Appointments Game and Volunteer or
Should the Government Do It All?

Appointments Game
Level: Middle school and high school
Subject: World history
Time: 10 to 15 minutes, with updates and reviews every three to four weeks
Preparation: Have students review what their text has to say about 14th-century Florence and then view "Florentine Lottery" (Tape 1, Participation, Act 3, 46:05). Students should be able to successfully define "social capital."

Announce to students that you are going to determine classroom rules at 4 p.m. If they wish to be a part of the decision-making process, tell them to meet you at that time. No matter how many show, write the rules based on collaboration. Post them the next day. Does the rest of the class like being excluded from the decision-making process?

Offer to hold an election for a new decision-making team. How does the class feel about representative government now? Do they miss having a voice? Or do they still feel they have a voice? Do they like having someone to blame?

Every three or four weeks, hold a lottery for a new set of leaders, as in the Florentine lottery segment in the "Participation" Act of The American Promise. Consider having universal parliamentary participation for the school. Everyone participates equally in decision-making. Everyone can have their voice heard; everyone stays involved.


1. Do spectators get a vote (not a voice) in what a team should do? Play by play? Or is this unfair? What's required to be a participant? Practice? Knowledge? Skill? Team spirit?

2. What makes someone a "leader"? Knowing what's going on? Getting involved? Being a participant? It's hard to lead from the bleachers.

Volunteer or Should the Government Do It All?

Level: Middle school and high school
Subject: World history
Time: 10 minutes
Preparation: View "Florentine Lottery" (Tape 1, Participation, Act 3, 46:05)

Much of the participation in any community is invisible to students, unless their parents are somehow involved. Even then, the sheer volume of activities necessary to make the community come even close to working isn't apparent. Should the government do it all? In many European and Scandinavian countries, the government is responsible for most, if not all, of the community's activities. These governments run the hospitals, schools, museums, shelters, and social service support groups. Should government bureaucracies or volunteers do these activities? Who knows the community better? And, can the community afford to pay the government (via taxes) to do all these things?

Does the community benefit by having its residents involved in community activities? How? Does it change the community? (See examples throughout The American Promise series.)

Free Rides

In a democracy, nonparticipants are considered "free riders"; that is, they benefit from others' efforts but do not, themselves, contribute. Should free riders be taxed extra for not playing, since they're a cost to the community? Or, should the participants get extra benefits (for example, tax deductions) for the time and money they provide to help their community? This topic should yield a discussion on fairness and governmentally provided incentives (normally accomplished via the government's legislative, taxation, and regulatory powers).

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