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Achievement Curriculum: Module 1: Student Handout

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Voices from the Academy of Achievement

The Hon. Mikhail S. Gorbachev
Nobel Prize for Peace

I was relatively young, the youngest of the lot, actually, and I was a man with a modern education who already had a great deal of experience working independently. At the beginning, that was important, that was significant. Also, the fact that I was given the post of General Secretary, tantamount to being a Tsar, and did not get drunk on my own power, but instead began to transform it. That already was the result of my democratic convictions. I had had them ever since I was young, and they became my defining characteristic, my credo: devotion to democracy, respect for the worth of the individual. But the system had suppressed all that; it did not allow an individual the freedom to actualize himself. I did not accept this.

[ Interview ] Mikhail Gorbachev

A student in Japan once asked me, "President, democracy is all very well. You were elected; you introduced free elections and everything, but at the next election you might not be elected and you will lose." I told her, "But you see, even then I will not lose, because there will have been free elections and that is the result of what I have been trying to achieve." I said, "If I win a free election then I will have a double victory. If I lose then there will only be one victory, but democracy will exist and that is the main thing." For this reason, when they ask me nowadays how I feel, after all that has happened, I say, "Of course it did turn out that the very moment we were supposed to go further in reforming the Soviet Union, the Party and the economy, perestroika was interrupted, but what it accomplished, and what processes and tendencies it laid down -- that is an enormous victory.

[ Interview ] Mikhail Gorbachev

The Hon. Benazir Bhutto
Former Prime Minister of Pakistan

One of the moments was when my father died and I had my -- before he died, I had my last meeting with him, in the death cell, and he said that, "You have suffered so much." I had been in prison myself, and he said, "You are so young. You just finished your university. You came back. You had your whole life and look at the terror under which we have lived." So he said, "I set you free. Why don't you go and live in London or Paris or Switzerland or Washington, and you are well taken care of, and have some happiness because you have seen too much suffering." I reached out through the prison bars, and I remember grasping his hands and saying, "No, papa, I will continue the struggle that you began for democracy."

[ Interview ] Benazir Bhutto

I saw the power of democracy. It was really -- I felt powerful. I felt my voice counted. And meantime in Pakistan my father had been trying to empower the ordinary Pakistanis and telling them that they could break free of the shackles of feudalism and a military industrial complex. So when I went back, my own experience put me a bit ahead because I had a broader experience. I had experience in Pakistan and in America, and I had seen it succeed. So I went back really at the right time.

Ralph Nader
Consumer Crusader

The Constitution is not just a parchment to be saluted on the Fourth of July. It's a document that gives you living rights and responsibilities which we should take hold of. Because democracy is like a coral reef; it's built up little by little by little. You look at it, and it looks so beautiful, but the reverse is true, too. It deteriorates little by little. When you don't stand up to someone who is abridging your rights, when you don't report someone who is violating the norms or the laws of the community -- and I'm not just talking about burglaries or vandalism, I'm talking about someone who basically coerces people against their Constitutional rights -- if you don't do that, next time, more of these misbehaving people are going to say, "We can get away with it. We got away with it last month, we can move even deeper into eroding people's rights." So it's important for young people to grow up learning their rights because if you don't know your rights, how are you going to use your rights? As my parents said, "If you don't use your rights, you are eventually going to lose your rights."

[ Interview ] Ralph Nader

Dr. Robert H. Schuller
Crystal Cathedral

I'm sick and tired of this country being divided left and right, conservative and liberal, communist, pro-communist and anti-communist. I've lived my whole life that way. I'm 70 years old. And by God, now it's time for a President who can bring us together. I don't care what party he belongs to.

[ Interview ] Robert Schuller

Grades 7-9

Projects and Investigations:

World Democracies
In the video segments, Consumer Crusader Ralph Nader says, "The constitution is not just a parchment to be saluted on the Fourth of July, it's a document that gives you living rights and responsibilities which we should take hold of." Write the word "democracy' on a piece of paper, create a cluster of words and phrases that come to mind when you think of democracy. Use this cluster to compose a brief definition of democracy. Then, compare your definition to the one in the dictionary. Next, use the Resource Links to investigate democracies throughout the world, comparing and contrasting "parliamentary democracies" and "republican democracies." What shape and forms does democracy take? What makes up a constitutional state? What problems are faced by a democratic state? Chose one foreign democratic nation and read that nation's constitution, comparing it to the Constitution of the United States. Research the framers of that nation's constitution. Choose phrases or passages that you feel highlight the essence of the document and put them into your own words, creating a multimedia poster that explains the country's ideology.

In Your Own Backyard
Take a moment to think about the community where you spend much of your time: school. Do you feel that the democratic process is at work in your school? Should it be a democracy? Is there is a bond between people who are different from each other? Can you think of anything that would make your school community stronger? Who makes decisions for your school? Does your school have elected student officials? Are different student groups represented equally in student government? How do other students feel about these questions? Conduct a survey of students in your school in order to assess the level of community involvement in school civic life (try to ask only yes/no questions for the survey). Ask students if you can take their picture for your presentation, assuring them that they're survey responses will remain anonymous. Analyze your survey results. Do students feel involved in the school community? Is there "civic equality" among ages and genders of students? Write a summary of your findings and present it to the class, along with a slide show of diverse student portraits.

Grades 9-12

Comparing Elections and Systems
In the video segments Mikhail Gorbachev says, "If I win a free election then I will have a double victory. If I lose there will only be one victory, but democracy will exist and that is the main thing." In the United States, we've seen how close an election can be. Using the Resource Links, research the judicial and electoral processes and institutions in one of the following countries: England, Japan, Ivory Coast, Mexico, India, Egypt, Israel, Indonesia, Germany, China, Russia, or Yugoslavia. How often are elections held? What positions do people elect officials to? Who runs the electoral process? Who ensures that elections are free and fair? What type of government does the country have? Does it have separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches? What are the basic responsibilities of each branch of this government? Compare this country's election and electoral system with that of the United States, creating a multimedia chart of their similarities and differences.

Political Cartooning
Political Cartoons have enjoyed a long tradition in world politics. Check out the political cartoon link provided in the resource links. Then create your own political cartoon on one of the following topics:

Campaign Finance Reform:
One of the most heated debates in Washington today is the question of campaign finance reform. Using the Resource Links, investigate this issue. Is campaign finance reform important in securing a true democracy? Make a list of major donors to the Bush and Gore campaigns of 2000. How much money did each of them raise? Do you think some groups use campaign donations as a way to exert influence? Learn about the campaign finance reform legislation that is being proposed. Finally, create a political cartoon depicting your views on this issue.

Two Parties Too Many?
In the video segments, Dr. Robert H. Schuller says he is "sick and tired" of the United States "being divided left and right, conservative and liberal..." What are your feelings about the two party system? Using the Resource Links, investigate the differences between the Republican and Democratic platforms. Then research other party platforms, i.e. the Green, Libertarian and Labor Parties. Why do you think most national elections are dominated by the two major parties?

Take your cartoon a step further and animate it!

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