Why is democracy so difficult?: A Case study of Sierra Leone Ranking the Elements of Democracy

At one point in Sierra Leone’s history, it was considered the Athens of West Africa.  However, Sierra Leone has endured a long history of imperialism and a civil war that destroyed much of the infrastructure of the state.  What are the major factors that challenge the prospects for a democracy in Sierra Leone?

For this blog, you must:

1. Research eight aspects of democracy and standard of living in Sierra Leone.  Two years ago, your predecessors did a lot of research.  Use their research as a guide for developing your argument for this blog.  Click here to access their research.  As you read, consider what you have learned this year about democracy and what factors are essential to a successful, lasting democratic society. Keep in mind you will be using this information to rank the eight factors; a task which requires analysis, not summarization. Is a free press more esstential than fair elections? Is the ability to form political parties more critical than the rule of law? The absence of these factors was a catalyst for the French Revolution, the American Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution as well as the current uprisings in the Arab world. How important is a thriving middle class? You must determine which factor is the most important and least important and defend your opinion on the “ranking” wiki page.

2. Using a scale of 1 through 8, rank the elements of democracy according to their importance to a sustainable democracy (1 being least significant and 8 being the most significant).

3. Below your list, write one paragraph defending your most significant element and one paragraph for your choice of the least important element. Use two specific examples, one from Sierra Leone and one from another country of your choice.

Education

Independent Judiciary

Health

Rule/Respect of Law

Freedom of the Press

Social Stratification/Social Mobility

Free Elections

Pluralism (multi-party system)

This Blog will be DUE Wednesday, May 30th at midnight.  50 points!

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Life in the United States Would be Perfect if Everyone was Equal

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We are about to read George Orwell’s notorious novella, Animal Farm.  In this novella, Orwell writes about a world where animals overthrow the oppressive farmer Mr. Jones and try to construct a society based on the founding principal that “All animals are equal.”  As we read Animal Farm, you will soon discover that the animal society is not so different from human society.  Many societies have attempted to implement this idea of equality at the onset of a revolution.  For example, the motto of the French Revolution was “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité”  Likewise, at the onset of the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson set the tone when he wrote that “All men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence. In both the Russian and Chinese Revolutions, revolutionary leaders gained support among the peasants and workers by embracing the socialist idea that class differences should be erased to achieve equality.

In all of these revolutions, people became captivated by this vision of a life filled with equality.  However, what exactly is equality?  Does equality mean that everyone receives the same opportunities?  Does equality mean that everyone deserves the same paycheck?  Does equality mean that everyone should pay the same taxes?  Does equality mean that everyone should have an equal voice in government?  Does equality mean that everyone should expect the same standard of living?  Does equality mean that everyone has the same athleticism and intelligence? Is equality actually a feasible goal or is it just a lofty ideal that will always lay beyond our reach?

Before you begin reading Animal Farm, explore your own attitude on this concept. In a thoughtful, five paragraph argument, respond to the following prompt:

Life in the United States would be perfect if everyone were equal.  Agree, disagree, or qualify. 

Your argument blog must include:

1. Thesis statement

2. A “statement of context” that includes three specific points.

3. Three body paragraphs that coincide with your thesis/statement of context.  Your should support your ideas with at least one example from the class discussion, at least one example from 2081, and  a reference to another student’s blog.

4. Concluding statement

This blog will be DUE the morning of Thursday, February 1 for both Ms. Houlahan and Ms. Kindred.  This blog will be DUE at 9 p.m. on February 2 for Ms. Wantz.  

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The Haves and Have Nots—What is the Best Way to Deal with the Inequalities Between the Social Classes?

In the Industrial Revolution, men with ambition, initiative and often greed developed companies and built factories.  They were an integral part in the creation of products that changed the world.  They became extremely wealthy often times at the expense of workers who worked upwards of sixteen hours days under dangerous conditions for little pay.  Innovation defined the societies of Europe and the United States, but so did class differences.

These class differences are still present today.  In the United States, movements on the far right in the name of the Tea Party and on the far left in the name of Occupy Wall Street have emerged.  While their methods are vastly different, their complaint is the same—They blame the elite (top 1%) of society for the problems in the United States today.

Which approach do you think is the best way to handle the growing tension between classes? 

Are you a capitalist tried and true?  Do you think that the economy thrives on competition?  Do you subscribe to Adam Smith’s theory that an invisible hand guides a mutually beneficial exchange of goods in a free market?  Do you believe that government regulation of the economy would severely damage it?

Or, are you in favor of trade unions?  Do you believe that workers should be able to organize to express their grievances against their employer?  Do you believe that workers should be able to strike for higher wages and improved working conditions?

On the other hand, are you a utopian socialist like Robert Owen?  Do favor an economic system that favors cooperation over competition?  Do favor a system where the government owns and controls parts of the economy and distributes the wealth equally among the people?

Are you a communist?  Do you subscribe to the ideas of Karl Marx who says that society is “more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie (middle class) and Proletariat (workers).”  Do you believe that class differences will one day become so intense that the workers will violently overthrow the wealthy and form a classless society?

Or, are you a social democrat?  Do you believe that Congress should pass bills providing services to protect workers?

Defend your ideas about how society should handle class conflict with evidence.  Your response should be at least 400 words.  This blog post is due Monday, October 10 @ midnight

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Plato’s Allegory of the Cave–Does this allegory have relevance in our world today?

Plato's Allegory of the Cave

In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, he describes a world where prisoners live chained in a cave.  The puppeteers cast shadows on the wall and these shadows construct reality for the prisoners.  One of the prisoners breaks free and leaves the cave.  At first, he is blinded by the sun and apprehensive about the new world.  The shadows in the cave had always seemed so real to him.  After he has spent some time in this new world, he realizes that his entire existence has been controlled by others and he now knows the truth.  Thousands of years later, is this allegory relevant to our lives today?  Do we live in a cave where reality is constructed by someone else?  Conversely, is this allegory outdated?  Has the internet, public education, and improvements in transportation metaphorically killed the puppeteer?  Is our world more transparent than it ever has been?

Your post should be at least 250 words.  Dig into the heart of this prompt and pair specific examples with broad generalizations.  This blog will by due on September 6 at 11:59 p.m.

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Hopes, Fears, and Expectations!

For your very first blog post, I want you to introduce yourself to the rest of the sophomores.  What are some of your hopes, fears, and expectations about your sophomore year?  These can be personal and/or academic.  What, if anything, do you want to change from freshman year?  What is unique about you and how do you want to share this with the rest of the class?

Posted in Uncategorized, World History | 155 Comments