Lesson Title: Great DebatesSubjectsHistory, U.S. Government, CivicsEstimated TimeThree 50-minute class periodsGrade Level7-12ObjectiveTo analyze campaign issues and to practice formal debate procedures andelements of logic. Extension activities address the history of presidentialelection debates and the importance of rhetoric and word choice in debates.OverviewThe class learns, studies and replicates logical fallacies and techniques ofpersuasion. Examples are drawn from actual debate statements by John F.Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Mitt Romney.Students then watch the satirical We The Voters film, which presents twoSenators discussing global warming and committing constant logical errors,pausing to discuss each logical fallacy.Students then hold a debate of their own, focusing on a major issue thatemerges from an actual 2020 Biden-Trump presidential debate. Eightstudents on two debate teams compose arguments and practice debating. Ondebate day, the class members choose the winning team and try to catchdebaters in logic errors.Upcoming debates fall on these dates:September 29, Case Western Reserve University, ClevelandOctober 7 (Vice Presidential debate), University of Utah, Salt Lake CityOctober 15, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, MiamiOctober 22, Belmont University, Nashville PBS Education, 2016All rights reserved.
Materials We The Voters satirical filmCopies of Student HandoutsoHandout #1: Techniques of Persuasion and Logical FallaciesoHandout #2: Debate Watch NotesoHandout #3: Debate BallotoHandout #4: Debate Arguments TemplateoHandout #5: History of the Presidential DebatesoHandout #6: A Note on Fact Checking (Extension Activity)oHandout #7: Words Count (Extension Activity) Stopwatch/timer Paper or ribbon debate winner badges (optional)ProcedureDay One: Logical Fallacies Study and We the Voters FilmDistribute Handout #1: Techniques of Persuasion and Logical Fallacies.Students may work singly or in pairs to complete their own examples of thelogical fallacies, and to explain the four examples of fallacies used byKennedy, Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Romney. Review answers in wholeclass discussion.Play the tongue-in-cheek We The Voters film which shows two Senators usingmost of the fallacies that students have just learned during a debate on globalwarming. Instruct students to identify the logical fallacies as they watch, andthen play the film a second time, pausing to allow students to identify eachfallacy.We the Voters on Vimeo.Homework, Day One:Instruct students to watch the presidential debate that evening, and to recordtheir own analysis on Handout #2: Debate Watch Notes. As they watch,students should note any examples of fallacies in the candidates’ responses.Remind students that the emerging issues may surprise them. For example, in PBS LearningMedia, 2015All rights reserved.
the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debate, no one could have predicted that a wholepresidential debate would center on Quemoy and Matsu, two small islandsnear Taiwan.Day Two: Preparing the Classroom DebateDistribute Handout #3: Debate Ballot. In discussion with the whole class, andreferring to the debate issues of the night before, select a debate resolution.Remember that the resolution must always be written in the positive format,i.e. “The United States should strengthen rejoin international treaties with Iran”not “A war with Iran would be a mistake.”Choose eight students in each class for each of the two debate teams. Eachteam selects its own debate slots, based on the roles defined in Handout #3:Debate Ballot.[Note for teacher guidance to the teams: Students who are nervous about orfear public speaking or debating could be encouraged to choose OpeningStatement, which can be prepared beforehand and simply read. Studentsmore comfortable with debating can do the Rebuttal Argument. Students mostconfident of their ability to think quickly on their feet could be encouraged tochoose Question Session. The most eloquent speakers could be encouragedto choose the Summary slots. A good comparison for explaining why thedebate is sequenced between two teams is the order of games in a sportschampionship series.]The eight debating students will then work outside the classroom and forhomework, if necessary on the phone at night, to prepare their arguments,using Handout #4: Debate Arguments Template.While debate teams are working, review Handout #5: History of thePresidential Debates with the rest of the class. Have students read thepresidential debate summaries dating back to the 1960 election and discussthe following questions as a class:1. What debate would you like to have been present for? Why?2. How could some of the highlights from these debates have swayed theelectorate? Would you have been swayed in the same way? PBS LearningMedia, 2015All rights reserved.
3. How might televising the debates have influenced who had the strongerperformance?4. Does the electorate deserve to see how the candidates will do under thestress of a nationally televised debate? Explain.You may want to go to YouTube after you have read through the summariesto watch the debates, for example:Kennedy Nixon First Debate1960: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v QazmVHAO0osReagan debatesinterview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v T43EzCUtSwQBush Clinton Debate,1992: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v 7ffbFvKlWqEObama Romney final debate,2012: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v 5z0WrEb6p6IDay Three: Classroom DebateHold the debate in class. While you give the debaters five final minutes forreview before starting the debate, hand out fresh copies of Handout #3:Debate Ballot, which are used as the students’ ballots. Emphasize the rules atthe bottom about objectivity, as well as the observers’ extra credit opportunity.Time each portion of the debate carefully, using a timer or stopwatch. Thedebate itself takes 30 minutes. Allow only five minutes for students to marktheir ballots and to fill out the extra credit portion, if they wish to do so.Collect the ballots. Tally the ballots on the board, reading an occasional “Thisteam won the debate because ” if there is time. Excitement is high at thispoint; be sure you’ve finished the tally before the bell rings!Consider awarding the winning debaters their “Debate Champion” blueribbons (real or paper). Grade the debate ballots, using any number of pointsand extra credit you wish to use.Extension Activities Handout #6: A Note on Fact Checking reviews three principal fact checkingsites, as well as two fact-checks of remarks made at the 2016 Democraticand Republican National Conventions, and includes discussion questions. Handout #7: Words Count deals with the use of rhetoric, and key quotesfrom past presidential and vice-presidential debates. PBS LearningMedia, 2015All rights reserved.
StandardsCommon Core State StandardsCCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient pointsin a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples;use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.4 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient pointsin a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and wellchosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.4 Present information, findings, and supportingevidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line ofreasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate topurpose, audience, and task.CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.4 Present information, findings, and supportingevidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow theline of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and theorganization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience,and a range of formal and informal tasks.Standards from Social Studies for the Next Generation: the College. Career, andCivic Life (C3) FrameworkD2Civ.2.9-12 Analyze the role of citizens in the U.S. political system.D2Civ.4.9-12 Explain how the U.S. Constitution establishes a system of governmentthat has powers, responsibilities, and limits that have changed over time and that arestill contested.D2Civ.5.9-12 Evaluate citizens' and institutions' effectiveness in addressing social andpolitical problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.D2Civ.9.9-12 Use appropriate deliberative processes in multiple settings.D2Civ.14.9-12 Analyze historical, contemporary, and emerging means of changingsocieties, promoting the common good, and protecting rights.Center for Civic Education National Standards for Civics and GovernmentConflicts among values and principles in American political and social life: Studentsshould be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions on issues in which fundamentalvalues and principles may be in conflict.Political communication: television, radio, the press, and political persuasion: Studentsshould be able to evaluate historical and contemporary political communication usingsuch criteria as logical validity, factual accuracy, emotional appeal, distorted evidence,appeals to bias or prejudice. PBS LearningMedia, 2015All rights reserved.