Electing the President: What Makes for a Great President?
This topic is supported by a variety of lessons over a two-week period, with each topic building on the other.
Common Core Standards Correlation:
Key Ideas and Details:
RH.6-8.1. RH.6-8.2. RH.6-8.3.
Craft and Structure:
RH.6-8.4. RH.6-8.5. RH.6-8.6.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
Day One and Two: Qualities of Leadership in a President
A. Introduction (Bell Ringer):
1) Semantic Map/create a Web of ideas for the phrase Qualities of a Leader and write the class responses on the board.
2) With this Semantic Map, have students identify why many Americans believe George Washington was the best president in history.
3) Move to a general review discussion of the HNN Backgrounder, and explain the roles of the president (chief diplomat, executive, and commander-in-chief), and the president’s responsibilities to the American people
Essential Question: What are the qualities that make an effective president of the United States in the 21st century?
B. What does the Constitution assert are the powers of the president?
Have students work in pairs, or groups of three, to read Article 2 of the Constitution, and then create an informational poster on the powers of the President of the United States as understood in the United States Constitution.
Have students present their posters, and then discuss the following:
1) To what extent are the values of leadership from the class list exemplified in the U.S. Constitution?
2) Where do the values from our class list, which we expect the president to uphold, come from?
3) Why doesn’t the Constitution provide these specific values for presidential service?
4) How do we know if a presidential nominee has these qualities?
For a single-day activity, teachers could present their own poster that outlines the information from Article 2 and all its sections, or the video “The Qualities and Qualifications of the President”
Day Three, Four and Five: The Electoral College (OPTIONAL SUPPLEMENT)
A. How does the American system of electing a president compare and contrast with becoming a prime minister in a parliamentary system?
Homework prep: Have students read and/or research how the Electoral College and a parliamentary government election works, and make a diagram of each for their notes. For the Electoral College refer to the University of Missouri's "How the Electoral College Works"; for a parliamentary prime minister, refer to the History Learning Site.
Break the class into eight groups. Evenly assign the following topics to the groups: assess either the strength of the Electoral College, the strength of the parliamentary system, the weakness of the Electoral College, or the weakness of the parliamentary system. Then have the groups share out their responses -- put responses on the board, creating a class chart.
1) Which system would better guarantee that the best man for society wins? Explain. (The students must weigh the pros and cons for each system)
2) Which system best serves the interests of the majority?
B. How have presidential election conflicts between the popular vote and the Electoral College developed?
In class, have students actively read the Introduction to the Electoral College (see attachment) and as a group answer questions 1 – 4
Show the video Election: Presidents and the Constitution
Discuss the conflict between the popular vote and the Electoral College, as exemplified in the Corrupt Bargain of 1828, and the presidential elections of 1876 and 2000.
Refer back to question #5 on the handout: Do you favor replacing the Electoral College with direct popular election of the president? Why or why not?
C. Should the Electoral College be abolished or modified?
Students will debate the question. Based on the arguments below, split the class in two and allow students 10 minutes to prepare and formulate their arguments with examples.
This exercise is an informal debate, which argues the question: Should the Electoral College be replaced with direct popular election of the president?
Arguments for the Electoral College
Arguments for Direct Popular Vote
Enrichment: Students can write a letter to their senator or congressperson either supporting direct popular voting or the Electoral College
Day Six, Seven and Eight: Rate the Presidents
A. What are the qualities of past presidents that are still important in considering today’s president?
1) Assign each student two past presidents from Washington to George W. Bush and assign them to research the achievements and failures of the president’s term(s) in office (you may want to split up FDR’s presidency because of its length and breadth of content). Consider their profession and social status in society as a contributing force in shaping their policies.
1. How technologically developed was society?
2. How did people live on a day-to-day basis that would influence political expectations?
3. What were the general manners and mores of that time’s society?
4. How diverse was the political landscape?
2) Students will present a chart that illustrates their assessment, and includes a well-developed paragraph for each president that justifies their assessment of the president’s term of office (EXCELLENT; VERY GOOD; SATISFACTORY; BELOW SATISFACTORY; FAILURE; DIED TOO EARLY TO ASSESS.)
3) After the presentations have finished, discuss the following:
1. Is there a “type” of president we hold as a standard?
2. To what extent are the values we sought in previous presidents the same as today’s needs/values? Explain.
3. How has society changed that the expectations we have of our president changed?
4. Do we need great presidents or can we get by ok with so-so presidents? Does the president need to be the smartest person in the room?
What are the qualities that make an effective president of the United States in the 21st century?
Have students create a poster campaign of the candidate they support for president in the 2012 election.
Have students create a campaign commercial for the Presidential Election that illustrates the qualities of leadership they believe their candidate has.
Enrichment Beyond the Classroom:
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