In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly declared 15 September the International Day of Democracy, providing us with “an opportunity to review the state of democracy in the world” and arguing that “democracy is as much a process as a goal” (UN). In many countries we can see a deterioration of conditions for democracies, through various forces both internal and external. This has become more noticeable during the ongoing pandemic, but it started long before, which is also indicated by instituting such a day 14 years ago.
Study some of the maps on the Secretary General’s policy brief from April 2020 – in particular the two on school closures and stringency of government containment measures. Also read the concerns and suggested countermeasures on the UN Democracy Day’s website and prepare for a discussion of what threatens a democracy and how we can strengthen it.
Also read the New York Times Learning Network’s editors Schulten and Engle’s introduction to the late Congressman John Lewis’ essay “Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation”. Check out thoughts and responses on the hashtag #DemocracyDay and reflect on Schulten and Engle’s questions posed after Lewis’ essay, as published on the New York Times Learning Network exactly a year ago.
The late civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis argued that “[d]emocracy is not a state. It is an act”. Compare this with UN’s claim that democracy is both a process and a goal. What is democracy to you?
Study the two news stories below to find out more about the situation for women and girls in Afghanistan now that the Taliban is back in power.
Discuss: what do the two stories tell you about the situation for females in Afghanistan, past and present? What do girls and women have to face should they want to study? Do these stories make you more pessimistic or more optimistic on the behalf of Afghanistan’s future? Why?
The Taliban is in power again in Afghanistan, 20 years after 9-11 and the following invasion of Afghanistan. The USA have decided to pull out all their remaining troops by August this year, leading to total chaos and heart-breaking scenes at the airport in Kabul, with local Afghans trying to board planes to get out of a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. US President Joe Biden has stated that the withdrawal will be completed and that the main concern for him is getting American troops home safely.
So what is the problem? Should we care about the development in Afghanistan? Is it an international responsibility to “clean up” after the mess we have left and to ensure a democratic development in Afghanistan? Or should we just leave them alone and hope that human rights will be respected and democracy thrive? (not very likely….)
Using the sources below, discuss these questions in your groups. Choose a secretary who writes down the main points of your answers and discussion. Also, discuss the reliability of these sources and how they differ in language and style.
International English is now history and the name of our subject is English 1. However, many of the things from International English are also very relevant in the new subject. So for now, we are leaving the categories and previous posts as they are, but as the school year progresses, we will be adding and editing more.
The first order of business is for you to create your own blogs. Remember, this is an educational blog, which will be evaluated, so keep it tidy and professional. Use https://www.wordpress.com and choose a free account. When making your account you can choose whether to have a public, private or hidden blog, but no matter which you choose you have to share the link with your teacher.
You will receive assignments to publish on your blogs, and some of these will be graded with grades, others will be graded “approved” / “not approved”. This is a good way to practice and develop your writing skills.
So, get to it! Create your blog, and include links to other public blogs of your classmates, as well as our teacher blog, if you find other relevant sites you are free to link to these as well. You might also include a map so you can see where your visitors are from.
We encourage you to read some of your fellow students blogs – both for inspiration and to support each other. Maybe also leave a comment?
Once you have created your blog, it is time to write your very first blog post, in which you include the following:
a bit about you – who are you, your interests etc.
why you chose the subject English 1
what expectations you have for this subject and what your teacher can do to best help you thrive in it
and finally, write a paragraph about something you would like to learn more about and why, based on the competence aims and the preliminary year plan in the subject. Also include suggestions or thoughts on how to work with this topic/these topics.
We talk about the border as a place only, instead of an idea. I believe that the real borders are the ones that exist within us.
Alejandro González Iñárritu, director of Babel
Discussion questions to the film:
What does the Biblical story of Babel in chapter 11 of Genesis illustrate?
In which countries does this film take place?
What languages are spoken by the main persons?
Where do you find acute misunderstandings between persons?
Give a short summary of the plot and the main conflicts in the film.
How well do the actors portray the main characters, do you think??
Which scenes do you think are the most important ones?
Is the story chronological? Are there any flashbacks and/or flash forwards?
What techniques are used to tell the story? (sound-color-camera use)
It is claimed that this film is filled with emotions that need no translation. They are universal. Give examples of this.
Does the film have a clear message, or does it leave room for different solutions?
Your personal evaluation of the film. Give reasons for your view.
To whom would you recommend the film “Babel”?
After having watched the film, write a blog post on one of the following tasks:
The title and the actions in the film strongly indicate that communication and lack of communication, or rather breakdown of communication is a main theme. Discuss and explain how this is reflected in the film.
Another theme related to this might be intercultural communication and challenges represented by globalization. Why is it so difficult to reach out to each other across cultures? Discuss and explain by referring to the film. You may focus on:
Japanese vs. Western culture Mexican vs. American culture American vs. Arab culture
Yet another theme related to communication might be loneliness. How is this reflected in the film? Give examples and explain.
NB! Postponed because of home school – see itslearning for link and task to the film Desert Flower instead.
Western Sahara is often called Africa’s last colony and also a forgotten conflict. On March 3, you were so lucky to have a visitor via Zoom – Asria Mohamed. She works for The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, and talked about the Morroccan occupation, life in Algerian refugee camps, and the part of the UN in this conflict.
Write a blog post about what you learned about this conflict and activism to support the Sahrawi people in their struggle for independence. Comment on the lack of media attention for this conflict and find out why the media wrote about in again in November/December 2020.
Asria said in the meeting that she feels she has no choice when it comes to her activism for the Sahrawi people – what do you think she meant by that?
Hope you enjoyed the visit – Asria is an excellent speaker and a brilliant woman.
“Democracy was dealt a major blow in 2020. Almost 70% of countries covered by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index recorded a decline in their overall score, as country after country locked down to protect lives from a novel coronavirus. The global average score fell to its lowest level since the index began in 2006.” (Economist Intelligence Unit, https://www.eiu.com/n/campaigns/democracy-index-2020/)
Discussion questions after watching this film on Netflix:
Say something about (some of) these characters from the movie. How did they strike you? What kind of “stereotypical persons” are some of them portrayed as? In what ways do you think the filmmakers used humor/irony with them?
How did the movie present US politics and the presidential election? Do you think the movie chose a side? Discuss how the movie portrayed this.
How did the movie portray fake news and how they spread?
Was it difficult to separate irony from facts in this mockumentary?Give examples from the film.
“My Son the Fanatic” is a short story written in 1997 by Hanif Kureishi about a father and a son living in London, and struggling to adapt. The father left Pakistan and loves England, he wants to become as English as possible, because “you can do almost anything here.” The son has never been outside England, but still struggles to find his place in the English society, and is looking for something else, going back to the culture and faith of his ancestors, and becoming more and more angry with the society he sees around himself – the society his father is so in love with.
“Free for All” is a short story written by Moin Ashraf in 1999. This story too depicts a father and a son, this time in the US, the father doing everything “right” to become an upright and successful man in his new country, and being frustrated at seeing his son leaving the ideals of his own country and tradition. It is a culture clash, between a son who has grown up American, and a father who still looks back to and values of his Pakistani homeland.
Write a blog post where you EITHER compare these two stories in terms of father-son relationships and the question of identity and belonging, OR discuss what these two stories say about being an immigrant, and raising a family in a different culture. What are these two stories saying about multiculturalism?
Julian Assange is the head of WikiLeaks and faces a harsh prison sentence in the USA if he were to be extradited from Britain. He released over 750,000 documents which showed corruption and human rights abuse at the hands of the American government in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as at the prison camp on Guantánamo. The documents were given to him by private Chelsea Manning, who was arrested in 2010 and served 7 years in prison. Just yesterday, a British court decided against extraditing Assange, on the grounds of his mental health. Edward Snowden is a former contractor for the National Security Agency who in 2013 transmitted to journalists 1.7 million classified documents detailing NSA online surveillance of American citizens. He was charged under the Espionage Act, but gained asylum in Russia.
So, are these people heroes or criminals? How crucial is it for a democracy to have whistleblowers? And where is the line between warning the public and exposing wrongs on the one side and breaking the law and putting your country at risk on the other? What is more important, freedom of speech and the right to privacy, or loyalty to your employer and country? And what costs does this come with for the individual who has to make that choice?
A court sketch of Julian Assange at the Old Bailey in London for the ruling in his extradition case on Monday, January 4, 2021.