Grade 9-12


Time: 75 mins,
Updated: April 28 2020,


Students will be able to:

  • Understand identical facts about the economy can have multiple meanings when rhetoric is used to influence the listener or reader.
  • Assess the substance of differing public policy proposals, independent of the rhetoric used to advocate them.

In this economics lesson, students will learn about Rhetoric and how it effects the economy.


Do facts really matter to us?

Supporting Questions

  1. What are the facts about climate change?
  2. How do leaders present facts about climate change?


Prior Knowledge

It is important to note that this inquiry requires prerequisite knowledge of basic environmental science.

Staging the Compelling Question

To stage the compelling question, students will brainstorm (and discuss) the possible effects of climate change by looking at the source provided – a series of before/after images about climate change from around the world. The purpose for this staging is two-fold – first, it establishes that climate change has real effects that are meaningful to the world we live in (and thus can’t be ignored) and second, it provides a stimulating hook exercise to jump-start student interest in the issue of climate change.

Supporting Question 1: What are the Facts About Climate Change?

The formative task reflects this knowledge acquisition by requiring students to list facts about the causes of climate change. In order to help students in organizing this knowledge it may be helpful for the teacher to prompt students with questions that break apart the facts we know about climate change that should be informed by sources and on their list – the who, what, when, where, and why of climate change. Who causes climate change? Why is climate change happening now more than ever? What’s climate change caused by? etc. Before moving to Supporting Question 2, the teacher should ensure that students have a full account of the facts surrounding climate change (i.e. – the who, what, when, where, why) since they are required to use the list they developed in Supporting Question 1.

The following sources work together to help establish this base-line knowledge of facts surrounding climate change and provide the basis for a critical look at politicization of the issue in Supporting Question 2. The first featured source is NASA’s scientific explanation of climate change. Featured Source B is a video summary of greenhouse gases – an important, human-caused component of climate change. Featured Source C is a graph that documents the consumption of fossil fuels over time. The next featured source provides evidence that Human are causing global warming based on current trends. The final featured source is a graph that demonstrates oil consumption by country.

Supporting Question 2: How Do Leaders Present Fact About Climate Change?

The formative task involves compare and contrast, which may be implemented through a t-chart that identifies facts about the causes of climate change (i.e. – knowledge from SQ1) in the first column and explains how those facts are presented by different leaders in the second column. Teachers might find it helpful to watch the videos as a class to ensure that the rhetoric isn’t missed by students.

The following sources were selected to ensure students had exposure to a broad range of political rhetoric and reference of facts. Featured Source A is Al Gore discussing climate change. The next featured source is Jim Inhofe discussing climate change. Featured Source C is Mitt Romney discussing climate change. The final featured source is Jim Inhofe mocking climate change and those who believe it is real by using a snowball in a demonstration.


In this task, students construct an evidence-based argument using multiple sources to answer the compelling question “Do Facts Really Matter to Us?”. It is important to note that students’ arguments could take a variety of forms, including a detailed outline, poster, or essay.

Students’ arguments will likely vary, but could include any of the following:

  • Facts are important and should determine what matters to us, so that we are not swayed by political rhetoric. 
  • Facts aren’t as important as one’s intuition or belief, as facts can be manipulated via rhetoric.
  • Facts are important, but the source of facts and the rhetoric used in presenting them must be taken into account when forming beliefs.


Activity 1

Students have the opportunity to Take Informed Action by assessing, and then, acting. Given the scientific reality of climate change, students can be given the opportunity to investigate various options to help address climate change. These options can be analyzed in terms of the possible costs and benefits associated with each.

Activity 2

Having assessed their options, the students then have the option of acting on that assessment. Students can write their congressional leaders a letter that attempts to convince them to support the best option in response to climate change – the focus of the letter should be on leveraging their knowledge of costs/benefits into a compelling argument.