Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center
Social Studies

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
  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

  1.  The "candidates" should dress in suits if at all
      possible because this gives the debate a "polished"
  2.  Provide the candidates with podiums to from which to
  3.  If the candidates so choose to use them, supplies for
      graphs and charts.

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

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.

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
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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