Social Studies

Where in the World Is Democracy?

By Mary Ann Zehr — February 12, 2009 1 min read

Take a guess at which countries in the world are “not free.” Among them are China, Iraq, Kazakhstan, and Sudan, according to the Map of Freedom that is part of a new Web site, Democracy Web. And which countries would you put in the column of “free?” The Map of Freedom says that Argentina, India, Mongolia, Ukraine, and South Africa are all free. Jordan and Ethiopia get a partly free ranking.

The site is sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute and the Freedom House and is aimed at supporting teachers to educate students about democracy. It comes with a study guide. Whether a country is considered to be free, not free, or partly free is based on the Freedom of the World survey, which awards countries freedom points depending on the answers to questions about religious freedom, corruption, independence of the media, and other issues. But I notice that the description of the survey doesn’t say who provides the answers.

I think an interesting exercise would be for students to conduct research about individual countries to see if what they learn about a country’s civil and political rights seems to match its ranking in the Map of Freedom.

For example, I’m questioning if the “partly” free ranking for one of the African countries that I have some knowledge about is on the mark, given that I’ve met several people from that country in the Washington area who have told me they were tortured by the current government there. Can a country torture its own citizens and still be partly free? hmmmm

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.