How do you choose in an election?
A lesson plan to go with "Election 2008: Where do you stand?" from the October 2008 issue of L.A. Youth. In "Tuned in to this election," Se Kim says that even though most teens can’t vote in the presidential election, it’s still important that they get informed about the candidates and the issues. In "Compare the candidates," Alana Folsom helps teens decide by showing where the candidates stand on the issues that young people care about.
By Amanda Riddle, editor
Subjects: Language Arts, Social Studies, Life Skills, U.S. Government
Suggested Time Allowance: 45 minutes-1 hour.
Overview: Students will examine the important issues in the presidential election and determine where they stand, considering how the issues affect their lives, their community and the world.
• copies of the L.A. Youth articles "Tuned in to this election" and "Compare the candidates." (one per student)
• pens and paper
• white board or blackboard
When asked about the presidential election, many teens say they haven’t paid attention because they can’t vote or it’s too confusing. They say, "The issues don’t affect me," or "All politicians lie" or "It’s boring." But teens should be interested in this election. The new president will make decisions that will affect them, from the environment to the war in Iraq to the cost of college.
Write the names of the two presidential candidates on the board: Barack Obama and John McCain. Ask your students what they know about the candidates and the issues they support. They may mention specific issues, such as that Obama is pro-choice and McCain is pro-life. Or they may say something about their personalities or their lives, such as that McCain was a prisoner of war or that Obama would be the first black U.S. president. Briefly discuss whether the election matters to them. Do the candidates talk about issues your students care about? Do they understand the issues or are the issues confusing? Do they feel informed? Or are there more important things to pay attention to, like schoolwork, friends, family and their hobbies?
Read Se Kim’s article "Tuned in to this election" about why he’s interested in the election on page 9.
These questions could be assigned as a reading comprehension exercise or used in a discussion.
How did Se feel about the 2004 presidential election?
• He didn’t understand the issues when his teachers discussed them in class.
• He felt that since it was the United States, it didn’t matter who was elected because the country’s values would stay the same.
• He thought the election was like a game.
How does Se feel about the current presidential election?
• He says the next president will make a difference in people’s lives.
• He’s interested enough that he’s blogged about the election and talks about it with his government teacher.
• He wrote an article for L.A. Youth to encourage other teens to care.
What made Se change his mind?
• The close Democratic primary showed him that every issue matters.
• He volunteered with the Hillary Clinton campaign and talked to voters who showed him the impact the election would have on their lives.
• He watches CNN and The Daily Show to learn about the issues.
What does Se think are the most important issues and why?
• The war in Iraq because the country is spending money that could be spent on other things, such as healthcare.
• The cost of college because it’s getting more expensive and he wants the next president to help lower the cost or make more money available for financial aid.
• Global warming because he wants the government to spend more money fighting global warming so he and future generations don’t suffer from its consequences.
Next read "Compare the candidates" by Alana Folsom, a comparison of where the candidates stand on the issues, on pages 12-13.
After reading both articles, conclude the class with a discussion about what issues are most important to them and why. If they could vote, who would they vote for and why?
Write a persuasive essay about the issue or issues that matter most to you in this election and why. If there is time, read Elis Lee’s story, "Why I care about healthcare," on layouth.com. Elis says the cost of her medication and her mother’s car accident, which would have cost $50,000 if the family didn’t have health insurance, have made her want the next president to make sure everyone is covered. Note how both Se and Elis use examples from their own lives to show why they care about an issue and how it relates to them.
Ask your students to come up with ways to encourage other teens to be involved in the election and get informed. They could plan a debate or a mock election at school or pass out fliers with information on how to register to vote from Declare Yourself (www.declareyourself.com/