Educational activities for high schools – I live in democracy Program
The aim of the educational program “I live in democracy“ is to lead the young people towards confident, active citizenship, as the main pillar of democracy is confident and responsible citizens, who understand their rights and duties.
“I live in democracy“ Program
- is meant for high school students of the 2nd and 3rd year
- introduces the principles of how democratic state works to the students
- workshop with experienced lecturers
- discussion with Czech MEPs or MPs, personalities of the Czech political life, journalists and experts
Within the program we focus on four basic topics:
- Democracy and political system – Why do people live differently in democracy and in a dictatorship? Comparison of the life in democracy and dictatorship. The aim is to realize the difference between the demarcation of limitations of the life in a totalitarian system and a system of the democratic right of their own free decision making – the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, movement or association, the right to vote or the right of private ownership.
- Information and media – How to find our way through the labyrinth of information? With the boom of information technology, a complicated labyrinth of information emerged, and it has become more and more difficult to tell the truth from a lie. The program should help the students understand the available information and teach them how to filter, verify and critically evaluate it.
- Confident citizenship – How can I change anything? Can an individual and especially a young person change anything on his/her own? Which possibilities and instruments do the citizens have? The aim is to introduce the options of active citizenship to students and present how to influence the life and development of the public space.
- International politics – What is moving the world today? The world consists of units, which constantly influence each other, create one big international system and form the international environment, which is constantly changing. This workshop can help the students to understand the current international politics so that they would be able to understand the topical issues of our world.
- 11. 2016 Kladno – Sportovní gymnázium Kladno
- 16. 11. 2016 Ostrava – Gymnázium Olgy Havlové
- 18. 11. 2016 Přerov – Gymnázium Jakuba Škody
- 2. 12. 2016 Praha – Gymnázium Jana Keplera
- 9. 12. 2016 Praha – Gymnázium Arabská
- 13. 12. 2016 Nymburk – Gymnázium Bohumila Hrabala
- 9. 3. 2017 Třebíč – Gymnázium Třebíč
On Thursday, March 13, we attended the Třebíč Grammar School with our Educational Program about living in a democracy. The Kremlin Watch Analyst, Veronika Víchová, took part in a workshop on “Information and Media”, which was followed by a discussion with the current Vice-President of the European Parliament Pavel Telička. Jana Spekhorst, chairwoman of the Czech women’s section of the European Union, also visited the debate.
The students participated very actively in the workshop and debates, discussing the future development of the European Union in the context of the White Paper of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, on the functioning of the EU institutions, debating the advantages and disadvantages of Britain’s exit from the EU for both sides, expressed their conviction that it is important for the Czech Republic to remain part of the European Union.
- 10. 3. 2017 Slavkov u Brna – Integrovaná střední škola
On March the 20th 2017, the Kremlin Watch Analyst Veronika Víchová from the European Values Think-tank and Libor Rouček, former Vice-President of the EP, participated in a debate with the students of the grammar school in Třebíč.
The first part was held by Veronika Víchová and she asked the students to think about underlying reasons for creating and spreading disinformation. One student stressed the intent of people to get more supporters for political ideas and changing the public debate. Ms. Víchová agreed, naming the aspiration for power and political marketing as well as polarization and separating societies as major factors. Moreover, economic interests were mentioned such as advertisement gains steaming from a higher number of shares in facebook if posts are very emotional, polarizing and shocking. Together with the students, she came up with rules for proper usage of social media and other online public news like searching for further sources, fact checking, critical thinking and speaking about disinformation with others.
In the second part, Mr. Rouček set focus on current challenges faced by the European Union. As an introduction, he named the five options for the EU future development, which were recently published. Namely: 1. Continuing the way the EU works and functions, 2. Giving up on common policies and moving back as being a common market only, 3. Europe of different speeds, 4. Becoming less but more effectively, 5. More integration, becoming a federal Europe. Since ‘Europe of different speeds’ is most likely to be agreed upon, he highlighted this option calling it the most challenging one for Czech, because of its risk for the country to become a buffer zone between West-Europe and Russia.
- 20. 3. 2017 Praha – Gymnázium Nad Alejí
On Monday, March 20th 2017, Roman Máca from the European Values Think-tank and Ivan Gabal, MP of the Czech Parliament, engaged in a debate with an upper stage class of the Gymnasium Nad Alejí about information transfer and current situations in Europe.
In his presentation, Roman Máca highlighted the importance of a thoughtful and cautious use of social media like Facebook by focusing on examples of pro-Russian disinformation in Czech. Giving vivid examples of fake accounts in Facebook and revealing some untruths of postings like photoshopped pictures and videos being taken out of context, he warned about the “Truth on Facebook”.
In the second part, Mr. Gabal set focus on current challenges faced by the European Union. As an introduction, he named the five options for the EU future development, which were recently published. Namely: 1. Continuing the way the EU works and functions, 2. Giving up on common policies and moving back as being a common market only, 3. Europe of different speeds, 4. Becoming less but more effectively, 5. More integration, becoming a federal Europe. Since ‘Europe of different speeds’ is most likely to be agreed upon, he highlighted this option calling it the most challenging one for Czech, because of its risk for the country to become a buffer zone between West-Europe and Russia.
Mr. Gabal concentrated on two main topics: the demographic situation in Europe and Migration. By using pictorial statistics, he demonstrated the demographic challenges to be faced by Europe with an aging and decreasing population in industrialized countries, especially compared to a young and increasing population in Africa. He further described the tension between migration and the need of work force in Western countries at one hand and brain drain and integration challenges on the other hand.
Mr. Gabal encouraged the students to use their time and travel to the Middle East Region, getting to know the culture and language as it will be useful in the future. At the same time, he described the importance of young people entering the military service so that Europe will be able to fight and protect itself. After a student raised the question of why to get to know the Arabic culture when they are supposed to fight against them, Mr. Gabal, being a former diplomat in the region, clarified. Besides the importance of having the capability of defending own values militarily, diplomacy and political solutions are the most important tools. One of the current major goals had to be stabilizing the Middle East, said Gabal.
- 24. 4. 2017 Tachov – Gymnázium Tachov
- 24. 4. 2017 Podbořany – Gymnázium Podbořany
The Grammar school in Podbořany was the only one to choose “Confident Citizenship” as its main topic for the discussion with local students. The event was attended by the MEP Olga Sehnalová and the European Values lecturer Štěpánka Czerninová who took the first part of the program. She especially talked about which possibilities and instruments citizens have to actively engage in their community and why it is important to do so. She also introduced to the students what initiatives they can do at the European level.
Then, Mrs. Sehnalová continued in the program. She spoke generally about her job in the European Parliament, for the purposes of the lecture she also clarified the main function of the institution she works for and explained what her daily work duties are. The students raised questions such as Brexit, whether there are some disputes between the Czech representatives in the since they are from different political parties, or how the EU influences the Czech legislation system.
- 26. 5. 2017 Mnichovo Hradiště – Gymnázium Mnichovo Hradiště
Mnichovo Hradiště was attended by the Kremlin Watch Analyst Roman Máca and unfortunately, none of the participating MEPs were able to join this concrete event due to their work duties.
In his lecture, he included the topic of Information and Media, which the school had chosen in advance. He specifically talked about his experience with investigative work covering the hoaxes spreading on the Internet. He also described what the disinformation websites are, how they work, what their financial background is etc. The discussion also included how the EU or Czech institutions can be affected by hoaxes and what the results of such activities can be.
- 30. 5. 2017 Kadaň – Gymnázium Kadaň
On Tuesday, 30 May 2017, another series of high-school seminars held in the framework of the European Values Educational Program, with the support of the European Parliament, took place in Kadan. As part of a seminar on the topic of life in a democracy and political rights, students of the second and third grade of the local grammar school first attended a workshop with a lecturer from the European values, Petr Pospíšil, and Silvie Lauder, the editor of Respekt weekly.
Already during the workshop, some of the students were particularly interested, expressed their concerns about the excessive interference of the state into the privacy of citizens, and raised the question of the extent to which it is right to limit freedom within the interest of safety. They also raised the question of whether it is possible to trust the state institutions on the one hand and, on the other hand, to question whether these institutions often serve the individual, particular interests of the people at their head.
The following discussion with Silvie Lauder was hosted in a library of local grammar school. Sylvie Lauder took the talk as an interactive discussion with the audience. She talked about her work experience as a journalist – for example about her business trip to Bhutan or about the state of investigative journalism in the Czech Republic. The speech was also on migration, terrorism and climate change. The success of the discussion is also evidenced by the fact that its length has doubled from the original one-hour lesson.
- 2. 6. 2017 Zlín – Gymnázium Lesní Čtvrť
Gymnázium Zlín – Lesní Čtvrť usually invites politicians from across the spectrum to maintain their objectivity and let the students make their own views. The students were obviously accustomed to the realization of educational events beyond the classes and did not have the problem to actively engage in the discussion and ask questions. Jiří Pospíšil focused on the EU’s benefits to the Czech Republic and tried to specify how the EU is influencing the life of students and that the benefits that EU membership brings are not a matter of course.
Mr. Pospíšil’s lecture was followed by the European Values Think-Tank lecturer Šimon Levíček. This school chose “International Politics” as its main topic, so the lecturer talked especially about current foreign-policy issues and about their potential impact on our lifes.
- 2. 6. 2017 Praha – SOŠ Podnikatelská Profit
This high school chose “Information and media” as the main topic, so the event was attended by the Kremlin Watch Analyst Roman Máca and Czech Member of the European Parliament Luděk Niedermayer. Roman Máca talked about disinformation websites – what they are and how they work and described few specific pieces of disinformation concerning the Ukraine conflict or the migration crisis.
His lecture was followed up by Luděk Niedermayer who aimed more at his work in the EP. He explained his motivation to become an MEP and why he considers the EU itself and our membership there important. Then he encouraged the students to try to explain what the EU means to them. This occurred quite challenging for the students because (as it turned out) they lacked basic information about the EU and it seemed that they had not considered such question ever before. So Mr. Niedermayer explained to the students what the EU actually is, which institution it includes, what the advantages and disadvantages of our membership are etc.
- 6. 6. 2017 Praha – Gymnázium Jana Keplera
Our Educational Program attended a school in Prague again – although the program was offered to secondary schools throughout the Czech Republic, the Prague schools had the greatest interest in the program beyond classical education, which we tried to satisfy. Unfortunately, none of the participating MEPs were able to join this concrete event due to their work duties.
The first part of the event was held by the Kremlin Watch Analyst Roman Máca. In his lecture, he included the topic of Information and Media, which the school had chosen in advance. He specifically talked about his experience with investigative work covering the hoaxes spreading on the Internet.
The second part of the program was held by Silvie Lauder from the weekly RESPEKT. In discussion with the students, she aimed at her work and personal experience as well with disinformation websites. The discussion continued to the impact of disinformation campaigns in Europe and worldwide and spreading of disinformation from top politicians. Within the topic, she mentioned some examples of disinformation concerning the EU and the EP.
- 9. 6. 2017 Šumperk – Střední odborná škola
Another session of the „I Live in Democracy“ Program took place in Šumperk. This lecture consisted of two parts, first of which was given by Markéta Krejčí, the Kremlin Watch Member. First, Markéta talked about disinformation in general. She dealt with disinformation as a whole, she explained what they are, how to recognize them and also what is the main purpose of disinformation. Markéta also gave some examples of disinformation from recent events so the students were able to easier understand the topic. The students then asked about what kind of sources they should use and which media are the best to read so they can avoid disinfromation.
The second part of the session was a lecture given by MUDr. Olga Sehnalová, MBA, a member of the European Parliament. Firstly, Mrs. Sehnalová spoke generally about her job in the European Parliament, for the purposes of the lecture she also clarified the main function of the institution she works for and explained what she has to do on daily basis. The students mostly asked about what is her opinion on Brexit, whether there are some disputes between the Czech representatives in the EP, since they are from different political parties, or how the EU influences the Czech legislation system. Mrs. Sehnalová then encouraged the students that they should not give up their goals and said that she also has not been elected to the EP the first time she tried.
- 23. 6. 2017 Sokolnice – Základní škola Sokolnice
„Disinformation and how to understand current mass media“ was the main topic of the workshop for students at the primary school in Sokolnice near Brno. The event was attended by Markéta Krejčí, the Kremlin Watch member. For instance, she described to students how to find a credible information on the internet, how to filter resources while searching and googling and last but not least she explained which of the websites and news pages tend to give us distorted information and how such “media” work. Although the students were only about 15 years old, they were very attentive and interested in the topic. The discussion, which was not long but very important, began promptly after Marketa’s speech.
- 26. 6. 2017 Velké Meziříčí – Gymnázium Velké Meziříčí
Information and media were the main topic chosen by this school. The first part of the event was held by Markéta Krejčí, the Kremlin Watch member. She explained to students all the rigors and dangers of the today’s media world. We have to be really circumspect while searching news or googling any info on the internet as well as watching the news on TV or reading newspapers. If we do not choose carefully our sources of news, we can encounter various Euromyths, for example.
The second part of the event in Velké Meziříčí was led by Pavel Svoboda, who is a lawyer and nowadays also the Member of the European Parliament. He had a speech about the current state of the EU and the situation in the whole Europe. First, he explained to the students what is, in fact, the European Union and how it was founded. He emphasized the name of Jean Monnet, whose merit in the history of the EU he compared to Alexandr Fleming’s merit in the research of the penicillin. After the enlightening story of the history, present day and institutions of the EU, the discussion began.
The students were very interested in the refugee quotas and the whole relation of the Czech Republic to the European Union. There were also questions about the Ukraine and the EU and the Turkey and its relation to the Union. Svoboda spoke up that very often the hate against the EU is caused by the ignorance about the whole EU and its function.
During the events, views of the participating students and their recommendations for the EU policies, which were formulated during the discussions, were collected. These outputs were written in a summary document, which is available here.