Students assess and rate the extent to which contemporary political and economic systems reflect the principles (30-1) or values (30-2) of liberalism by analyzing the political and economic practices of an assigned system.
Assess the extent to which political and economic practices of assigned systems reflect the principles (30-1) or values (30-2) of liberalism.
Ask each student to complete the following statement by writing two or three possible endings: "I would know that I was living in a liberal democracy if I observed ... ." For example, students might suggest the following endings:
"I would know that I was living in a liberal democracy if I observed...
- an election that was fair and open."
- an election that allowed everyone an opportunity to participate."
- an election in which the elected officials were held accountable to the people who elected them."
- an election where there was little or no evidence that wealth or social status influenced the outcome."
Organize students into small groups and guide them in checking each other's statements for clarity and accuracy. Randomly select students to share one of their statements to ensure that they are on track.
Identify principles and values of a liberal democracy
To build on the students' understanding of the concept of liberalism as expressed in the sentence statements, invite them to brainstorm the principles (30-1) or values (30-2) that characterize a liberal democracy. This list may include the protection of individual and collective rights, economic freedom, the rule of law and government accountability. These principles and values of a liberal democracy may be used as the criteria by which students will assess the political and economic practices of an assigned system. Additional criteria may be determined by the students.
To meet diverse learning needs, you may wish to provide students with an example of a country or territory that meets the criteria, such as Britain, and a country or territory that does not meet the criteria, such as North Korea.
Examine political and economic systems
Invite students to assess the degree to which the criteria (principles and values) are reflected in the political and economic practices of an assigned country or territory. Assign teams of four or five students one country or territory to research using online resources including atlases. The range of countries and territories researched should reflect various perspectives, regions, political systems and states of economic development. Some of the countries or territories to consider could include the following:
- United States
- South Africa.
Suggest that each team member take responsibility for researching one particular criterion of the assigned country or territory. Instruct students in using the Liberalism Rating Card (Lesson Material). Encourage students to find up to three examples of the absence and/or presence of each criterion and to record examples of supporting evidence.
You may want to discuss with students that while some countries or territories claim to meet the criteria of a liberal democracy, some of their actions and policies may not always reflect the principles and values of liberalism. For example, in countries that appear to be founded upon liberal principles and values (such as Canada and the United States), many important government positions are filled by executive appointment rather than elections. Such practices might be criticized as being illiberal (30-1) or counter to the values of liberalism (30-2).
Invite students to speculate on the kinds of unstated or hidden reasons why countries or territories do or do not always reflect the criteria of a liberal democracy. Reasons might include economics, politics, environmental concerns, competition for resources, ideology, military security or religion. Encourage students to consider why the country or territory does not reflect the criteria despite claims of being a liberal democracy. (Note that 30-1 outcomes ask students to analyze examples where "liberal democracies reflect illiberal thought and practices," and 30-2 outcomes ask students to examine examples of government practices that "may not reflect the values of liberalism.")
- Rate political and economic systems according to the degree to which liberal principles (30-1) or values (30-2) are reflected.
Rate the countries and share findings
Ask students to assess the degree to which the criteria for a liberal democracy are present or absent in the assigned country or territory. To make the assessment, students may use the data they gathered for the Liberalism Rating Card (Lesson Material). In the Overall Rating Scale, a 1 represents a country or territory that reflects few or none of the criteria of a liberal democracy while a 4 represents a country or territory that reflects most or all of the criteria of a liberal democracy. Remind students to include evidence to support their ratings.