PLAN: Political Commercials: Leading or Misleading Voters
Syd Golston, Dean of Students at Alhambra High School in Phoenix, Arizona
Government, civics, social studies
One 50-minute class (with preceding homework over a weekend to find the TV spot,
and additional time if the teacher desires the class to film the "dirtiest commercial.")
Learning elements of logic, analyzing political media, and creative
synthesis of this material.
student watches television for homework and records, on paper, a candidate's commercial.
(Students may also find political spots online.)
analyze the commercials they find for logical fallacies.
of students use a storyboard template to make their own commercial for a fictitious
candidate, using the techniques and fallacies they've learned; they make the "dirtiest"
commercial they can.
best commercial in each class may be produced and filmed, as an extension of the
the high school is a PBS Partner High School, the filmed commercials can be sent
to the local affiliate station, which may wish to do a story on this activity.
to National Standards
One (a Friday):
out the Logical Fallacies page. Practice
by taking examples aloud until the students have good grasp of the logical fallacies.
students to go back to their homework, an actual political commercial which they
recorded over the weekend, and to find at least one example of a fallacy, if they
can. Ask students to raise their hands and volunteer some examples they found.
students and hand out a Storyboard sheet
to each pair.
around and coach the pairs as they write their "dirty tricks" commercials
for fictitious candidates, using as many logical fallacies as possible.
One (a Friday): Assignment of Weekend Homework
to your teacher's description of this activity. You will be recording a political
commercial on television this weekend, learning some tricks of logic and persuasion
commonly used in political spots, and writing a political commercial of your own
with a partner in class.
the weekend, keep your VCR set up to record a commercial by a candidate in the
2004 elections. (You may want to record more than one.) The commercial can be
for a local or statewide candidate. Play the commercial over a few times until
you have transcribed most of what is said and shown, on the handout Recording
a Political Commercial.
you do not have a video recorder, try to transcribe a commercial as quickly as
you can while it runs on television.
the logical fallacies with your class. Practice inventing some of your own as
you learn each one, in the spaces provided.
back to your own homework, Recording a Political Commercial. What are the logical
fallacies in the commercial you recorded?
the partner your teacher has designated for you, write a commercial for a candidate
you invent, on the Storyboard. Use for your commercial statements actual issues
in your community or state - or national issues, if your fictitious candidate
is running for Congress. Document the logical fallacies you and your partner have
used, on the side of the storyboard.
The class can collaborate with a drama or media
section to produce the best of the phony commercials; the teacher might choose
the winner, or the teacher could display all the storyboards and class members
could vote on all of the submissions with colored dots.
to NCSS and Civitas Standards
Council for the Social Studies Standards, X: Civic Ideals and Practices: g. practice
forms of civic discussion and participation consistent with the ideals of citizens
in a democratic republic.
Standards (National Standards for Civics and Government): "Political communication:
television, radio, the press, and political persuasion," page 118
the Author Author Syd Golston is an educational administrator, curriculum
writer and historian. She taught secondary Social Studies for 20 years, wrote
lessons and in-serviced teachers in 40 states as Supervisor of Education for Kids
Voting USA, and serves now as Dean of Students at Alhambra High School in Phoenix,
Arizona. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Council for
the Social Studies.