Students recognize the characteristics of exemplary politicians who model accountability by designing a certificate of merit to be awarded to those who meet clearly established criteria.
Present a scenario
Tell the students to imagine that a group of citizens wants to encourage politicians to act with fairness and honesty. They have decided to award a certificate of merit each year to those politicians who have been role models for other politicians and for citizens. You have been asked to identify the criteria that would be used to decide who is recognized and to design the certificate.
Provide students with a variety of examples of general accountability, such as time clocks at a factory, late passes, homework checks and cleaning checklists in the bathroom at a fast-food restaurant. Using these examples, students begin to define accountability. Provide students with dictionary definitions or excerpts from a thesaurus. Invite them to revise their own definitions using the new information.
For more information, see Defining Terms (Support Material).
Determine criteria for accountability
Lead a class discussion on the characteristics associated with accountability by asking, "How do we know if someone is really accountable?" Students should determine the criteria for exemplary accountability. These criteria might include the following:
- actions are clear and up front
- willingness to accept responsibility for decisions and actions
- actions reflect the concerns of citizens
- actions attempt to balance needs of various groups.
Consider homelessness and accountability
Present students with the following example:
During the summer of 2007 homelessness became a prominent issue in Edmonton as tents and other makeshift shelters for children and parents expanded. Often, those living in the tent communities were forced to relocate. When Premier Ed Stelmach visited one of these makeshift tent communities on July 19, 2007, he made a statement to the press saying everyone would have permanent shelter and be cared for.
What actions would the premier need to take to be considered accountable for his promise? To answer this question, students should consider the criteria and what concrete actions would be taken to meet the criteria.
Ask students how citizens can best hold politicians accountable. In other words, what actions should citizens take? Suggestions may include protests and elections, as well as voicing concerns to the MLAs, councillors and school board trustees.
Design a certificate of merit for accountability
Ask students to work in groups or independently to design a certificate of merit for a government official or group that has demonstrated exemplary accountability. Provide a list of people for consideration or create a list with the students. Individuals should be prominent enough that students can gather evidence in media sources and by limited independent research. Completed certificates can be presented or delivered to the recipients.
The certificate should include this information:
- name of recipient
- role of recipient
- criteria for exemplary accountability
- reasons for recognition (how the recipient has met the criteria)
- name of person(s) who signs the certificate
- date awarded.
See Certificate of Merit (Lesson Material) for a sample template of a certificate of merit.