Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center
Social Studies



Joanne Flint, Dayton Junior/Senior High School, Dayton, OR

HOME-MADE POLITICAL PARTIES

Appropriate for grades 9-12.

OVERVIEW:    "Let me...warn you in the most solemn manner against
              the baneful effects of the spirit of Party..."
                                            George Washington
                                            Farewell Address, 1796

George Washington was not the first to warn the nation against
political parties.  The framers of the Constitution feared that
man's natural tendency to join together with others of similar
opinions would encourage divisions into special interest groups
rather than a commitment to the "general welfare."  They hoped the
Constitution would control the "factions" and prevent them from
pursuing their selfish interests at the expense of other citizens'
interests or the common welfare.  They established the system of
checks and balances to this end.  However, the political party, an
institution that many of those who wrote the Constitution hoped
would never arise in America -- is now vital in the general
operation of our political system.

Parties are crucial throughout the election process as they offer
choices and clarify issues for the voting public.  They help
administer the local, state and national conventions from which
candidates and platforms emerge.  Our two-party system provides
leadership to develop policies and govern while in
power...or...constructive criticism while out of power.  While not
mentioned once in the Constitution political parties have in fact
become an institution of government and an understanding of their
role is essential for all citizens.

PURPOSE:  The purpose of this activity is to provide students with
an understanding of the role of political parties in our
democracy, by offering them an opportunity to participate in one
of the primary activities of any party, writing a platform.

OBJECTIVES:  Students will be able to:

 1.  Identify the two major political parties and the key elements
     of their platforms.

 2.  Identify several minor political parties.

 3.  Describe the process used for development of a party platform
     at the local, state and national levels.

 4.  Describe the democratic process used by a committee to
     develop a platform.

 5.  Explain personal views on several current issues.

 6.  Compare personal views with those of the two major political
     parties.




ACTIVITIES:  

Day 1:  Introduce students to the activity by providing a copy of
        the Voter Registration Form for your state.  Point out
        that they will be asked to record a party preference on
        this form.  Explain to the students that there are two
        major political parties as well as minor parties in the
        United States today and that each party explains what it
        believes in a party platform.

        Provide students with unlabeled summaries of the
        Republican and Democratic Party Platforms and ask students
        to make a check by the position with which they agree
        most.  Based on this survey, place the students into two
        groups and ask them to compare views looking for areas
        where they have consensus.  Each group should elect a
        spokesperson and recorder.  Have the spokesperson share
        the areas of consensus with the entire class.

Day 2:  Explain to students that when political platforms are
        written there is usually a great deal of debate and
        dissention and compromise is required to agree on the
        final document.  Sometimes, however, the issues are too
        important to individuals to compromise and they find it
        necessary to break away and start their own party.
        Students are to begin this process, using the democratic
        process of majority vote and the spokesperson must have a
        progress report at the end of the period.

Day 3:  Students will have this day to work on their platforms.
        After viewing examples of actual platforms (minus names)
        each group is to prepare and sign a final draft of their
        platform.  The party should be named and the group
        prepared to defend the party's positions.

Day 4.  Presentations of Party Platforms and question/debate as
        time allows.

Day 5.  Students will return to the Democratic and Republican
        Platform summaries handed out in Day 1, and determine if
        their selection between the parties would be the same.
        The parties would then be identified.  Students would be
        asked to write a paper comparing their views on current
        issues with those of the two major parties.

RESOURCES/MATERIALS NEEDED:  To write for Party Platforms:

Republican Party                   Democratic Party        
310 First St., S.E.                430 Capitol St., S.E.   
Washington, DC  20003              Washington, DC  20003   

American Party of the U.S.         Communist Party U.S.A.  
P.O. Box 597                       235 West 23rd St.       
Provo, UT  84604                   New York, NY  10001     

Socialist Party U.S.A.             Libertarian National Committee
516 W. 25th St.                    301 W. 21st
New York, NY  10001                Houston, TX  77008


Prohibition National Committee     Americans for Democratic Action
P.O. Box 2635                      815 15th St, N.W.
Denver, CO  80201                  Washington, D.C. 20005

TYING IT ALL TOGETHER:  This activity can be adapted for use in a
variety of classes.  In a U.S. History class the Federalist
(Hamiltonian) and Democratic-Republic (Jeffersonian) platforms can
be used giving students a greater understanding of the foundations
of the two major political parties in our country.  It can be used
in a high school government or civics class to aid students in
formulating views on current issues, selecting a political party,
or understanding the democratic process.  The activity can be
extended to reinforce levels of government by requiring two or
more classes to come together (as a state party) and two or more
schools to come together as a national party to develop platforms. 
It can also provide an introduction to the election process by
requiring the parties to nominate a candidate to run for office,
then fulfill its obligations in the political campaign.  Once the
activity is completed it is very interesting to discuss whether
the Founding Fathers concerns were valid, whether the Constitution
has done an adequate job of protecting the minority from political
"factions," or whether political parties serve an important
function in our political system.


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John Kurilecjmk@ofcn.org