Communication, Debate, US Government, US History
Students will evaluate the presidential and vice presidential candidates based on their performances in the presidential and vice presidential debates scheduled for October 2012.
Students will understand the many factors that one may use to evaluate debate performance. Among them are the following: setting, techniques of persuasion, temperament, external appearances, and effect.
Context. The 2012 presidential election will feature four debates. The first, on October 3, will deal with domestic policy; on October 11, the vice presidential candidates will debate domestic and foreign policy; on October 16, the presidential candidates will debate in a town meeting format both foreign and domestic policy; and the final debate will take place on October 22 and focus on foreign policy.
If you have students who are in a debate club, they will see immediately that the so-called presidential debates are not debates in the sense that candidates question each other in a structured way. Instead, they respond to questions from a panel or a moderator. In some formats, they also take questions from an audience of citizens.
Whether or not presidential debates actually affect the outcome of elections is a matter of speculation. But candidates spend countless hours preparing for them, so they must think debates are important. And candidates and their handlers pay close attention to details, including the debate setting, the image they want to convey, the message they want to communicate, and so on.
Step 1. Have the students discuss the “Presidential Debate Worksheet” posted at [insert link] and the “Presidential Debate Evaluation Rubric 2012” posted at [insert link]. After the discussion, students should understand the terms used and how they will be applied in judging candidate performance in the debates.
Step 2. Ask students if they would add any elements to the “Presidential Debate Evaluation Rubric 2012.” The form is meant only to suggest possible criteria. There is space to add other factors.
Step 3. Assign students to watch at least one of the presidential or vice presidential debates. They should take notes on the “Presidential Debate Worksheet” and use them to complete the “Presidential Debate Evaluation Rubric 2012.”
Step 4. Students will record for each candidate two uses of statistics (e.g., unemployment numbers, or the cost of a program, tax cut, or budget number). Following the debate, students will “fact check” the statistics to determine if the candidate used them accurately or fairly.
Step 5. Students will write a 250-word essay explaining who “won” the debate and why.
Frank Mackaman, The Dirksen Congressional Center