Website Tool To Teach Democracy in American Schools

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How Much Do You Really Know About Democracy?

As Presidents’ Day weekend draws near, Freedom House says it is likely that few Americans will take the time to reflect on what makes our democracy work and the importance of democracy in shaping world events.

Democracy Web ( www.democracyweb.org ) is a new website jointly created by Freedom House and the Albert Shanker Institute to be used by schools throughut America as an educational tool that sets out our experience with democracy, and compares that experience to every other country in the world, including those whose citizens have neither a vote nor a voice.

Democracy Web contains an interactive global Map of Freedom and an online study guide to help secondary school and college-level educators as they prepare lesson plans for their students.

Freedom in the World

The materials found on the website based on the annual Freedom House comparative survey and map of political rights and civil liberties around the world, and the Albert Shanker Institute’s Education for Democracy statement.

The Albert Shanker Institute recommends studying what happens in nondemocratic countries, so that students really understand what democracy really means.

“Democracy’s survival depends upon our transmitting to each new generation the political vision of liberty and equality that unites us as Americans,” said Randi Weingarten, formerly a social studies and civics teacher, now president of the American Federation of Teachers and the Albert Shanker Institute. “Democracy Web is unique in that it not only teaches the fundamentals of democracy, but also allows teachers and students to make comparisons among the world’s political systems.”

Freedom House says The Map of Freedom found on the website “vividly illustrates the state of global freedom, separating countries into Free, Partly Free, and Not Free categories using the findings of Freedom in the World. Each country profile provides basic information as well as links to other survey results, country assessments, and special reports published by Freedom House.”

What Are The Components Of Freedom?

Albert Shanker Institute logo

The study guide includes “an overview essay on the history and architecture of democracy, followed by 12 chapters, discussing the history and meaning of a fundamental democratic principle, such as free elections, human rights, freedom of association, and the rule of law. Each chapter also profiles three countries – one Free, one Partly Free, and one Not Free – to help illustrate the principle in practice. The study guide concludes with a list of helpful links and related resources,” Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director said.

“Our schools must teach students that democracy is not only about the importance of voting, but about the rule of law, freedom of the press and speech, freedom of religion, and the whole range of rights and responsibilities that many people take for granted,” said Diane Ravitch, an education historian and former U.S. assistant secretary of education who served as an advisor on the project.