Unit 2: The Individual’s Experience of Freedom

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More than any other concept, rights are essential to our current understanding of individual freedom. America was founded on a strong belief in the “inalienable rights” of human beings. Today’s political dissidents assert their basic rights when standing up to oppressive governments around the world.

The second unit of “Freedom Matters!” focuses on the role of government in securing political, economic, and personal rights both here in the United States and around the world. By drawing on America’s founding documents as well as testimonies from the Freedom Collection, students will deepen their understanding of how the experience of freedom differs across countries, cultures, and systems of government.

Lesson 1 builds on the ideas introduced in the previous unit regarding freedom, rights, and government power. By investigating the relationship between the U.S. Constitution and the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence, students will examine how freedom is experienced here in the United States. They will also explore the ways in which the system of government known as “liberal democracy” is able to secure the broadest range of individual rights.

Lesson 2 is devoted to the concept of political freedom -- the rights of a citizen to influence and participate in the conduct of government. After identifying the political rights enjoyed in the United States, students will work together to compare the degree of political freedom that exists in countries ranging from Cuba and Russia to Israel and Poland.

This international comparison continues in Lesson 3, this time focusing on economic rights and the differences between free market and command economies. And in Lesson 4, the analysis concludes with an investigation into the nature of personal freedom.

Finally, in Lesson 5, students will identify which rights are most important to them personally. Drawing on video testimonies from the Freedom Collection, they will then consider the many reasons that today’s political dissidents choose to fight for freedom and democracy.


Lesson 1: Securing Individuals in their Rights

Students will examine the experience of freedom in the United States and develop an understanding of “liberal democracy” as a term that describes a country in which the most substantial range of rights are secured in practice under a limited, representative system of government.


Lesson 2: What are Political Rights?

Students will deepen their understanding of political rights and compare how individuals in different countries experience having a say in governing.


Lesson 3: What are Economic Rights?

Students will develop an understanding of the characteristics of economic freedom and make distinctions between how rights are secured under free market and command economies.

AP Photo/Howard Yanes


Lesson 4: What are Personal Rights?

Students will deepen their understanding of the range of personal rights that limited democratic systems of government secure for individuals.


Lesson 5: Comparing Individual Experiences of Freedom

Students will demonstrate their understanding of how individuals experience freedom differently in countries with democratic and undemocratic forms of government.