TITLE: The Political Debate as a Means of Informing the Voters During a Presidential Election Year AUTHOR: Raymond Charboneau, Holy Cross High School, LA GRADE LEVEL/SUBJECT: 9-12, government OVERVIEW: Many students, as well as many voters, are unclear or uninterested concerning the stand taken by political candidates on the major issues raised during an election. They view candidates, if they think of them ar all, as being cut from the same cloth, having essentially the same outlook on the issues. PURPOSE: The purpose of this activity is to help students understand the nature of the two-party system in American politics and the importance it serves in transferring the public will into political action. OBJECTIVES: As a result of this activity, the students will: 1. Identify the importance of the political debate as a means of informing the voters as to how the candidates stand on issues. 2. Help the students to identify the stand taken by the candidates on major issues. 3. Understand the role third parties serve in American politics. RESOURCES/MATERIALS: 1. The "candidates" should dress in suits if at all possible because this gives the debate a "polished" look. 2. Provide the candidates with podiums to from which to speak. 3. If the candidates so choose to use them, supplies for graphs and charts. ACTIVITIES AND PROCEDURES: 1. During class on the first day of this activity, organize the students into four groups representing the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, and two minor parties that currently are running candidates for president. (If it is not a presidential election year, then go back to the most recent presidential election for candidates and issues.) Have each group select one of their group to serve as that party's presidential candidate. Everyone else in the group will serve as "experts" on the various issues that will be debated. Encourage the "candidates" to get into character. 2. Once the basic organization has been accomplished, instruct the candidate to be as informed on all issues as much as possible. The task of the party experts is to research material that the candidate will need to know during the debate. The student groups must familiarize themselves with the stand taken by the actual presidential candidates who are running for office. The remainder of the class period will be used by the groups to draw up a list of issues that the candidate must be informed about. 3. On the second day of the activity, take the class to the library to research the real candidates stand on the issues. 4. On the third day of the activity, the groups meet in class to prepare their candidates for the debate. 5. The fourth day of the activity is given over to the debate. The debate should follow the rules of debating as closely as possible. If your school has a debating club, you may want to ask the instructor to serve as a moderator. 6. Try to involve at least three faculty and administrators to serve as judges of the debate. Their role is to judge what group represented their party most accurately and what group seemed to have the best grasp of the issues. TYING IT ALL TOGETHER: 1. The class will discuss the importance of the voters' need to know the candidates' stand on issues. 2. The class will discuss the role played by the experts in a presidential campaign and the importance they have in aiding the presidential candidate in his bid for victory. 3. Students will are expected to know the names of the candidates of the various parties represented and to know their stand on the major issues. This can be determined by giving a quiz at a later date. 4. Use this activity to end the unit on the election of the President.
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