The Future of Affirmative Action


On June 4, 1965, in a speech at Howard University, in Washington D.C., President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced Executive Order 11873. This order began the first of the federal government's affirmative action programs. Since that time these programs have become a major topic of debate among, not only government officials at all levels of government, but among the general population of the United States.

You have been asked to represent a particular interested group before a Senate subcommittee which is charged to determine the future of federal affirmative action programs in this country. Among the groups represented will be American Indian Movement, NAACP, The United Farm Workers, The Christian Coalition, National Organization for Women, The Eagle Forum, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

Some of these organizations are very much in favor of affirmative action and some are very much opposed to these programs. Your role is to accept the position of the organization you are assigned to represent and prepare a high powered presentation that is not based solely on an emotional plea, but has the solid evidence necessary to convince this Senate subcommittee of which course of action to pursue.



Begin by reading the 1965 speech by Lyndon Johnson which started the idea of federal affirmative action. It is important that you pay special attention to the hard evidence he has to support his idea. You should then discuss exactly what Affirmative Action is, fact and myth. This discussion will center on giving hard evidence to back up whatever thoughts you have on the subject.


A general Net Search under the words Affirmative Action will provide a great variety of sources. The following are some specific sites which will prove very useful.

Learning Advice

This is designed to be a student centered activity. You are to make meaning out of the assignment by deciding what ideas are important and how you should approach your task.  Develop the important questions as a group and allow time to do the research. You will be speaking before a Senate subcommittee, your dress, speech and actions should reflect such.

Demonstrate a clear understanding of the topic. Reading to the class from a piece of paper does not demonstrate understanding. This only demonstrates the ability to read. Consider using a laser disk or video segment to help demonstrate the point you are trying to make. Consider how to get the entire class involved.

If available, HyperStudio, HyperCard or PowerPoint are very useful presentation tools and very good methods for further incorporating technology into the presentation.


Your evaluation will be the presentation with a subsequent essay.
An effective presentation should include the following elements:

The key to your essay should be the use of specific, hard evidence. You should draw on evidence presented by groups representing both sides of the issue. While there is a place for the emotional argument, to rely completely on emotions is not an effective method. The best argument would incorporate facts and figures which give specific numbers both in terms of money and people to how your plan would benefit those from all walks of life and benefit the country as a whole.

Teacher Notes

Grade Level/Unit:

H/SS Content Standards:

11.11 Students analyze the major social problems and domestic policy issues in contemporary American society, in terms of: the federal, state and local governments have responded to demographic and social changes such as population shifts to the suburbs, racial concentrations in the cities, Frostbelt to Sunbelt migration, international migration, decline of the family farm, increase in out of wedlock births, and drug abuse

Grade Level/Unit:

Grade12 - Political Democracy

H/SS Content Standards:

12.10 Students formulate questions about and defend their analyses of tensions within the U.S. constitution a democracy and the importance of maintaining a balance between these concepts (e.g., majority rule and individual rights, liberty and equality, state and national authority in a federal system, civil disobedience and the rule of law, freedom of the press and right to a fair trial, the relationship of religion and government) 

Historical and Social Sciences Analysis Skills: Grades 9-12

Historical Research, Evidence and Point of View
4.students construct and test hypotheses; collect, evaluate and employ information from multiple primary and secondary sources; and apply it in oral and written presentations


Lesson Length:
Four or five days for research and presentation

Learning Advice:
Many times I require an audience participation activity which forces each group to get the entire class physically involved in the presentation. In this particular activity, perhaps the class can play the part of Senators. Liberal groups could be liberal Senators and conservative groups could be conservative Senators. They could then cross examine the group making the presentation. Liberal Senators would ask questions friendly to the liberal groups and conservative Senators would ask questions friendly to the conservative groups and vice versa.

I have the students grade each group as well as grading the group myself. Students grade on four broad categories:

  1. Quality of Information
  2. How much did they make you think
  3. The use of technology
  4. Enthusiasm

Each category is worth 5 points so a perfect score is 20. I then average the grades given by class and count this as one half of the presentation grade. The grade I give is the other half. I have been pleasantly surprised over the years how close the class average comes to my grade.

As a follow-up to the presentation, I would suggest an essay that requires each student to develop a compromise plan. Taking information from each presentation, each student should create a plan they feel would be fair to all parties involved. They must then defend the plan they have created.

Michael Ballard
Canyon High School
William S. Hart School District
Last Revised: 03/28/06