Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


1What is Democracy Web?

Democracy Web is an online resource for teachers and students that provides a philosophical and factual overview of the principles of democracy and their origins, as well as country studies that examine how a variety of contemporary political systems function with respect to these principles. The goal is to give students a better understanding of democracy through the comparative study of a wide array of countries.

Democracy Web was developed by the Albert Shanker Institute with the human rights organization Freedom House and was originally posted in 2009. Democracy Web is designed for use with upper secondary-level and lower college-level students, but teachers at lower secondary-level and even middle school levels have also found it useful, as have civic and human rights activists around the world. There have been millions of individual users of the Democracy Web site since its launch.  The site is being updated to keep it current with world events.

2.    How Do I Use Democracy Web?

Democracy Web includes a study guide and an interactive world map based on Freedom House’s annual Survey of Freedom in the World, which is color coded to correspond with its classification of countries as Free, Partly Free, or Not Free.

The Study Guide is composed of units, or sections, that focus on a key principle of democracy used in Freedom House’s measurements for its annual study. Originally, there were 12 such categories in Freedom House's methodology and Democracy Web is designed around these categories to form 12 separate units to the study guide: (1) consent of the governed, (2) free and fair elections, (3) constitutional limits, (4) majority rule/minority rights, (5) accountability, (6) multiparty systems, (7) economic freedom, (8) rule of law, (9) human rights, (10) freedom of expression, (11) freedom of association, and (12) freedom of religion.

Each unit of the Study Guide includes a discussion of that category’s Essential Principles and History and then includes three Country Studies that represent a Free, Partly Free, and Not Free country to show how that section’s principle works in practice. All of this content can be reached through the Study Guide tab and through specific country searches (through the Countries tab). We recommend beginning with the Essential Principles section, but teachers and students may also explore the connections from multiple angles. Extensive Resource lists and ideas for Study Questions are also included in each category section. See "How To Use This Site" for more information.

The interactive map allows users to click on any country to access its basic information, as well as link to that country's annual Survey of Freedom in the World report and additional surveys, country assessments, or special reports published by Freedom House. Users can also find the Country Studies for the 34 countries selected for study within the Democracy Web.

3.  Does Democracy Web Have a Curriculum or Lesson Plans

At present, no. Democracy Web is designed as an on-line resource to supplement classes in American and world history, social studies, civics, and political science.  There are Study Questions within each unit relating to the Essential Princples, History, and three Country Studies. The Study Questions offer specific suggestions for exploring topics and making assignments, but not  lesson plans. The Albert Shanker Institute encourages teachers to develop specific lesson plans around the Study Guide’s different units or around study of specific countries or a set of countries. If teachers do develop lesson plans, please share them with the Albert Shanker Institute through Contact Us or by emailing directly [email protected]. We will post them on this site with proper attribution.  

One organization, Tavanaa has translated Democracy Web into Persian and developed specific lesson plans for each of the units for online courses aimed at Iranian civic activists, teachers, and students. An English-language page describes its Democracy Web lesson plans (link).

4.    What is Freedom in the World?

Freedom in the World is the annual comparative survey of political rights and civil liberties around the globe carried out by the human rights organization Freedom House. The Freedom in the World Survey has been published since 1973. The survey examines the extent to which democratic rights and freedoms are enjoyed in all countries and territories in the world and categorizes those countries and territories as “Free,” “Partly Free,” and “Not Free.” These designations are made according to a ranking system of 1-7. The survey bases its judgments on a series of criteria that give separate scores for a country's level of political rights and its array of civil liberties, resulting in the overall designation of each country. As a companion to the survey, Freedom House publishes an annual Map of Freedom, which is color coded to show the freedom designation of each country. The annual report materials (downloads, map, table, and methodology) are available through the Freedom in the World web page).

5.    How Does Freedom House Score Countries?

Originally, the annual survey used 12 categories of freedom, which is the basis for the units of the study guide. Currently, it uses 10 measurements for political liberties and 15 for civil liberties that correspond to these 12 cateogries. Freedom House assesses each country’s performance according to determinations made each year by country experts and a panel of evaluators. See link for a full description of the methodology.

6.    For whom is Democracy Web intended?

Democracy Web is intended as a study guide for history, social studies, government, and civics teachers of upper secondary-level and lower college-level students. However, lower-secondary and even middle school teachers have also used Democracy Web in their classes. Teachers should encourage their students to use the interactive map or build lesson plans around the map and study guide. 

7.    What is the funding for Democracy Web?

The Albert Shanker Institute and Freedom House received a joint grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for the original core funding for this project to develop the initial web page, launched in 2009. It is currently a project of the Albert Shanker, which has provided additional funding for maintaining and updating the contents of the site. The content of the site is the responsibility of the Albert Shanker Institute and does not necessarily reflect the views of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

8.    If I have more questions or want more information on Democracy Web, who should I contact?

Please contact us at: [email protected].