1 Lesson Plan: Campaign Finance Reform and the Internet Socratic Seminar Emily Hehman 12th Grade American Government November 13, 2006 2 Campaign Finance Reform Lesson Plan Instructional Model: Socratic Seminar Overview: Over the past few years, the Internet has begun to play a significant role in elections. More and more Americans are using the Internet to research candidates’ positions, to discuss politics, to contribute to candidates’ campaigns, to run or view campaign ads, etc. In the 2004 presidential election Howard Dean amazed the country with the success of his Internet campaign. Because our current students have grown up with the Internet and use it as one of their primary means of research and communication, we have reason to believe that they too will turn to the Internet to discuss or participate in politics. However, the past few years have also seen an attempt to crack down on corruption in campaign financing. The McCain-Feingold bill originally exempted the Internet from regulation by the FEC, however, the courts have required the FEC to specifically define which Internet campaign activities should be regulated and which should not. Questions began to arise as to whether something as simple as creating a link to a candidate’s website on a blog could be considered a violation of campaign finance laws. Because the ruling on Internet campaigning activity will effect how today’s students participate in their first elections, it is important that they understand the issue. Rationale: Rather than teaching the issue of Internet campaigning as a debate or a Structured Academic Controversy, I think it is more beneficial to teach it through a Socratic seminar. The Socratic seminar allows the students to discuss the issue amongst themselves without tying them to one side of the argument. The Socratic seminar allows the students to discuss the issue as a whole. Because the Socratic seminar is based on a text the students gain skills in analyzing an author’s arguments and purpose. The discussion will focus on the issues, ideas, and values of the text. These skills will help them research and form their own opinions in the future. Socratic seminars will also teach students valuable discussion skills. The students will learn to treat each other with respect, to wait their turn to speak, and to “attack” a person’s statement rather than the person. Multiple Objectives: Students will be able to… Academic Objectives: -explain and defend their own position on whether or not the FEC should regulate the Internet Intellectual Objectives: -participate effectively and respectfully in a discussion -analyze a text to determine the author’s purpose, audience, major arguments, values, etc. Related SOLs: -GOVT.6c: “The student will demonstrate knowledge of local, state, and national elections by examining campaign funding and spending.” -GOVT.6d: “The student will demonstrate knowledge of local, state, and national elections by analyzing the influence of media coverage, campaign advertising, and public opinion polls.” Related NCSS standards: 3 -Standard V: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions. “Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of interactions among individuals, groups, and institutions” -Standard VI: Power, Authority, and Governance. “Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of how people create and change structures of power, authority, and governance.” -Standard VIII: Science, Technology, and Society. “Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of relationships among science, technology, and society.” -Standard X: Civic Ideals and Practices: “Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of the ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic.” Grade Level: This lesson is designed to be used with 12th grade American Government students. Course: Because this lesson focuses on campaign finance reform, it is designed to be used in a 12th grade American Government course. Time: This lesson should extend no longer than a fifty minute class block, although introductory lessons on campaign finance reform could occur during the previous lesson. The lesson should be conducted during a unit on elections. Materials: -Computer -PowerPoint lesson on Campaign Finance Reform -sufficient copies of the text the students have to read for the discussion: “What’s at Stake” by Leslie Harris (handed out as homework before the day of the discussion) -sufficient copies of the student tickets -sufficient copies of the PowerPoint notes Procedure: I. Hand out the reading and the ticket for the students to complete for homework. This should be given out at least the class period before the discussion, if not earlier. II. Using the PowerPoint lesson on campaign finance reform, teach an introductory lesson on campaign finance reform and the McCain-Feingold Act. The students will be given a copy of the PowerPoint notes to follow along. (10 min.) II. Arrange the desks into a circle. (3 min.) III. Discuss the rules for the discussion. (Students do not have to raise their hands, but they should not interrupt each other. They should treat each other with respect. If they disagree with a fellow student’s statement, they should address the statement not the person. Students should ground their statements in the text.) Ask the students what they think contributes to a good discussion. Use their answers to 4 develop your class rules for the discussion. This list of rules should include those discussed above. (3 min.) IV. Warm-Up activity: Ask the students to turn to their neighbor and discuss the answer to one of the questions on their ticket or talk about their feelings on the issue of Internet regulations. While this is going on the teacher should walk around and check the students’ tickets to make sure that they are completed. (3 min.) V. The teacher starts the discussion by asking the students a question (from the list provided below). After presenting the question, the teacher takes on the role of observer and facilitator. The teacher should make sure that the students adhere to the rules of the Socratic seminar. He or she should not direct the discussion but can ask the students to clarify a point or remind the students to refer to the text. If needed the teacher can ask further questions to keep the discussion flowing. (20 min.) VI. When there are ten minutes left in class the teacher should stop the discussion and allow the students to debrief. The teacher should ask the students to discuss their feelings about the discussion (what went well, what could be improved). (10 min.) Assessment: Students will be asked to write a short essay, one to two paragraphs, explaining their own views on the issue of Internet regulation under the FEC. Within this essay the students should identify whether they think the internet SHOULD or SHOULD NOT be regulated. If they think that it should, the students should identify which Internet activities should be regulated and why. If they do not think it should be regulated, the students should explain why. The students should also explain how their decision, regulation of the Internet or a lack of regulation, would affect election campaigns. While these short essays should describe the students’ opinions on the issues, the students should include ideas from the article and the discussion to support their opinions. Modifications: Some of the students in my class have difficulty taking notes so for this particular lesson I will provide copies of notes from my PowerPoint lesson. This will not only help those students who struggle with taking notes, but it will also help that segment of the lesson move more quickly so we can focus on the discussion. Ticket Questions: 1. What does Leslie Harris think is “at stake” if the FEC regulates Internet campaigning? 2. Why did Leslie Harris write this article? What was her purpose? Who was her target audience? Discussion Questions: 1. Why doesn’t Leslie Harris think that the Internet should be regulated? 2. How does Leslie Harris think that the Internet democratizes elections? 5 3. Why does the Center for Democracy and Technology consider the Internet a First Amendment forum? 4. Whose interests are the CDT looking out for? 5. If the goal of McCain-Feingold was to reduce/eliminate the power of big money interests in elections, how does the Internet achieve that goal? or Why would restricting campaigning on the Internet be counterproductive to the goals of campaign finance reform? 6. Can the Internet make politics more accessible to the people? 7. According to Leslie Harris, what roles can the Internet play in elections?