One of Facing History’s core commitments is the safeguarding of democracy, and instilling in students the attributes that will enable them to become active participants in a democratic society. In today’s world, political and social tensions, eroding trust in institutions, and rising incidents of bigotry make the question of how to sustain and strengthen democracy more essential than ever.
In order to consider what can be done to strengthen democracy, students need to first consider the characteristics that define democracy itself. This lesson introduces students to a list of characteristics compiled by Bright Line Watch, a collaborative of political scientists at Dartmouth College, University of Rochester, and Yale University that monitors the status of democratic practices in the United States.
An extension to this lesson invites students to research a trend recently noticed by political scientists, including those at Bright Line Watch: younger generations of Americans are increasingly less likely than older generations to claim that they value living in a democracy. By establishing the defining characteristics of democracy and then reflecting on why younger people might say they value democracy less than older people, students can perhaps reach a deeper understanding both of democratic ideals and of the extent to which our lived experience of democracy meets those ideals.