The foundations of Athenian democracy include equality, harmony, debate, and general education, among others. Activities ask you to use these principles to evaluate how democratic are the community standards, online rules, and user policies found on today's social media platforms, and then write a social media policy for your class, school, or district that upholds the foundational features of democracy.
The foundational principles of Athenian democracy included freedom from tryanny, rule of law, equality, citizen wisdom, harmony, active debate, and general education (from the book First Democracy: The Challenge of an Ancient Idea. Paul Woodduff, 2005).
In the following activities, you will apply these principles to evaluating how democratic are the community standards, online rules, and user policies found on today's social media platforms.
Activity 1: Evaluate Social Media Community Guidelines
Pro-tip: These guidelines tend to be long, so use the “find” function (CTRL + F on PC, CMD + F on Mac) to find specific words or phrases.
In a video, podcast, or brief paper, answer the following questions related to how the community standards do or do not uphold the foundational features of democracy:
Does the platform allow all users to post and comment equally, or does it ban certain types of content or actions from the platform? Do you agree with these bans?
How does the platform encourage active dialogue and debate? Does this debate build harmony among users? (harmony means “accepting differences among people”)
Does the platform support citizen wisdom and general education?
Are the guidelines easy to read or understand? If not, why do you think the standards are written in the way that they are?
From your own experience on the platform, how effective do you think these guidelines are in maintaining democratic principles and dialogue on the site?
Bonus: Annotate the community standards using Hypothes.is to display your findings/thoughts.
Activity 2: Assessing, Revising, and Writing School Social Media Policies
Does your school or district have a social media policy?
If It Does: Evaluate whether your school's policies align with the seven features of Athenian democracy. Then, either: 1) write a proposal to administrators to suggest changes to the policy to make it more democratic; or 2) write a social media policy for your class.
Explain why the Founders of the United States considered the government of ancient Athens to be the beginning of democracy and explain how the democratic concepts developed in ancient Greece influenced modern democracy (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Studies) [8.T1.1]
Explain the democratic political concepts developed in ancient Greece: a) the "polis" or city state; b) civic participation and voting rights, c) legislative bodies, d) constitution writing, d) rule of law (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Studies) [7.T4.3]