The Hero vs. Hack presentations allow for discussion instead of discourse


Most classes try to stray away from controversial topics that could lead to arguments or debates. Well, in teacher Jeff Manders’s AP Government and Politics class, students spend the whole semester watching or working on a tendentious project: Hero vs. Hack presentations. 

“[The students] have to pick an American political hero and an American hack,” Manders said. “So, somebody that they would consider as a hack, or not living up to some sort of ideals of American democracy, and then somebody who they think is [holding up those ideals]. Usually, they pick people you know; for a hack, they might pick somebody who they don’t necessarily mesh well with politically on the issues and then [the] opposite for that for the hero: they pick somebody that does [mesh well with them].”

This project goes on throughout the semester with different people presenting every week. The students have to put together a google slideshow and then present it to the class. 

Since the political beliefs vary for everyone in the class, there have been some heroes who could be other students’ hacks. This provides both sides to the story of the politician and allows for discussion instead of discourse.

“It’s funny when in a class you may have somebody pick a certain politician as their hack, and then maybe like the next week, somebody picks that same politician as their hero,” Manders said, “and gives their reasoning as to why they think they’re a hero, and the other person gives their reasoning as to why they are a hack. Sometimes that actually does spontaneously spur some discussion. [Then you can see] how people have different views and perspectives on the same issue or even the same person.”

Senior Christopher “Topher” Beckering finds the presentation to be different than others he has done in different classes. The discussion and vibe that follows the presentations vary as well.

It’s funny when in a class you may have somebody pick a certain politician as their hack, and then maybe like the next week, somebody picks that same politician as their hero.

— Jeff Manders

“I think [the project is] unique because it’s telling you to take an opinion on something that you usually wouldn’t talk about at school,” Topher said.  “You usually wouldn’t say, ‘This is my favorite politician,’ in front of the class because you might be ridiculed, but it’s encouraged to take a side, which I think is kind of cool. Sometimes, you can tell there’s tension in the room because there are some politicians that are pretty controversial. It’s kind of funny, to be honest, but nothing too serious [happens due to the presentations].”

The presentations were not restricting, and the students only had a few instructions to follow, so it was a rather free project. 

“There were directions,” Topher said. “We had to have the two paragraphs about specific things, and we had a little document, but other than that, Manders let us pick pretty much what we want. As I said, I didn’t even do an actual politician for [my hero]. I mean, [the project is] nothing too out there. It’s pretty comparable to other projects, but I like that we have more choices than most [projects in other classes].” 

Senior Henry Kostbade agrees that this presentation is idiosyncratic. Henry gave his presentation and included his hero and hacks’ childhoods before going into why he chose them in order to differentiate himself from his peers.

“[The presentation is] unique because it’s not just presenting on stuff out of the textbook,” Henry said. “You have got to find someone that you’re really passionate about and do your own research. So, I think it’s unique in that way.” 

The hero vs. hack presentations are not only a unique experience but an informative one as well, and it helps with presentation and research skills; the presentation and class as a whole are seen as very beneficial. 

“I think it’s really beneficial because you’re not only learning more about politics and how to be a better citizen or be a more informed citizen,” Henry said, “but then also you learn how to do things like present and get better at that kind of stuff.” 

Because of the profits of the presentation, such as course connections and the expanding of other skills, students can glean from the hero vs hack presentation, Manders implemented the project in his own class and has never looked back. 

This presentation overall is distinctive and helpful. It truly ties together the semester-long class of AP Government and Politics. 

“Well, I like [the hero vs. hack project] because it gets students to interact with current events related to government and politics,” Manders said. “I like it because it forces [students] to think about where they might stand on various issues.”