georgetown University Sociology Professor
 
9) Michael J Fox, Actor and Lonnie and Muhammed Ali, Boxer
Complete Program: Parkinson’s Disease
Michael J Fox (8 min) Actor with Parkinson’s Disease
Muhammed and Lonnie Ali (7 min) Former boxer with Parkinson’s disease and his wife
Dr. Audrey Penn (7 min) Director of National Inst. of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
 
10. Lars Ulrich (Metallica), Musician
Lars Ulrich  (8 min) Musician, Metallica
Fred Uhlrich (5 min) President, New Technology of Sony Corporation
 
11. Kevin Costner, Actor
Kevin Costner (9 min) Actor and Ocean Therapy Solutions Partner
Dr. Jeffrey Short (5 min) Oceana, Pacific Science Director