Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Political Platforms
Mary Barcroft
American Government
Time Frame:
Two days
Political Platforms
Political Parties
Emma Goldman

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

This will be a paired learning activity.  The students will work in pairs analyzing party platforms from 1948 and 2004 or 2008.  The 1948 and 2004 are available on line, and the 2008 should become available after the conventions.


One of the curricular areas for our American Government class includes Parties, Party Platforms and Campaigning.  I thought it would engage the students to compare the issues faced in 1948 with the ones faced by today’s candidates.  It will also give the students a foundation in the issues.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

National Standards:   What are Civic Life, Politics, and Government?

  1. What is civic life? What is politics? What is government? Why are government and politics necessary? What purposes should government serve?
  2. What are alternative ways of organizing constitutional governments?

What are the Foundations of the American Political System?

  1. What is American political culture?
  2. What values and principles are basic to American constitutional democracy?

How Does the Government Established by the Constitution Embody the Purposes, Values, and Principles of American Democracy?

  1. How are power and responsibility distributed, shared, and limited in the government established by the United States Constitution?
  2. How is the national government organized and what does it do?
  3. How does the American political system provide for choice and opportunities for participation?



Missouri State Standards:

2. continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world

3. principles and processes of governance systems

6. relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions

7. the use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents)

Kansas Standards

Benchmark 4: The student identifies and examines the rights, privileges, and responsibilities in becoming an active civic participant.

1. (A) examines the role of political parties in channeling public opinion, allowing people to act jointly, nominating candidates, conducting campaigns, and training future leaders.

2. (K) explains how public policy is formed and carried out at local, state, and national levels and what roles individuals and groups can play in the process.

Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.

1. (A) analyzes a theme in United States history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time.

2. (A) develops historical questions on a specific topic in United States history and analyzes the evidence in primary source documents to speculate on the answers.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • N/A

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
Technology Required:

Computer access or photocopies of platforms 

Full description of activity or assignment.

The teacher will divide the students into and provide each pair with a copy of either the Republican or Democratic party platforms for 1948 and 2004/08 (or the website link for them to access the document)  and a set of instructions/guideline sheet to use when evaluating the documents.  Students will be instructed to first evaluate the document together to determine which parts of the platform are important issues and which elements or planks are put in there for hyperbole(fluff).  After determine what issues are the most important, students will compare the two years to see which issues are still the same, what are new ones that have emerged or old ones which are no longer an issue.  Students are also asked to explain why they think these issues were included in the platform, and which voters might be most likely to support them.  If time allows, have students explain their findings to the class, and lead a class discussion to compare answers.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

Students will be assessed on their time spent on task (participation) and the effort they put into evaluating their documents.  Through the presentations and discussions, students will demonstrate their comprehension of the documents they have examined. In my class, I carry out a mock presidential election, and I will have the students use the information they gather in this project to help prepare their own platforms for their candidates.