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Designing Utopia

Prepare a set of recommendations that could be used to create an ideal democratic system.

Suggested Activities (selected) Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

Students demonstrate an understanding of the main principles in effective democracies by preparing a set of recommendations for a fictitious country on how to set up a democratic system that will best meet the country's needs.

Rank four democratic systems
Ask students to rank four democratic systems. Students should assign a 1 to the system that least reflects the principles of an effective democracy and a 4 to the system that best exemplifies the principles. Remind the students that effective democracies are:

  • just
  • equitable
  • protect freedoms
  • representative.

In ranking the four systems students will need to assess the degree to which each system reflects these principles.

Four Democratic Systems

System #1

  • Direct representation—one person, one vote
  • Only male property owners over 18 can vote
  • Not all people have their individual rights protected; some groups of people face discrimination
  • Votes are held every 10 days on important topics. Elections are held every year to select leaders.
  • Leaders, generals, judges and treasurers are elected
  • Lesser officials and council members are selected by voters
  • Protection and security most important job of the government

System #2

  • Representative democracy
  • All groups or collectives are considered equal
  • One group can veto any vote
  • Everyone must agree in order for the vote to pass (consensus)
  • Citizens cooperate to determine which rights should be protected
  • Women can appoint men to vote
  • Individuals charged with crimes can have their punishment determined by their community
  • Elections are held once every four years

System #3

  • Representative democracy
  • All citizens over 18 can vote
  • Justices and lower officials are appointed by government leader
  • Protection and security handled by a separate appointed group
  • Protection and security are often more important than the protection of individual rights
  • Election date is determined by government leader

System #4

  • Direct representation—one person, one vote
  • All citizens over 18 can vote
  • All government positions are elected by voters
  • Individual and collective rights are protected by a charter of rights
  • Judges are elected
  • All court cases are decided by jury
  • Consensus is needed to pass a vote
  • Elections are held every month (exceptions for emergency situations)

Students should explain their rationale for ranking each of the democratic systems.

For more information on ranking, see Ranking Options (Support Material).

Recommend the ideal democratic system for a fictitious country
Ask students to use their understanding of the four principles of an effective democracy to outline their vision of an ideal democratic system.

Provide students with the geographic and demographic features of a fictitious country. You may wish to have students develop a description of their own fictitious country including geographic and demographic features. Remind students that the size and location of the country may impact how a democracy might function.

Students should select and describe an appropriate form of democracy—direct or representative, the five most significant rights and the functioning of the justice system. Remind students that their ideal democracies describe how each of the four principles would be met.

Extension: Add a fifth system for a First Nations, Métis or Inuit community
Ask students to create a profile for a fifth democratic system that reflects the governance and decision-making processes common in First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. Encourage students to identify which elements of the profile could be added to the recommendations made for an ideal democratic system. The additional elements should be different from the elements already listed and must advance the four ideals of an effective democracy.

Compare Canada to their utopias
Invite students to compare their ideal democracies to the democracy in Canada. Ask students to consider:

  • Which system has more effective decision-making processes?
  • Which system more effectively protects individual and collective rights?

Present the ideal system for a fictitious country
Encourage students to choose from a variety of mediums to present their utopia, including any of the following:

  • short story
  • slide presentation
  • model with explanatory captions
  • report
  • mind map.
Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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