Get the Facts on the Candidates

High school
Subject: Social studies
Time: Two class periods
Preparation: Have class view "Charlotte Observer" (Tape 1, Act 5, 1:13:10)

One of a citizen's most important responsibilities is to become informed. In this exercise, student teams compete to research a candidate and inform the class about the candidate's record, experience, and platform.

Divide the class into teams, one for each candidate in a current political race. Assign a candidate to each team. Ask each team to research its candidate thoroughly and present their findings to the group in a 10-minute oral report. Each team must collect primary and secondary sources of information about the candidate: partisan literature from the candidate or party, as well as objective media reports and information from opponents. It will be each team's job to collect and critique information so as to be able to distinguish between fact and opinion and between innuendo and serious criticism.

Give the teams enough time to gather information on the candidate and his or her platform.

You can conclude this exercise in a number of ways:

1. Have each team write a short evaluation of its candidate. These evaluations must include specific examples and references to the variety of information sources consulted.

2. Ask each team to select one of its members to role-play the candidate in a debate. Give these "candidates" a class period to debate the issues (ideally in front of students from another class). Leave time for questions from the audience. After the debate, students can vote on the candidate. After the actual election, compare the students' results with the vote in the community.

3. Follow up the debate by asking students to answer and discuss the following:
  • What was the deciding issue for you?
  • Did the candidates' personalities influence your vote? To what extent?
  • Did personal appearance, sex, race, or party affiliation influence your decision?

Dale Manns
John F. Kennedy High School
Cleveland, Ohio

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