Saturday, December 11, 2010

What is the opposite of democracy?

When I was a 6th Grade teacher, my class worked on something called Geotopia.  This was a project to teach them about geography, while at the same time the students were designing their ideal country.  One of the things we talked about was government of that country - what was the best type of government.  Many students had come from countries that were democracies  - they didn't know much else  but we asked what is the opposite of democracy and we did look at alternatives, including one student who investigated anarchy.   However at the end the students almost overwhelmingly agreed democracy was best for their ideal country.

A short while ago I wrote a post called Education for Democracy.  This was a reflection on the final part of Curriculum as Inquiry by Kathy Short and Carolyn Burke who argue that education for democracy is essential for inquiry.  Since the Primary Years Programme is inquiry based, it would seem to follow that democracy would be important in PYP schools.

Today I'm reflecting on what is the opposite of democracy and also how international mindedness which is embedded in all 3 IB programmes fits in with inquiry and democracy. For example I am asking myself is it only democracy that is compatible with international mindedness?  Or to put it another way, if schools are not promoting democracy is that incompatible with developing international mindedness in their students? There are many IB schools in countries that are not democratic and I wonder how easy is it to teach international mindedness in such settings?   There are several different forms of non-democratic or totalitarian regimes, from dictatorships or autocracies (rule by an individual with unlimited power), oligarchy (rule by the few, such as military juntas), theocracy (god is the supreme ruler, religious representatives are divinely guided) and even some forms of monarchy.  In international schools in such countries with a large local population, how does international mindedness develop?

Martin Skelton, in a presentation to ISB, talked about the development of self,  the awareness of other and then to the self and other co-existing.   He talks about the development of family or tribe through to nation and then international and eventually to an awareness of independence and interdependence on a global scale.  He asks the question:  What is good international education? One of the outcomes of good international education is to produce better global citizens which involves an "openness to otherness, a willing to be challenged and other similar characteristics of personality and mind".  So I'm asking can these things also exist in autocracies, or do they just exist in democracies?

Photo Credit:  Victory for Iran #Iranelection by Harry Staab

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