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High School Curriculum Samples

The following curriculum samples are from our high school homeschool curriculum 

The Buddhist Path to Peace

History of Civil Rights in America

Peace & Diversity Studies Survey

Peacemakers

U.S. Government

International Human Rights

 

One 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

 


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Global Village School

The Buddhist Path to Peace - Introduction

Author: Ann Gelsheimer

Welcome 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.

Lesson One: Who Was Buddha and What Did He Discover?

Before we begin, take a moment to answer the following questions:

1. 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 of Buddhism.


3. What do you think the word "enlightenment" means?

The Making of a Buddha

"I teach only suffering and the transformation of suffering." Gautama Buddha

Buddhism 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 happiness.

The First Noble Truth: the Truth of Suffering

The 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.

4. 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.

According 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.

7. 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?

The Second Noble Truth: the Causes of Suffering

Not 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.

According 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.

One 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.

Another 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 why not?
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 happiness?

The 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 Do It)

It 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 art.


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 site:


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.

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Global Village School

History of Civil Rights in America

Author: Sally Carless

 

Lesson Eleven: LGBT Part One

Welcome back! For the next two lessons we will focus on the civil rights struggles of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (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 Gerber.


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 Rights?


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 did.


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 Ladder."


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 so significant?


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 GLSEN's site


23. Write a paragraph describing some of what you learned from GLSEN's site.


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 the present.


24. Choose three events that interest you and write a short description of each.


25. What interested you the most about this lesson?


26. What do you feel was the most important thing you learned from this lesson?


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Global Village School

Peace & Diversity Studies Survey

Author: Tanya Barber

 

Lesson Three - "All the News That's Fit to Print"

"The 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 and http://www.truthout.org


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 reported?


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 it.


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 door?


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

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Global Village School

Peacemakers

Author: Mary Kate Considine

 

Lesson 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 Oath.


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 judgment.


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.

Neither 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 be otherwise.


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 Oath.


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:
http://www.nobel.se/peace/laureates/1999/msf-or.html


3. What is the fundamental principle that Doctors Without Borders adheres to?


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: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/about/history.shtml


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 with?


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 human strife?
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?


CONCLUSIONS:
What do you think is MSF’s greatest achievement? Write a few sentences giving your impressions of the group as peacemakers.

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Global Village School

Introduction to U.S. Government

Author: Tanya Barber

 

Lesson 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. Kennedy


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 the people."


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.

*http://classics.mit.edu/Browse/ - 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.

 

Global Village School

International Human Rights

Author: Sunita Palekar & Sally Carless

Lesson One: Overview

Hello! 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”?

2.What rights do you think are important, judging from your experiences, values and aspirations?

Search online for definitions of human rights (example: www.google.com – search “what are human rights”)

3.Do these differ from what you thought previously? How?

4.What definition is most closely in line with what you thought? Why? Do you think this is the best definition?

Part Two – 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 their sexuality.
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 rights standards.


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?

Part Three – History


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.

7.List three 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.

9.Are there other issues that you think should be listed? If so, which ones?

Take some 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.

That’s 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, news.bbc.co.uk, www.cnn.com) before the next lesson and see if you can find issues that relate to human rights.


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