Unit 4: Securing Freedom in the 21st Century

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In the preceding units, students have analyzed the basic concepts and principles that underlie the ideals of human liberty. They have charted the advance of freedom and democracy through history, from the creation of the American republic to the defeat of Nazi Germany and the collapse of Soviet Communism. And they have heard the first-hand accounts of contemporary dissidents who have struggled against oppressive regimes, some succeeding and others still on the path to freedom.

Despite centuries of progress, though, the global expansion of liberal-democratic values is far from over. The fourth and final unit of “Freedom Matters!” looks at the state of freedom in the twenty-first century, paying special attention to those parts of the world where the fight for human liberty and democracy continues.

Lesson 1 provides an overview of global trends in freedom since the year 2000. Using research from the nonprofit, nonpartisan group Freedom House as well as recent news stories, students will consider the current status of liberty and democracy in every region of the world.

Lesson 2 homes in on the fights for freedom and democracy currently unfolding in Burma, China, Cuba, and Tunisia. Students will split into four groups, each assigned to investigate one of these countries.

Over the course of two or three days, members of each group will collaborate on a "Documentary Newscast" dealing with the political struggle in their assigned nation. The lesson concludes with live performances of these newscasts, allowing students to share their analyses of each country's conflict, its causes and history.

Using what they have learned in Lesson 2, students will then engage in an hour-long discussion of these four nations in Lesson 3, the unit's final lesson. The exchange will examine the similarities and differences between each country's freedom movements.

This in-class discussion represents the culmination of all the previous lessons. In considering these four case studies, students will bring to bear their knowledge of the nature of human liberty, different government systems, and the variety of reasons that individuals around the world continue to fight for freedom and democracy to this day.

The World

Unit 4, Lesson 1

Lesson 1: Freedom in the 21st Century

Using a comparative research methodology developed by the nonprofit organization Freedom House, students will analyze and discuss trends in freedom since the year 2000. Students will connect these trends to current events and stories they find in the news.

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi delivers her Nobel acceptance speech during a ceremony at Oslo's City Hall June 16, 2012. Aung San finally accepted her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Saturday after spending a total of 15 years under house arrest and said full political freedom in her country was still a long way off. REUTERS/Daniel Sannum Lauten/Pool

Unit 4, Lesson 2

Lesson 2: Case Studies of Freedom in the 21st Century

Students will analyze contemporary efforts to achieve freedom and democracy in four case studies: Burma (also known as Myanmar), China, Cuba, and Tunisia. Working in groups, students will research a country and prepare a documentary newscast for presentation to the class.

Revolutionary graffiti adorns a wall of the Prime Minister's office in Tunis, January 22, 2011. Tunisia's interim prime minister promised to quit politics after elections, a pledge intended to appease protesters demanding remnants of the old guard leave a unity coalition formed after the overthrow of the president. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Unit 4, Lesson 3

Lesson 3: Assessing 21st Century Movements for Freedom

Using their research from Lesson 2, students will assess movements for freedom in Burma (also known as Myanmar), China, Cuba, and Tunisia. In discussion, they will compare the nature of the state, the individual’s experience of freedom, and the motivations and actions of individuals who have opposed repressive governments.