Direct Democracy: Plebiscites and Referendums

Lesson One: What is Direct Democracy?

Students will learn about the origins and basic structure of direct democracy. This foundation will underpin all subsequent lessons.

1.Brainstorm with students what democracy means to them. Use varied answers to establish the idea that it can be hard to narrow down a precise definition for democracy.

2. Break students into smaller groups. Ask each group to use the opening class discussion as a basis for creating their own definition of democracy.

3. Bring class together to share each group’s definition. Use voting to determine a final classroom definition of democracy.

4. Point out that having each student vote for their preferred definition is a form of direct democracy. Each student had a direct say in determining the final definition.

5. To establish understandings of the roots of direct democracy, distribute and read What is Direct Democracy?
• Greek democracy was short-lived, lasting only a few hundred years. Similar democratic structures in Rome did not last much longer. European democracy did not begin to re-emerge until at least England’s Glorious Revolution in 1688. What does democracy’s long absence tell us about democracy’s fragility?

Case Study: Roots of Indigenous Democracy

6. Use case study to illustrate that ancient Greece was not the only democratic
society of our past.

Further Exploration

7. To more deeply consider democracy’s varied definitions, check out Lesson 1.1: What is Democracy in Our Government Our Election.

What is Direct Democracy?


Roots of Indigenous Democracy

Case Study