School Curriculum Samples
following curriculum samples are from our high
school homeschool curriculum
Buddhist Path to Peace
of Civil Rights in America
& Diversity Studies Survey
thing is for sure, GVS is not a standard school, and they
do not offer a "set" range of subjects to be digested.
They are all about challenging the student and teaching them
to THINK and to QUESTION, not necessarily accepting the popular,
or even specialist/academic, received view.
Geoff, HS parent
Buddhist Path to Peace - Introduction
to your study of how Buddhism can help us to create peace for ourselves
and for all beings. In this course, you will have the opportunity
to meet some of the world's most inspiring human beings, explore
a few of the key teachings within Buddhism, and test these ideas
and techniques for yourself. Conversion to Buddhism is not the goal
of this course; in fact, the most famous Buddhist teacher of our
time, the Dalai Lama of Tibet, encourages us to remain within our
own religious tradition while learning from other traditions. So,
let's begin our encounter with Buddhism in order to learn a little
of an ancient wisdom which has helped many people find peace and
grow in their ability to understand and love others.
One: Who Was Buddha and What Did He Discover?
Before we begin, take a moment to answer the following
Do you know anyone who is a practicing Buddhist?
2. When you think of Buddhism, what comes to mind? Don't worry whether
you are right or not; just write a few sentences about your impressions
3. What do you think the word "enlightenment" means?
Making of a Buddha
teach only suffering and the transformation of suffering."
began more than 2500 years ago in India with the teachings of one
man, Gautama Buddha, also known as the Buddha. The Buddha was born
a prince in a powerful family. As the story goes, this prince named
Siddhartha was a handsome and extremely gifted person, raised with
all the advantages offered by education, wealth, and power. As he
approached the age of 30, he began to realize that his privileged
life did not change the fact that everyone suffers; people get sick,
they grow old, and they die.
Siddhartha set out on a spiritual journey to discover the causes
of suffering and how to stop suffering for good. For six years,
Siddhartha studied meditation with many teachers, practicing with
men who were "ascetics" (that is they ate very little
food and denied themselves ordinary pleasures). In order to try
to finally understand the nature of suffering, its causes, and how
to end it, Siddhartha pushed himself very hard, become extremely
thin and weak with hunger. Finally, he began to realize for himself
what he needed to do to attain complete understanding of reality
and how to stop suffering. He began to eat moderately again, and
as his strength returned, Siddhartha soon arose from his final meditation
under a Bodhi tree as the Buddha, which means "the awakened
one". His ascetic friends had been very disappointed in the
Siddhartha for his choice to eat again, but after he attained enlightenment,
they could see that something important had happened to him. His
appearance was radiant and his presence was profoundly peaceful
and aware. These five ascetics became the Buddha's first students.
He taught them about the Four Noble Truths: the truth or existence
of suffering, the causes of suffering, the possibility of restoring
well-being, and the pursuit of spiritual practices which would end
suffering. For the next 40 years or more, the Buddha continued to
teach people the spiritual practices necessary to create peace and
First Noble Truth: the Truth of Suffering
first of the Four Noble Truths is the truth of suffering. Buddha
realized that while every single living being wants to be happy
and tries very hard to find happiness, every living being suffers
a great deal in small and large ways. Suffering includes the traumatic
process of being born, the experiences of wanting something and
not getting it or not wanting something but getting it anyway, losing
what you love, becoming ill, all the sufferings involved in aging,
and finally the sufferings involved in dying and having to leave
behind those we love. Let's think about suffering for a moment.
What kinds of suffering have you experienced yourself? List a few
of your own experiences i.e. favorite jacket was stolen, broke up
with boyfriend or girlfriend, a chronic health problem.
5. List some of the types of suffering you have seen other people
experience (i.e. friends, family, or people in the media).
6. Do you think animals experience suffering? How about fish? Try
to give reasons for your answer.
to the Buddha, every ordinary living being experiences suffering,
including forms of life other than human. Dr. David Suzuki (host
of the TV program, The Nature of Things) wrote about the universality
of pain in his essay, The Pain of Animals. In this essay, he explains
that science recognizes that the nervous systems of fruit flies,
guinea pigs, rats, mice, chimpanzees, gorillas, and other animals
have much in common with the human nervous system, which is why
animals are used to test products and procedures that will be used
on humans. He added that even fish have well-developed nervous systems
that detect pain.
What everyday activities in our lives produce suffering for non-human
forms of life? List as many activities as you can i.e. eating meat,
wearing animal fur.
8. Do you think things would change if society really believed that
other forms of life experience at least the same physical sufferings
as humans? Why or why not?
Second Noble Truth: the Causes of Suffering
only did the Buddha realize that suffering is universal, but he
also realized the causes of suffering. If you watch TV or go to
the movies, you can get an interesting and sometimes strange picture
of the causes of suffering according to our culture. But the ideas
in the media are usually very different than what the Buddha realized
as he become more and more spiritually awake.
to the Buddha, our suffering is a result of ignorance or misunderstanding
about our own nature and the nature of reality. His teachings on
this subject are very profound and would take a long time to examine,
so we need to work with some simple ideas. One thing Buddha noticed
is that people usually believe happiness lies in objects outside
of ourselves. We strive for happiness by trying to get and hold
onto the people and things we think will make us happy.
of the reasons why this strategy doesn't work very well is that
life and everything in it is impermanent. Change happens whether
we like it or not. The person we like so much may change or disappoint
us. An example of this could be people who are madly in love, get
married, and then in a little while are so unhappy with each other
that they get a divorce. Even our happiness with what we love is
impermanent. Imagine having your favorite flavor of ice cream with
every meal, everyday, week after week, month after month get the
picture? Or how about sitting down after you walked a long way -
that gives you happiness until you learn you must sit there and
sit there for many hours without being able to get up. Then you
may not be so happy with sitting.
problem the Buddha noticed is that sometimes people try to get happiness
for themselves in ways that harm themselves and/or others i.e. we
may work so hard to have a lot of money that we ruin our health
or neglect our families, we may steal something we like, or we may
lie to avoid getting in trouble. As a result of our actions, we
may be happier for a little while, but now we have also created
new possibilities for suffering i.e. we may have increased our risk
of high blood pressure and heart attack, or we worry about being
discovered as a thief or a liar, wonder if and when we may be caught,
wonder where it is safe to where the jacket and how we will deal
with the reactions of others and the consequences if we are caught.
In order to have what we think will bring us happiness, we engage
in actions that produce more suffering for ourselves and others
in the end.
9. What are some of the causes of our suffering according to advertisements
or movies that you have seen? Just list a few of your favorites.
(i.e. loneliness is caused by using the wrong deodorant, parties
are no fun unless you have plenty of a certain kind of beer, or
love is hard to find unless you buy a certain type of car).
10. Do you believe that more money means more happiness? Why or
Do a quick search at Biography.com
to learn a little about the lives of some of the wealthiest people
in the world: Christina Onassis (was the wealthiest woman in the
world); Jean Paul Getty (billionaire); Princess Diana.
11. When you think of what you know about their lives, did their
money protect Christina, J.P. Getty, or Princess Diana from suffering?
12. In the past, what things have you been convinced would make
you happy if only you had them? If you eventually got those things,
did they make you happy? For how long were you happy before you
began to want something else?
13. Have you ever really liked something but then over time grew
to really dislike it?
14. What are some harmful ways that people sometimes use to find
Third and Fourth Noble Truths: The Truth of Cessation of Suffering
and the Truth of Paths Leading to Cessation
(Or: The Truth that We Can Stop Suffering and the Truth of How to
can feel depressing to spend a lot of time thinking about suffering
and its causes. The Buddha said that if there were nothing we could
do to end suffering, then it would be better not to think about
it at all and to just focus on the what feels good for a little
while. But in his journey to enlightenment, Buddha discovered that
suffering is optional. After he noticed that we are usually confused
and misguided about who we are and how to effectively make ourselves
happy, he spent the rest of his long life teaching methods to end
suffering and produce true, lasting happiness. Sometimes, Buddha
is called the supreme doctor, the one who teaches us to heal the
causes of all our suffering. But Buddhism may actually be the first-ever
self-help program. While the Buddha teaches many different and effective
methods to help us heal and overcome the habits which produce suffering,
he also teaches we are the ones who have to do the work to change
our way of thinking, talking and acting. We have the same nature
as the Buddha, which means that with effort, we can achieve the
same freedom and peace of mind.
One really important idea that you need to know regarding both the
cause and the cure for suffering is, "What goes around, comes
around". The same idea is also in the Bible, "As you reap,
so shall you sow". This is the law of karma, which teaches
that what we put out is what comes back to us. If you think of what
happens when you throw a boomerang, you will get the picture: if
you are not careful about what you do and how you do it, you can
end up getting hit pretty hard. This is the good news and bad news.
It means that by the power of what we do, that we can create our
own happiness or our own suffering. Sometimes it takes a while for
what we do to produce an effect, but the Buddha said we all have
plenty of time due to our habit of taking rebirth lifetime after
lifetime (reincarnation). The Buddha taught that all the conditions
and experiences of our lives are created by our own past actions
of body, speech and mind. Again, that could be good news or bad
news, so the Buddha taught methods of living and meditating to train
us to produce peace of mind and lasting happiness. As it turns out,
our own peace and happiness is directly related to our attitude
and treatment of others, so what the Buddha taught is also how to
live in loving relationship with all living beings.
In this course, we won't assume you believe in reincarnation (past
and future lives), so we will try to focus on how what we do on
a day to day basis either produces happiness or suffering right
now, in this life. Experience is a great teacher. Buddha always
told his students not to believe anything just because he said it;
he told them to check out the ideas for themselves. During the rest
of the course, we will take a look at just a few of the important
ideas and methods that the Buddha taught to help all beings end
suffering and spend some time with some of the best Buddhist teachers
alive today. Hopefully you will not only learn some new ideas, but
you will also be inspired to take the time to try them out to see
if they work for you.
15. In your own words, explain who Buddha was and what he discovered.
16. Do you think it is possible that we are reborn lifetime after
lifetime? Give reasons for your answer.
17. Do you believe it is true that what goes around, comes around
(eventually)? What have you experienced that might support or not
support this idea of karma?
18. Do you think it is possible to treat other people badly on a
regular basis and be peaceful and happy? Can you think of anyone
you know of who is mean and peaceful?
19. Do you think it is possible to learn to reduce your suffering
in life? Give reasons for your answer.
There are many different types of Buddhism in the world. Whenever
this tradition has entered a country, it has changed in its form
to meet the needs of the people of that culture, although many of
the key ideas remain the same. It is said that the Buddha gave over
86,000 teachings during his lifetime, many of them quite different
because the needs of various people are so different. The Buddha
viewed Dharma (the teachings and insights of Buddhism) as medicine
to cure suffering. Some people need one kind of medicine and others
need another. In this course, we will look at traditions within
Buddhism from various countries. For today, let's begin to appreciate
the different forms of Buddhism by looking at some Buddhist art.
You will see that Buddhism has inspired beautiful, sacred art in
many different countries.
Here are a variety of Buddha
statues from countries such as India, Thailand, and China: Buddha
statues. If you click next to one of the small pictures at this
site, you can see it enlarged and learn more about the piece of
At this site you will find a carving of Maitreya, the Buddha of
the future, from China. Maitreya is the Buddha of loving-kindness,
and he is also referred to as a "Bodhisattva". This is
an important word from a form of Buddhism known as Mahayana. In
this type of Buddhism, each person promises to work hard to attain
enlightenment so that he or she can come back lifetime after lifetime
to help all other beings find release from suffering. A person who
has promised to do this kind of spiritual work for the benefit of
all beings is called a Bodhisattva.
Also, if you scroll down the page, you will find a mandala from
China painted in the Tibetan style. A mandala is a very sacred and
mysterious thing within Tibetan Buddhism. A mandala can refer to
a holy place or "home" of a Buddhaóit is said there
are 12 such holy places on the earth, but it is hard for ordinary
people to recognize them! But a mandala is more than just a place.
It also refers to the enlightened mind and pure environment of a
Buddha. Remember, each of us has a Buddha nature, so one day, we
may recognize our own mandalas!
20. What did you think of the various deities that you saw? Describe
a piece of Buddhist art that you particularly enjoyed.
To learn more about Buddhism and sacred art in Southeast Asia, take
a look at this
21. What did you find interesting in this site? Write a couple of
paragraphs to describe a little of what you learned.
22. What did you find most interesting in this lesson?
23. Your homework is to start a journal based on what you are learning
in this course. Here are a few ideas of things you could include
in your journal: note what interests or surprises you about what
you are learning, any questions you have based on the lesson, describe
things that are happening which remind you about what you are learning
in the lessons and your own reflections on those experiences. For
instance, this week you might write about your own experience of
actions and their effects, or an experience of suffering and whether
there is an attitude in your own mind that could be changed to reduce
that suffering. Write at least 3 entries per lesson. The entries
can be a paragraph or two, or longer if you like, and remember to
date each entry. Sometimes the lesson may give you specific questions
to think and write about, or exercises to try and then write about.
Send your entries for each lesson to your teacher via email when
you are ready to move to the next lesson. This will give your teacher
a chance to chat with you about what you are learning.
David Suzuki's essay, The Pain of Animals, is found in College Writing
Skills with Readings, McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited, 2000.
of Civil Rights in America
Eleven: LGBT Part One
back! For the next two lessons we will focus on the civil rights struggles
of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) Americans. It
is a struggle that has been in the news a lot lately. The roots of
the issue in America go back to the earliest days of the founding
of the country. PBS (Public Television) aired a wonderful film called
"Out of the Past." The film chronicles the emergence of
gay men and lesbians in American history. It received the Sundance
Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary. PBS developed a
web site on the film, which you will be exploring in this lesson.
Go to PBS's Out
of the Past site and read the introductory paragraph.
Now click on OUT OF THE PAST and then KEEPING SECRETS 1600 - 1800.
Be sure to also read THE DIARY OF MICHAEL WIGGLESWORTH.
1. Who was Michael Wigglesworth?
2. During his day, what was he famous for?
3. Why do you think he felt he had to write in code?
4. Were you surprised to find something about homosexuality this far
back in America's history? Explain.
Play the film clip (click on the film icon next to the diary link).
Note: you need to have a recent version of RealPlayer installed on
your computer. If you don't have it, either try to download it, or
write a note to your teacher explaining the problem.
Now read "FINDING LOVE 1800 - 1900." Then read SCENES FROM
A BOSTON MARRIAGE and watch the film clip.
5. What were "Boston Marriages"?
6. How was the world changing by the time Willa Cather came of age?
7. How did you feel when you heard the exerpts from their letters
to each other? Write at least three sentences describing your response.
Read "CREATING WORLDS 1900 - 1940." Also read HENRY GERBER'S
DECLARATION and watch the film clip.
8. Explain how the psychologists' "naming" of homosexuality
and his experiences in Germany both influenced the actions of Henry
9. How long did it take Gerber to find allies and start The Society
for Human Rights?
10. What happened to the society?
11. Why do so few people know about Gerber and The Society for Human
Read "FACING FEAR 1940 - 1964."
To learn more about what happened, read THE BAITING OF BAYARD RUSTIN.
Then watch the film clip.
12. Who was Bayard Rustin? Describe some of the important work he
13. Why do you suppose many people haven't heard of him? Have you
heard of him?
14. Explain what is meant when the authors state that Rustin lived
in a kind of exile from 1960 - 1963.
15. Why do you think Dr. King accepted Rustin's resignation rather
than choosing to stand by him? Do you understand why he made the decision
that he did? What would you have done in his place?
Read "TAKING CHANCES 1964 - 1980" Then, to learn more about
Barbara Gittings, click on BARBARA GITTINGS: A FATE ON THE FRONT.
Then play the film clip.
16. Who were the Daughters of Bilitis?
17. Explain why Barbara Gittings lost her editorship of "The
How "out" or open to be continues to be an issue in some
gay and lesbian groups. Some feel that it's important to be "out"
no matter what - that the way to make change is through increased
visibility. Others feel it's important to let people "come out"
in their own time and way, and are more cautious about revealing that
they or others are gay or lesbian.
18. What is your opinion on the issue? If you were a member of DOB
back in the 60s would you have wanted Gittings to be fired? How would
you feel about the same issue now?
19. What important event happened in 1973? Why do you think it was
Read "MAKING HISTORY 1980 - PRESENT"
Then, to learn more about Kelli Peterson and the important and courageous
work she did, click on KELLI PETERSON AND A NEW GENERATION OF ACTIVISTS.
Play the film clip.
20. What is a GSA?
21. Why did Kelli Peterson want to start a GSA at her school?
22. Did you hear anything about Kelli and the controversy in Utah
while it was going on?
GLSEN (The Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network) has been instrumental
in the development of GSAs throughout the country. Take a look around
23. Write a paragraph describing some of what you learned from GLSEN's
Now go back to the Out of the Past site. Take some time to explore
the Timeline and look at the different events. Be sure to read it
all the way through, starting in the 1600s and reading through to
24. Choose three events that interest you and write a short description
25. What interested you the most about this lesson?
26. What do you feel was the most important thing you learned from
& Diversity Studies Survey
Three - "All the News That's Fit to Print"
theory of a free press is that truth will emerge from free discussion,
not that it will be presented perfectly and instantly in any one account.
" - Walter Lippman, reporter
In this lesson we will continue thinking about different perceptions
of reality by focusing on an examination the role of the news media
in the United States.
1. The lesson title refers to the New York Times motto. What kinds
of things should be reported? Can you think of news that isn't fit
to be printed? Explain.
Reading assignment: Take a look at top headlines at http://www.cnn.com
2. How would you define news?
3. Do these news outlets seem to have different perspectives/agendas
on what is important news? Explain.
4. Richard Salant, former President of CBS News once said, "Our
job is to give people not what they want, but what WE decide they
ought to have." What do you think of this statement - is it in
line with your idea of how news reporting should function? Explain.
5. Choose two articles on the same topic (one from cnn.com and one
from truthout.org) and answer the following questions for both articles:
What verbs are used to describe the actions of each of the participating
groups or parties? What connotations (implications) do the verbs carry?
What nouns are used to describe the actions of each of the participating
groups or parties? What connotations do these nouns carry? Are each
of the participating groups or parties treated with the same level
of formality, familiarity, or respect? What is the reporter's or news
service's attitude or tone toward each of the parties? How might this
attitude or tone affect the reader's perception(s) of what is being
6. Some people believe that many of the differences in perspectives
between different news outlets - specifically those labeled mainstream
and alternative - are based on the fact that some news organizations
are business designed to make a profit while others are non-profit
organizations (we will read more about this later). What difference(s)
might this profit motive (or lack thereof) make in terms of what organizations
decide to report?
Optional assignment: Some people think that the mainstream media (particularly
in the U.S.) promotes a violent, fearful view of the world by emphasizing
violent news. View the movie "Bowling for Columbine" and
describe what it has to say about this issue and what you think about
7. In many ways, our living spaces are reflections of ourselves. What
types of paintings, posters and other decorations have you selected
to adorn your walls? Do these images help to create a sense of place,
an aura of safety, an extension of family identity, a statement about
interests or something else entirely? How? What do your decorations
say about the values that guide your homes/lives?
Reading/Listening assignment: http://www.tolerance.org/storybooks/eat/index.html
8. Why was the Hoca ignored the first time he arrived at the muhtar's
9. What happened after the Hoca changed his clothes? How did the Hoca
respond and why?
Optional assignment: Pick a store or establishment that caters to
"well-dressed" people (this doesn't have to mean fancy it
could be "business casual." Ask your parent(s) for help
if you need a better idea of what this mean). Go in on different days,
once dressed like most people who shop there, and another time "dressed
down" (this doesn't have to mean dirty or ripped clothes - just
something most people who patronize the place wouldn't wear). Were
you treated differently? How so?
Viewing assignment: http://www.tolerance.org/images_action/hint.jsp?id=26
10. What was your first impression of the picture? What was blackface
and why do some people consider it offensive?
"CBS news doesn't make money when you turn on your television.
They make money when an advertiser pays them. Now advertisers pay
for certain things. They're not going to pay for a discussion that
encourages people to participate democratically and undermine corporate
power." - Noam Chomsky
Mary Kate Considine
3: Doctors Without Borders
Have you ever heard of the Hippocratic Oath? It dates
back to Hippocrates, a Greek physician who lived from 460 to 377 B.C.
The oath is a set of ethics for physicians to live their professional
and private lives. Many universities and medical schools have their
new doctors recite an updated form of the oath when they earn their
medical degree. So often in today’s society of soaring medical
costs, you will hear people say that the Hippocratic Oath is a thing
of the past, or that doctors no longer live up to the oath and money
is their only concern. Take a minute to read the original Hippocratic
THE HIPPOCRATIC OATH
I swear by Apollo the healer, by Aesculapius, by Health and all the
powers of healing, and call to witness all the gods and goddesses
that I may keep this Oath and Promise to the best of my ability and
I will pay the same respect to my master in the Science as to my parents
and share my life with him and pay all my debts to him. I will regard
his sons as my brothers and teach them the Science, if they desire
to learn it, without fee or contract. I will hand on precepts, lectures,
and all other learning to my sons, to those of my master and to those
pupils duly apprenticed and sworn, and to none other.
I will use my power to help the sick to the best of my ability and
judgment; I will abstain from harming or wrongdoing any man by it.
I will not give a fatal draught to anyone if I am asked, nor will
I suggest any such thing.
will I give a woman means to procure an abortion.
I will be chaste and religious in my life and in my practice.
I will not cut, even for the stone, but I will leave such procedures
to the practitioners of that craft.
Whenever I go into a house, I will go to help the sick and never with
the intention of doing harm or injury. I will not abuse my position
to indulge in sexual contacts with the bodies of women or of men,
whether they be freemen or slaves.
Whatever I see or hear, professionally or privately, which ought not
to be divulged, I will keep secret and tell no one.
If, therefore, I observe this Oath and do not violate it, may I prosper
both in my life and in my profession, earning good repute among all
men for all time. If I transgress and forswear this Oath, may my lot
From HIPPOCRATIC WRITINGS, translated by J. Chadwick and W.N. Mann,
Penguin Books, 1950.
1. List three things that you found surprising about the Hippocratic
2. Can you think of three things in the oath that you think are important
for doctors to abide by today?
Doctors Without Borders
The 1999 winner of the Nobel Peace prize is an organization called
"Doctors Without Borders." Go to the Nobel site and read
their press release about the group:
3. What is the fundamental principle that Doctors Without Borders
4. In what way is Doctors Without Borders outspoken?
Doctors Without Borders has a terrific web site. It gives a history
of their organization as well as detailing their involvement in current
global crises. Take a look at the organization’s history first:
5. From which country did Doctors Without Borders originate?
6. How old is the organization?
7. Why did they say there was a need for a group like them?
8. Where was the first conflict that the organization became involved
9. What country did they go to for their first war-related mission?
10. Do you see any continents that the organization has not been to?
11. MAIN ASSIGNMENT
Browse through the listings of countries and conflicts in which Doctors
Without Borders have helped. They are listed in chronological order
under History. Return to their main page; they list the countries
and conflicts that they are currently active in. Choose one of the
conflicts that MSF has been involved in. You might need to do some
extra web searching to answer the following questions for that conflict:
a. What country does the conflict take place in?
b. Is the conflict a natural disaster or the result of political or
c. When did this take place?
d. Who was involved?
e. Why did MSF see a need for their services there?
f. What did MSF do when they got there?
g. Is MSF still there?
h. Did MSF have to speak out publicly in order to make people aware
of the problems?
What do you think is MSF’s greatest achievement? Write a few
sentences giving your impressions of the group as peacemakers.
to U.S. Government
One: Government, Human Nature, and Democracy
"Some men see things as they are and ask why.
I dream things that never were and ask why not?" - Robert F.
American government can be described as a continuing balancing act.
There is, of course, the theoretical balance of powers between the
executive, judicial, and legislative branches. In regards to the people
this equilibrium is supposed weigh the democratic concept of majority
rule against the concepts of equality, freedom, liberty, and other
ideals derived from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution
of the United States. Equality in particular demands that minority
rights be respected and protected. For the federal government the
scales require a balance between a government large and strong enough
to protect against threats and provide services but small and weak
enough to prevent it form becoming an overbearing instrument of tyranny.
Many of the prominent framers (some sources call them founders or
fathers) of the United States had very definite ideas about the nature
of people and democracy and those theories shaped the construction
of the founding documents. We will be evaluating the assumptions they
made and the goals they set out to accomplish throughout this course,
as well as exploring paths the framers never thought of - or chose
not to go down.
Reading assignment: pp. 1-24, A Delicate Balance
What is Government?
1. Explain the relationship between government and politics.
2. Sketch an outline of your ideal government in words. What are its
purposes, duties, and restrictions? In particular, compare and contrast
your imagined government with your perceptions of the way the U.S.
government works. Please write at least four paragraphs.
The Concept of Human Nature
James Madison once said, "You must first enable the government
to control the governed, and in the next place, oblige the government
to control itself."
Madison also thought that direct democracies were, "spectacles
of turbulence and contention."
Alexander Hamilton said that the public was subject to, "every
sudden breeze of passion, or to every transient impulse."
John Adams believed that, "The proposition that [the people]
are the best keepers of their liberties is not true. They are the
worst conceivable; they are no keepers at all. They can neither act,
judge, think, nor will."
The above is a small sampling of many statements made by the most
influential framers of the U.S. These men believed that a rare few
(like themselves) could set aside their interests for the good of
the country, and that such people should run for public office. This
stands in contrast to many modern conceptions of what democracy might
mean in America. Indeed, it is even dissimilar to a statement made
by Abraham Lincoln less than 100 years later when he said the U.S.
practiced, "government of the people, by the people, and for
3. What do you think of the concept of human nature? If it exists
is this nature inherent or can it be changed in time?
4. Where do you think the framers might have gotten their ideas about
human nature from? Do you agree with their position? Explain.
5. Is the notion of equality expressed in the Declaration compatible
with the framer's view of human nature?
Take a moment to refresh your memory of the "Can the People Govern,"
section found on pp. 4-6.
6. Today's elected officials believe that most Americans are uninformed
and should not have a direct voice in the production of public policy.
What effect might this have on interactions between people and their
representatives? Specifically, how might it impact the way politicians
serve their constituents?
Optional reading: This is a
satire found in the Onion. You may write a one page analysis of
this site for extra credit.
The Faces of Democracy
7. Explain the differences between Direct and Representative Democracies.
8. State and local governments sometimes utilize referendums or initiatives
to allow voters to act directly on their government. Would this be
a good idea on the federal level? What issues would you like to see
on a national referendum or initiative? Explain.
9. Our system is primarily based on a winner takes all philosophy
- in elections the candidate who gets the most votes (even if it's
not a majority of all the votes cast) wins. What advantages and disadvantages
might come about from adopting a proportional voting system in which
every party wins a share of seats (say, in the House) based on the
percentage of votes it receives?
10. Paul C. Light writes that, "representative democracy may
be the only choice in a country as large and diverse as America even
if they could be brought together in one place, 270 million Americans
would create a mosh pit covering 70 square miles." Would it be
necessary for Americans to be in the same physical space to participate
in direct democracy on the federal level? Why or why not?
Going Further: *Philosophy and Social Hope, Richard Rorty - an introduction
to an alternative way of conceptualizing government and the world.
- the Internet Classics Archive includes a number of Greco-Roman and
a few Eastern authors that have been influential in the sphere of
governance and society.
Sunita Palekar & Sally Carless
Welcome to the first lesson of Global Village School’s course
on International Human Rights. The main objective is for you to learn
about the universality and other basic concepts of human rights; the
general field of human rights (civil, political, economic, social,
and cultural); the major instruments protecting these rights, including
organizations and international laws; and some of the different people
and organizations that are making a difference. Along with the information
we present, you will also have the opportunity to do a bit of your
own research on the topics that interest you the most.
Part One – Concepts of Human Rights
1.What is a right? What do you think is meant by “human rights”?
do you think are important, judging from your experiences, values
for definitions of human rights (example: www.google.com
– search “what are human rights”)
differ from what you thought previously? How?
is most closely in line with what you thought? Why? Do you think this
is the best definition?
– Human Rights Overview
Human rights belong to people simply because people are human. For
this reason these rights are sometimes called "natural rights.”
No one can have their rights taken away on the basis of the color
of their skin, where they are born, the religion they practice, or
Human rights do not have to be bought, earned, or inherited –
they are "inalienable,” which means that no one has the
right to take them away from anyone else for any reason.
People still have human rights even when the laws of their own countries
do not recognize them. In fact, governments and individuals must respect
the human rights standards set forth in international law. In this
course we will study several important documents that define human
Let’s get started by going to a site called Speak Truth to Power.
Take a minute to look at the website (http://www.speaktruth.org/).
Look at the list of definitions listed here: http://www.speaktruth.org/defend/glossary.html
5.Are there any you were not familiar with? If so, what are they?
Now, let’s look at the time line (http://www.speaktruth.org/h_rights/timeline.asp).
6.What is the earliest human rights event the time line mentions?
When did it happen? Had you heard of it before? It was a defining
moment in the history of England – the first time that the royalty
really had to answer to the people.
other events from the time line that you think were important. Write
a short explanation of why you chose each one.
Now go to
the more detailed explanation of the history of human rights (http://www.speaktruth.org/h_rights/hrights2.html)
8.Did any of the issues on the list surprise you? Explain.
other issues that you think should be listed? If so, which ones?
time and explore several of the different issues. As you will see,
each one has links to many different resources.
10.Choose three of the issues that are most interesting to you. Write
a paragraph or two about each one. You could include things such as:
the background on the issue, current events, resources, your thoughts
and feelings, etc.
all for this lesson. We hope that this first session raised many interesting
points! We will continue to examine these issues and will look at
many in more depth. Next session, we will look at current events and
the state of human rights. If you are able, read the newspaper and/or
news online (example: www.nytimes.com,
the next lesson and see if you can find issues that relate to human