"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"

The spineless governor of his state appoints naïve and idealistic Jefferson Smith, leader of the Boy Rangers, on a lark.  He is reunited with reunited with the state’s senior senator—presidential hopeful and childhood hero, Senator Joseph Paine.  In Washington, however, Smith discovers many of the shortcomings of the political process as his earnest goal of a national boys’ camp leads to a conflict with the state political boss, Jim Taylor.  Taylor first tries to corrupt Smith and then later attempts to destroy Smith through a scandal.[1]

Click here for the unit overview and daily lesson plans, including assignments for the unit.

Click here for the "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" Storyline handout.

Click here for the worksheet for "The 2012 US Senate Race" for Pennsylvania.

Questions to consider while viewing the film (from Teacher's Guide for the U.S. History DVD Bundle, www.socialstudies.com):
  1. How does Jefferson Smith become a senator?
  2. Compare Jefferson Smith's characteristics with the other possible appointees.
  3. Use two or three words to describe Taylor and Paine.
  4. What concepts does the director try to convey in the montage of monuments and music during Smith's tour of Washington?
  5. Why does Smith become so angry with the press after he arrives in Washington?
  6. How accurate are the descriptions by Saunders of how a bill becomes a law, and the newscaster's definition of a filibuster?
  7. Is Paine's final confession realistic?  What does it reveal about politicians or the nature of politics in the United States?

[1] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0031679/