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Direct Democracy: Plebiscites and Referendums

Lesson Two: What are Plebiscites and Referendums?

Objective
Students will learn about plebiscites and referendums. This lesson will expand pathways to consider if the majority is always right.

Procedures
1.According to Plato’s Laches, Socrates said:
It seems to me that to decide things well it is necessary to decide them on the basis of knowledge and not by the majority.

Lead classroom discussion of this statement. When the majority makes a decision, is it necessarily made on the basis of knowledge?

2. Reconsider the Haudenosaunee system of using back-and-forth decision-making processes. How does slowing down our decision-making processes and interacting amongst communities allow for better use of knowledge?

3. Read What are Plebiscites and Referendums?
KEY QUESTION
• Direct democracy in ancient Athens helped keep the powerful in check. How does (even the threat of) a plebiscite or referendum keep the powerful in check?

Case Study: Saskatchewan’s History of Direct Democracy
4. Use case study to explore early demands for direct democracy in Saskatchewan.

Further Exploration
5. To consider the influence of the wealthy and the elites on our laws, check out the background information Progressive Personal Taxation in Lesson 1.4: Paying for Government Services in Our Government Our Election.

What are Plebiscites and Referendums?

Handout

Saskatchewan’s History of Direct Democracy

Case Study

Seen Oppenheimer?