1: Participatory Democracy
1: The Right to be Informed
Guidelines: 1) Discuss with students what they think it means
to be an informed citizen. Focus on the responsibility they
have to government. What does it mean to live in a participatory
democracy? What do voters need in order to make good choices?
2) Have students read the items taken from the LWV web site. Ask
them to discuss the kind of language that is used. What do words
like accountable, responsive, and open mean?
Is the US government these things? How and in what ways? 3) View
debate clips. Ask students to identify differences between the
candidates on the issues that are raised. How difficult or easy
is it to gain information about the candidates from these debate
What is the purpose of a presidential debate? How can citizens
participate in government decision making? Why were there no televised
debates between 1960 and 1976? What are the differences between
the "direct effects," "agenda setting," and
"uses and gratifications" theories of political communication?
Should presidential debates be mandatory? Why or why not?
2: The "Public Airwaves"
1: The Government's Role
Guidelines: 1) Discuss with students who they think has the responsibility
to decide what airs on television or radio. What belongs on television
and what does not? What should/is television used for? What criteria
should be used to decide? 2) Discuss with students the idea of
the "public airwaves." Begin by asking them how broadcast
signals are transmitted and how channel distribution is managed.
Introduce them to the Federal Communications Commission by viewing
the Minow interview on the FCC. 3) View interviews with Kraus
and Watson. Discuss the status of television in American culture
in 1960. 4) View the 1960 debate.
How involved should the government be in regulating what we watch
on television? Do you think the television networks and corporations
have a responsibility to provide free programs on issues and to
candidates of political importance? Who should be responsible
for sponsoring presidential debates? Why?
2: Equal Time & Free Speech
Guidelines: 1) Introduce students to the history of the equal
time clause by viewing the Minow interview and reading the Broadcasting
articles from 1960. Ask students about third-party candidates.
2) View the 1980 and 1992 debates and read newspaper headlines
from those years. Ask students to focus on the participation of
John Anderson and Ross Perot. Emphasize that every presidential
election year many more candidates run than just the two party
candidates. 3) Ask students to research third party candidates
on the Internet, in the press, and by writing to third party campaigns.
Have students present this information to one another.
Should all candidates who are running for president be allowed
to participate in debates? Why or why not? What should the criteria
be for deciding who participates? What is the significance of
the equal time clause of the Communications Act of 1934? What
is the role of the Senate Commerce Committee in supervising radio
and television broadcasting?
3: The Election Process & the Right to Vote
1: The Electoral College
Guidelines: 1) Introduce students to the electoral college system
by having them read the essay. Emphasize the difference between
the electoral college system and election by popular vote. 2)
View the 1996 debate that took place in San Diego California.
Ask them to look for connections between the issues raised in
the debate and the location of the debate. 3) Discuss with students
why California and other big states are important to presidential
candidates. What are the implications for smaller states and for
campaign strategy? 4) Ask students to chart in press coverage
of the 2000 election the impact the electoral college system has
the way in which the Democratic and Republican campaigns are conducted.
How is the US president elected? Do you think this system is better
than election by popular vote? Why or why not? Does the electoral
college system give the advantage to particular kinds of candidates?
2: The Right to Vote
Guidelines: 1) Discuss with students their views on why voting
is considered a "right." 2) Introduce them to the Constitutional
amendments that address the issue of voting. 3) View debate clips.
Ask students to identify and analyze how each of these debates
might have been different had these constitutional amendments,
either as a whole or individually, had never been passed.
What individual rights are established by the Constitution with
respect to voting? Why was the government reluctant to make the
right to vote universal in the past? Why do you think voter turnout
has steadily declined since 1960?
4: The Presidency, Politics, and the Broadcast Media
Guidelines: 1) View debate clips. After each clip, ask students
to identify and compare the characteristics of the image each
candidate projects. Students can use a Venn diagram or chart to
organize their comparisons. Discuss with them their ideas. 2)
View interview clips. Discuss with students the history of the
first Nixon-Kennedy debate in 1960 and how image played an important
role in determining who won.
In your opinion, is a candidate's emphasize on image manipulative?
Why or why not? What image do you find appealing? What kinds of
characteristics would you look for in a candidate? In your opinion,
do women and men convey different images? In what ways? What is
the job of a "spin doctor"? How do they control a candidate's
- Other Resources:
Newspaper headlines, 1988
Guidelines: 1) Discuss with students what type of information
they would need in order to decide whether someone would make
a good president or not. 2) Ask students to formulate the questions
they would ask if they were members of the panel of journalists
in a presidential debate. 3) View the debate clips. Ask students
to compare their questions to the types of questions asked by
the journalists in the clips. Are there differences or similarities?
4) Ask students to compare the questions asked in 1960 to the
questions asked in 1988 and 1996. Discuss with them the differences
and why these differences might exist. 5) Ask students to write
and/or debate about the limits that should be imposed on the questions
asked of candidates in a debate.
What kind of questions do you think should be off limits to candidates?
Compare the questions asked in 1960 to the questions asked in
1988 and 1996. How are they similar? How are they different? How
have our expectations of candidates changed since 1960?