Super Civics 2020: Highlights from the South Carolina Democratic Debate

Wednesday, February 26, 2020
South Carolina Democratic Debate stage


South Carolina Democratic Debate: What Are the Roles of Moderators and the Audience?

From the PBS NewsHour’s Dan Bush: “If there was any doubt that Sen. Bernie Sanders’ rivals see him as their main threat, it was erased at the debate Tuesday night in Charleston, South Carolina. Sanders, who was center stage, faced the most direct attacks of any candidate, reflecting his status as the frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic primary race. Watch the video and answer the questions. You can turn on the “CC” (closed-captions) function and read along with the transcript hereWatch the South Carolina debate on CBS here. Watch highlights here.



*Read this story with your students: 4 takeaways from the contentious South Carolina debate (Mini-lesson: Break your students into groups and have them summarize one of the takeaways from the article. Then share with the class and discuss your reaction to them.)

The debate came just four days before the South Carolina primary, where former Vice President Joe Biden is ahead in the polls, as he seeks his first victory of the 2020 primaries. It was also the last debate before Super Tuesday on March 3, when more than 40 percent of the delegates in the Democratic nominating process will be awarded.”

South Carolina Democratic Debate: Discussion Questions

  1. Essential question: What makes for a strong debate performance?
  2. What is the job of the moderators during a debate? Do you think the moderators should have done more to take control of the debate, including preventing candidates from talking over each other? Explain.
  3. What issues did the moderators ask the candidates about in South Carolina’s Democratic debate? What issues would you have liked the moderators to ask about? Play this video by PBS’ Student Reporting Labs (SRL) of students asking questions. What questions are missing?
  4. Media literacy: Short one-minute updates can be helpful when you’re on the go, but what are some of the drawbacks of watching just short recaps of an event?
  5. Media literacy: What role did the audience play in Tuesday night’s debate? Note that tickets came from sponsors of the debate and ranged from $1,750 to $3,000 a person. Who may have a hard time getting access to tickets? Does the makeup of the audience give a skewed view of debaters’ performance? Explain.

South Carolina Democratic Debate: Extension Activities

Try this lesson plan on polls called "Polling Pitfalls."


south carolina democratic debate extension activity on polling pitfalls


If you are looking for debate activities for your students, check these two out:

  1. Democratic Debate activity for South Carolina Feb. 25, 2020: Have students use this short #DemDebate Handout as they watch the debate. Students choose 3 issues and record what the candidates’ said and share how well they think the candidates responded.
  2. Create a #DemDebate BINGO sheet and discuss in class the next day.