DoNow: Does Democracy Work?

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All Grade 9 learners at the Maples Met are being asked to consider the following question: Does democracy work?

This question arises from current affairs, namely the recent US election and the rise of Russia’s global power and influence. It also arises from the annual Glassen Essay Contest facilitated by the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics.

Recently, Canada has gone through a federal election and we have witnessed a provincial election here in Manitoba. Both of these elections offered points of discussion related to electoral reform and concepts such as first-past-the-post.

These recent events beg the question as to whether or not democracy actually works in 2016. What do you think? Does Democracy work?

To begin, we need to conduct some research and answer some guiding questions (and perhaps Crash Course can help begin the discussion):

What is democracy? What is the difference between democracy and liberal democracy? Is democracy just voting, or more? Here is a great opinion piece from Al Jazeera which looks at the state of democracy and also touches on some key concepts.

When and why democracy? Democracy has not and is not the norm. What is the history of the evolution of democracy? Here is a great BBC timeline of the continuity and change of democracy. Similarly, the Nobel Prize has a great map  will help us ground our thinking in history.

Here is a great article for the New York Times which looks at the stability and longevity of democracies. Also here is a fantastic interview conducted by Michael Enright of CBC’s The Sunday Edition with renowned political philosopher Michael Sandel. In this interview, Sandel speaks to the state of democracy.

Your final product will of course be a submission to the Glassen Essay Contest. In the meantime please comment below or via Twitter (using #DoNowDemocracy) to further our discussion and/or share resources.

You can add resources to the Padlet located here.

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Refugee Simulation: The Experiential Cycle

Last week, three students in my Global Issues class organized a refugee simulation experience for our school as part of their Take Action Project. Muuxi Adam, a Somalian refugee and founding member of HumanKind International, had inspired them at a visit he made in January.

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Muuxi Adam from HumanKind International sharing his personal experience with Grade 12 students.

The students began to make plans to host a refugee simulation to help bring attention to the dire needs of asylum seekers and specifically to the plight of refugees in the largest refugee camp in the world, Dadaab. (See the map below.)

Prior to the experience, however, our class began to research the global refugee crisis from historical and contemporary perspectives and many students chose the crisis as their topic for their major papers and Take Action Projects. In order to prepare and front load for this experience, we also participated in the Glassen Essay Contest which asked: What, if anything, should Canada do about the global refugee crisis?

In doing so, we had created a neural network that would help us properly engage in the primary experience — the simulation.

On April 29th, Muuxi , Grade 12 students, and several volunteers came to campus and designed a refugee experience that would take our learners on a journey that involved fleeing their homeland, a 6 KM march, an ambush by rebels, mind fields, and border crossings. You can see via the images and vines below  to get a sense of what the experience was like.

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Students grabbing what they can to flee their homelands

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Students walking to the next safe place

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Rebels rob the refugees

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Land minds!

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More walking

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The border is up a head.

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Confusion at the border

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Refugees try to fill out paper work in other languages. Families are split apart.

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Reflecting on the experience.

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Muuxi and student organizers debrief with Grade 12 and 9 students.

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The students were then provided time to think and write about their experience and communicate how their research informed the experience. Here is one of the student organizers speaking on CBC about his experience:

The experience was tremendously educative for all of us and it began with the curiosity of a few members of our learning community, priming the pump in terms of creating a pre-existing neural network, designing an exceptional primary experience, and then having the time and space to reflect on our learning. This experience now feeds into greater and deeper educative experiences.

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Kolb’s Cycle of Experience

I would encourage all educators to invite Muuxi and Humankind international to organize a similar experience. It is critical for understanding the plight of our fellow species mates and developing empathy for all forms of life.