Majority rule - a fair rule?
|Time budget||50 minutes|
|Grade||upper secondary level (grade 9 to 13)|
|Competences||decision-making competence, modeling competence|
What happens when a minority is permanently outvoted? The students identify the problem of the "persistent majority" and suggest solutions.
|Materials and resources||
markers, flipchart, three handouts (one copy per student)/see downloads
|Methods||individual work, group work, plenary discussion|
|Curricula||cross-curricular principle Citizenship Education, English lessons, curricula Citizenship Education, Law and Ethics|
© Council of Europe
Rolf Gollob, Peter Krapf, Wiltrud Weidinger (editors): EDC/HRE Volume IV. Taking part in democracy - Lesson plans for upper secondary level on democratic citizenship and human rights education (2010).
A model case story
This lesson introduces the students to the majority/minority issue. In a fictional case story, the problem is stated in the simplest possible way. A sports club is conceived as a micro-community, consisting of just two groups – one large and one small. The problem to be solved – how to balance the rights of the majority and the minority – is the same as that in society and in the political community.
1. Introduction: stating the problem
The teacher explains that the lesson will begin with a case story. He/she distributes
student handout 7.1 (see Downloads) and a student reads the story aloud.
The teacher asks one question: “What is the problem?” He/she aks the students to think about this question for a few moments and write down the answer.
In the plenary round, the students give their inputs, drawing on their notes. The teacher listens, and encourages the students to explain their ideas accurately. After about 10 students have spoken, the teacher records the key statements that have emerged on the board. It is to be expected that the students refer to the key principles of democracy, which seems to work to the advantage of the larger group, while the smaller group can refer to the principle of non-discrimination (equality).
The teacher links the students’ ideas to these categories, which then give structure and clarity to the discussion:
A small community: the sports club
|The problem||Suggested solutions|
The students should be aware that this kind of conflict requires some kind of settlement. The exodus of the chess players would harm the interests of everyone. For example, each club would have to cope with additional expenses. So it is worth the effort to find a solution that meets both the principles of democracy and equality.
2. Setting the task
a. The problem
The students will probably have realised that the case story is a model that shows the problems of society and the majority/minority issue therefore has a political dimension. By studying a model instead of reality, the problem becomes clearer and the task somewhat easier. The results of this model case study can then be applied – compared – to reality. The teacher points out this link between case story and reality, as this explains the purpose of the task.
Two principles must be observed: fairness and democracy.
On the one hand, the majority/minority issue needs to be solved fairly – the minority will not accept being permanently outvoted and seeing its interests and needs ignored. On the other hand, democracy means that the majority rightly insists on taking the decision into its hands. So the students must draft a statute that brings these two principles together.
The teacher distributes handouts 7.2 and 7.3 to the students and gives them time to read handout 7.2 in silence. In a brief plenary round the students link the basic approaches outlined in handout 7.2 to their ideas on the blackboard.
b. The expected solution
The students need to know what they are to deliver. In small groups, the students will work out a draft statute that provides rules to overcome the scenario of a “persistent minority” that is permanently being outvoted. They can include rules on decision making and perhaps also rules on distributing funds. The students should be aware of the fact that the sports club is a micro-community and their statute resembles the constitution of the state. Teacher and students refer to student handout 7.3 to clarify further questions on the task if necessary.
3. Group work
The students form groups of four to six. They use the remaining time to start with the group work, which they will continue in the following lesson.
7.1: model case story [pdf, 424 KB]
7.3: drafting a statute [pdf, 193 KB]
EDC/HRE Volume I: Educating for democracy. Background materials on democratic citizenship and human rights education for teachers. Rolf Gollob, Peter Krapf, Wiltrud Weidinger (editors). Published 2010, CoE (Council of Europe)
EDC/HRE Volume IV: Taking part in democracy. Lesson plans for upper secondary level on democratic citizenship and human rights education. Rolf Gollob, Peter Krapf, Wiltrud Weidinger (editors). Published 2010, CoE.