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Democracy? You think you know?
Democracy? You think you know?

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2 What are some possible alternatives?

Dictatorship – one person decides for all. If one person is superior to all others, what is wrong with this? But what would we mean by superior, and is that what should really count anyway?

Religious leaders – if there is a moral code, such as a religious one, which sets out right and wrong, why should we vote and why should everyone have a voice? Surely, we just need religious leaders to tell us what, for example, the Bible or the Koran requires of us?

Expertise – modern life is complex. Should not experts, who understand complexity, make decisions for us, rather than all of us voting in ignorance?

Anarchy – why have organised politics at all? Why not let everyone be free to do as they wish? Surely people can work out their own rules as they go along, and find ways to live together without governments telling them what to do?

Now start thinking more about what democracy is in Activity 1.

Activity 1

  1. The class needs to make a decision on an issue. Once the decision is made, everyone has to stick to it. Without prior discussion, ask pupils for ideas about how the decision ought to be made. Ask them to give reasons for their choice. Build up a list of these reasons for a picture of democracy's strengths and weaknesses.

  2. Alternatively, you might consider the current pressing issue of whether the reformed House of Lords in the UK should be elected or if some of its members should be appointed rather than elected.

    • Can there be ‘people's peers’?

    • How can an unelected body like the House of Lords have survived until today?

    • What should democrats want when it comes to reform?


See the sections on History, People's Peers and Democracy on the BBC News website.

Lords reform is ongoing. The most recent step was a government consultation exercise, the results of which are available on the Department for Constitutional Affairs website.