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Are You Liberal? Conservative? Or Confused? Review by Brandy Brockhausen

A Bluestocking Guide: Political Philosophies
Richard J. Maybury/Jane A. Williams
Bluestocking Press
P.O. Box 1014
Placerville, CA 95667-1014

At a time when we are inundated with political advertising on television, the radio, and even the computer, I find my children asking me questions about so many things that I’m not quite sure how to answer. What does “being a conservative” and “being a liberal” even mean? Sometimes the lines seem so blurred, even I’m confused. Still, my husband and I firmly believe that it is important to instill in our children a sense of how important it is to be involved in the political process as voters, so I wanted to find a way to make these terms (and more) simpler to understand.

Are you Liberal? Conservative? Or Confused? was written by Richard J. Maybury, and seeks to explain these concepts and others in ways that make them easy for students to understand. Aimed at ages 13 and up, it features 26 chapters written in the form of a letter that make it seem like the author is speaking directly to the student. The book takes students on a journey that not only explains the terms typically associated with politics, but also explains how those terms came to be.

The accompanying study guide, written by Jane A. Williams, includes activities for each chapter, including the introductions. Usually this includes some vocabulary, short answer questions, questions you can use for discussion, as well as suggestions for research and essays. The study guide is for ages 12 and up, although I think a lot of the questions are more suited to advanced middle school or high school students. Both the book and the study guide cost $12.95.

I did this study with my 10th grade son, and the timing could not have been more perfect. As we discussed each chapter, we could apply what my son was learning to the various things he was hearing in real life. Basically, we started with the introductory chapters, and the thought questions at the beginning of the study guide. I also had him complete one pre-reading writing activity assigned in the study guide. This activity was revisited at the end of the study.

For each chapter, he would read on his own, then complete the questions, then we would discuss his answers. I read the chapters ahead of time in order to prepare. The chapters in this book are typically very short, which was great for my son who does not enjoy reading, and for me because it made it easy for me to keep up. Some of the chapter assignments are longer than others. For the ones with a lot of questions, I sometimes delayed the writing assignment until the next day. A few of the chapters in the study guide also include suggestions for further reading related to the topic. If those readings were online, then we read them too.

At the end of the study guide, there is a final exam that reviews the whole book. An answer key and suggestions for how to use the guide are also included. Even though I read the chapters myself, I still appreciated the answer key because it made grading his papers much easier.

I think my son really enjoyed this study, and so did I. My family is not one to shy away from debate, and politics is a frequent topic of discussion in our home. We want to raise our boys to form their own opinions based on what they think, and I feel like this study is a good starting point for that. In order for our children to grow up and decide who they are and what they want to support, they need to have a solid understanding of what political terms mean and where those ideas came from. The structure of the study guide and the book make the program easy to follow, and requires very little prep work from the parent. I think my son has a much better understanding of politics in general now, and that just gives us a strong foundation for a further study of government in the future.

-Product review by Brandy Brockhausen, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December, 2016