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Investigate the Source: What kind of source is the Broadbent Institute?

SKILL: Investigate the Source

DIFFICULTY: Challenging

SUBJECT(S): Politics/Current Events

Students will investigate the source to learn that the Broadbent Institute is a left-wing think tank whose agenda is to influence public opinion to promote progressive policies.

Background

The Broadbent Institute is a progressive Canadian think-tank founded by the late Ed Broadbent, a former federal NDP leader. It produces research aiming to influence public policy and owns several news websites that engage in progressive-leaning journalism.



About the Example

This tweet from an account called the Broadbent Institute asks, “[w]hat’s behind the high profits, record profits, and meagre pay at Canadian grocery stores?” It then prompts us to read its report on the financialization of grocery stores on the Broadbent Institute website. 

Before we dive into the report to learn about claims of record profits and declining wages, let’s investigate what type of source the Broadbent Institute is.

Wikipedia tells us that the Broadbent Institute is a “Canadian progressive and social democratic think tank” founded by former federal NDP leader, Ed Broadbent. Its stated mission includes championing change in areas of democracy, inequality, and sustainability. 

If we aren’t familiar with the term “think tank” we can hover over or click into the blue underlined word to get to its Wikipedia entry. Here we learn that a think tank (also known as a research institute or policy institute) is a group set up to conduct research and advocacy on a given set of issues, often to influence public opinion and policy. 

This signals to us that the purpose of this post and report is to persuade readers, and thereby influence policy and opinion. We can keep this in mind if we choose to read the report or other research produced by the Broadbent Institute.



Activities 

  1. Show students the tweet and have them identify the name of the source. 
  2. Have students use a keyword search to locate the Wikipedia page for the source (“Broadbent Institute Wikipedia”).  
  3. Have students take a few minutes to skim the Wikipedia page and learn more about the source. Guiding questions: 
    • What type of organisation is the Broadbent Institute? 
    • What is a think tank? 
    • What is the Broadbent Institute’s agenda? 
    • Do you think the main goal of this report is to inform, to sell, to persuade, or to entertain?
    • Do you think the Broadbent Institute could be a reliable place to learn about political issues like Canadian workers’ wages? Explain your reasoning.
    • Why is it important to know the agenda of the source we’re looking at when reading information they have produced?


Optional Activities

Watch CIVIX Explains: Persuasive Sources and review the following terms:

AdvocacyAn activity by an individual or group that aims to influence public opinion and decisions within political, economic, and social institutions. Advocacy-focused activities can include media campaigns, public speaking and publishing research.

Think tankAn organization that does research on topics related to public policy (the economy, the military, the environment, technology, social policy, etc). The purpose of this research is often to advocate for certain issues or influence government policy.

Guiding questions:

  • Are all think tanks equally reliable? What are some ways to determine the quality of the information we’re reading? 
  • What positive roles can persuasive sources like think tanks play in our society?


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