Is there something wrong with democracy?
Last year two New York Times journalists posed this question, pointing to the history and trends of democracies around the world and how the rise of democracy has recently stalled, and in some cases even backslid. In America, we cherish our democracy. Yet even here, experts question the strength of our own democratic system.
The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, which grades democracies around the world each year, downgraded the United States from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” in 2016, a ranking which signifies some infringements in elections, governance problems and low participation in government. We have remained a flawed democracy ever since. Foreign Policy magazine recently published the headline that “Democracy is fighting for it’s life“, stating:
“There is an ongoing assault on democratic norms and values, which has led to the coarsening of the U.S. social fabric and the erosion of unspoken, but vitally important, norms that provide the guardrails of self-government. There is a sense of displacement, dislocation, and despair among large numbers of Americans who feel that the democratic system has grown increasingly unresponsive to their needs and that government is less willing to advocate for their interests. Finally, there is an onslaught by authoritarian powers in Beijing and Moscow, which are using new forms of technology to reach into democratic societies, exacerbate internal tensions, and carve out illiberal spheres of influences.”
What can we as citizens of one of the earliest democracies do?
The New York Times proposed a solution by creating a high school lesson plan to be adapted for use in social studies, history, civics and English classes called “Is Democracy At Risk?” to help students explore why democracy is worth celebrating — AND protecting — in addition to what elements are essential to a healthy democracy and how it is that democracies sometimes fail. The goal is to have students stop and think about what kind of government they want for the kind of society they want to live in — and what role they play as individuals in making that system of government a reality.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Watch the video above.
- Think this is an important topic for Utah students? Share the New York Times’ “Is Democracy At Risk” Lesson Plan with students, teachers, school administrators or school community council members and ask them to incorporate it into high school curricula.