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About Freedom in the World

Suggested Classroom Activity

Lesson: Ranking Activity

Overview of Lesson:

The Freedom in the World survey provides an annual evaluation of the state of global freedom as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom—the opportunity to act spontaneously in a variety of fields outside the control of the government and other agents of potential domination— according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The survey does not simply rate governments or government performance per se; it examines the real-world rights and social freedoms enjoyed by the inhabitants of a given country. Learning how to look at the world through the lens of actual political and social conditions experienced by ordinary citizens and residents gives students new insights on history, other countries, and their own society.

Lesson Content:
  1. Introduce your students to the Freedom in the World methodology questions by discussing each question in the checklist. For example, in section A, Electoral Process, question 1 asks, "Is the head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?" You might ask your students what they think constitutes a "free and fair" election versus one that is neither free nor fair. An additional option would be to use the expanded Freedom in the World methodology questions (found on Freedom House's website), such as "Have there been undue, politically motivated delays in holding the most recent election for head of government?" to get them to think about what "free and fair" means.
  2. Once you have discussed the methodology questions and you feel that your students have a fair understanding of them, talk about the point system and how scores for individual questions add up to the Political Rights and Civil Liberties ratings, and how the combined average rating determines the status of each country.
  3. Assign countries to small groups of 3–5 students and let them attempt to rank the country themselves. Over the course of a week or two they should be able to read current news on the internet about the assigned country and make their own decisions about the state of freedom there.
Lesson Follow-up:
  1. Have each group present their findings to the whole class and defend their decisions.
  2. Post the results somewhere in the classroom.
  3. After each group has presented its findings, you may want to then read the Freedom in the World reports to see how their evaluations compare to those of Freedom House analysts.
  4. Have the students continue to track their country and evaluate its performance relative to their initial ratings.
  5. After two months, ask the students to assess whether their countries have improved or declined, and whether their initial ratings should change.