What is an “Agenda?”—A Classroom Play

A junior high school teacher to her class: Today we are going to discuss the word “agenda.” Agenda means the underlying intentions or motives of a particular person or group. What would be some examples of someone who has an agenda?

Jimmy: A man takes a woman on a dinner date. She thinks he’s interested in her, but what he really wants to do is steal her jewelry. That’s his agenda.

Teacher: Good. More examples.

Cindy: Someone says he’s buying animals to take care of them, but his agenda is to sell them to a place where they’ll be abused. Like one of those circuses or places where they make dogs fight.

Teacher: Good one.

Jack: You could say a benign illness is actually harmful if you had an agenda to sell a drug to treat it.

Teacher: Very good.

Katie: So you say you have a reason for doing something, but it’s not the real reason. You have an agenda?

Teacher: Correct. Now how do you determine whether or not someone has an agenda?

Many students: Investigate, do your research.

Teacher: Exactly. Now let’s take this a step further. Say there’s a situation that you have no direct contact with and you have no time to adequately investigate. Do you rely on someone else’s judgment as to whether or not someone involved has an agenda?

(Students shrug, reluctant to answer)

Unless you have a verifiable source of information that can be trusted, what do you do?

Teacher: Maybe your parents, or perhaps a friend of yours?

Many students: Maybe.

Teacher: (Long pause) How about the news media?

(Students start to laugh)

News stand with “fake news“ written at the top

Many students: The news media!!! Haha!!!

Katie: The media! Aren’t they fake?

Jenny: They wouldn’t know an agenda from a hole in the ground!

(More laughter)

Teacher: Interesting. (Brief smile but no laughter) What if the people you trusted to expose an agenda… were part of that agenda? What if they had that agenda themselves?

(Silence)

Teacher: What if the group commonly tasked by society to question things and find out the truth about them had itself gone bad?

(More silence, some frowning)

Jimmy: Unless you have a verifiable source of information that can be trusted, what do you do?

Teacher: Indeed. What do you do? (long pause) How about “Think for yourself?”

(Students nod, Sarah raises her hand)

Teacher: Yes, Sarah?

Sarah: If someone has crimes they are hiding, they often attack groups that might find out about them. They dream up all kinds of reasons to attack, but the real one—their agenda—is to not get found out.

Teacher: Wow. Good one.

Jimmy: Is that really happening?

Sarah: (long pause, looking down at the desk) Yep.

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