Teaching with Documents, Bill Clinton’s Vietnam Letters

Presented by Peggy Scranton

During the March 4th Teaching Demonstration Luncheon, Dr. Peggy Scranton, a professor in the political science department, discussed how she encourages students to think outside the box

by analyzing Bill Clinton’s Vietnam antidraft letter through three different sources: Clinton’s original letter, a NewYork Times article reporting the letter, and a section from All’s Fair: Love, War, and Running for President. Scranton asks her students to answer a series of essay questions that require an analytical synthesizing of all three text. The exercise is designed to get students to critically think about the meanings of the texts and move into a deeper level of examination beyond the first bit of text that "answers" the question. This method of teaching urges students to think outside of their own perspective. It also prompts students to think about each author’s purpose in writing the text and how this purpose influences the text.

This teaching method is highly adaptable to any content area and learning situation. This methods can be especially useful in establishing fruitful class discussions, which offer a "low stakes" environment for students to creatively answer questions.


Margret (Peggy) Scranton is a professor in the political science department. She graduated with honors in Politics from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and earned a M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh where her dissertation on Panama Canal Treaties won best dissertation in International Relations, Law, and Politics. She has authored several books and articles on the Panama Canal Treaties, US-Panamanian Relations, Democratization in Panama, US Interventions in Panama, and International Election Observation. She has received numerous grants and fellowships including three Fulbright fellowships and has received UALR‘s Distinguished Teaching award.


Dr. Peggy Scranton‘s Webpage


Dr. Peggy Scranton

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