Monday, November 07, 2005

MUDEC and Universite du Luxembourg

We had another meeting of the faculty between MUDEC and the Universite du Luxembourg this afternoon. We are attempting to devise an ongoing relationship that can serve both institutions. As I expressed in one of my previous posts, they are very interested in the concept of democracy and how it is manifest in modern times. After much discussion and struggling with how to approach this, a faculty member for Universite du Luxembourg (Martin Uhrmacher) and I were asked to draft something to get our respective students started. I took the first crack at it and expect Martin to come back with some revisions. The text that I suggested follows:

Most European and U.S. colleges and universities have included the goal of fostering civic interest in their students from their very founding days. This has taken many different forms including courses, lectures, student organizations, service and others. These opportunities have usually only implicitly encouraged student participation in democratic and leadership endeavors. The growing complexity of our global community and the failure of leadership in various settings (business, politics, education, social change) is producing a resurgence in the explicit attention given to civic engagement and leadership in many modern colleges and universities. If higher education is to be effective in sustaining democratic learning, students must be involved in shaping how democracy is to be approached and they must be involved in helping to define the form of democracy that will serve the purposes of those around the globe.

One of the challenges in educating students about democracy is "whose democracy?" How is it defined across a variety of circumstances and in the unique historic and national contexts in which it can be found? In order to understand what the options are, we return to three ancient views of democracy - Socratic, Stoic, and Epicurean. These three views are more straightforward than many of the complex systems we see today. In order to understand the original and core ideas of democracy, you are encouraged to consider how you believe democracy could be protected based on one or a combination of these perspectives. Brief definitions for each are:

1) Socratic democracy advocated that all responsible citizens should be involved in governing. While not all citizens were truly free to engage in these democratic deliberations in ancient times, all those who were eligible were expected to give of their time and effort to be informed, to discuss with others, and to exercise their civic responsibility. Democracy was dependent on civil service to friends, family, and community.

2) Stoic democracy advocated that citizenship was demonstrated through virtue and acts of brotherhood. In many ways, the Stoic perspective is very practical rather than philosophical. What mattered most was character, behavior, and how one treated his/her neighbor. Democracy was manifest through the bond of brotherhood or sisterhood expressed in community policies and practices.

3) Epicurean democracy advocated that governing was most effective when it assured that all citizens were free from pain and that they could pursue pleasure at will. In some ways, an Epicurean philosophy could be perceived to be hedonistic, except that Epicurean democracy sought for all to be able to pursue pleasure, not just oneself. Democracy in this way of thinking should create a better and more enjoyable quality of life for all.

You are being asked to consider these three core views of democracy and to write your own version of democracy in the modern day. In a short statement (no longer than those above), state what you believe the fundamental purpose and intent of democracy should be today.


The idea of democracy is one that is very important to EU citizens. They look at the U.S.A., the primary advocate for democracy in the world, and wonder if our ways of governing are as effective as we claim. The renewed sense of being players in the world community may result in young and old alike taking a more careful look at democracy and tackling the issues to make it more effective.

4 comments:

Steve said...

Denny - Sounds like you had an interesting trip to Amsterdam. I was reading an article in the WSJ the other day and I thought of you. The article dicussed how the creation of the EU was supposed to foster economic prosperity for the countries involved but because of the countries need to maintain their identity, several road blocks had come up. The issue they used to describe these topics was pretty neat. They talked about Kellogs Corn Flakes. Kellogs has to make 8 -ish varities of it's standard corn flakes for sale in Europe due to requirements of the individual countries. For example, France and Germany (I believe) don't want their corn flakes enriched with Vitamin B because they feel it would lead to too much vitamin B in their citizens diet when you take into account the rest of their diet. Finland, on the other hand wants the vitamin B and wants extra helpings of vitamin D due to the low levels of sunlight (the naturally occuring source of vitamin d) that their citizens get. All of these differnt "recipes" result in higher costs and lower profits for Kellogs. The article went on to highlight several other industries and the challenges they faced but each example highlighted the issue that the individual countries need for solidarity (I think that is the term you were using) is holding back the economic growth of the EU. I was curious as to whether you had heard anything about this in your travels? How does the current leadership plan to serve the needs of the EU as well as balance the needs of the individual countries. Why am I suddenly taken back to 8th grade social studies lessons about states rights vs. federal government?

P.S. OSU won, Miami won (played Buffalo and destroyed them), and Pittsburgh beat Green Bay even with Roethlisberger (sp?) out after having knee surgery that will keep him out for 2-4 weeks.

Denny Roberts said...

Steve - Very interesting question about the functionality of the EU policies. I went to a couple of presentations at ILA about the EU and I'm learning more each day. One of the things that is important is to consider why various authors take different stances. In the case of the Kellogg story, I assume the author seeks quick profitability - a typically U.S.A. kind of motivation. The commitment of the EU is to make no decisions at the broad 25-member level unless every member can benefit or at least is not harmed by a particular action. This is the concept of subsidiarity - pushing it down to the lowest level. The interesting twist of your example is that Kelloggs can't make the profit it wants, which could lead to their withdrawing from the EU market. If the EU finds over time that product development/distribution is hampered by member countries' different policies, it could change. However, I think a European would say that there are trade-offs and, in the Kelloggs' case, they would probably be willing to pay more for a French or German version of cornflakes in order to adhere to a policy that they believe is unique and beneficial to the particular country. I'm continuing to learn more. Clearly, Europeans are divided in their advocacy for the EU and many of the implications are unfolding each day.

Great football game update - Thanks! I hadn't even heard about Ben's surgery. Was this from the hit that occurred before I left the states?

Steve said...

I don't think the article was about turning a quick profit, it was more about long term profitability of companies who were facing challenges intergrating themselves within the EU. One can't deny that major coporations could bring a lot in terms of economic stability to EU. But your trip has peaked my interest in this subject and I'm just getting immersed in the literature about this subject so my views could change.

Ben's injury was a two part injury. He injured his knee before you left, played hurt and then two weeks ago took another hit which led to him having some more tests done on his knee. The result . . . the scoped his right knee (I believe) and he is expected to return within 4 weeks. But where they'll be at that point with an injured receiving corps., and Charlie Batch as QB, who knows?

When are you stopping by the Chimay brewery. Take pics!

Denny Roberts said...

Product development and distribution is a fascinating area. The first and most graphic example of taste and standards differences I've seen was at the Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta. At the conclusion of the exhibit they have a full sampling display of Coke across time and around the world. You can taste them all. They change the flavor of Coke in order to stay competitive. I wonder if this is the way other products will have to adjust. The alternative is that our world will gradually regresss to common tastes, preferences, and eventual culture. Being in Europe accentuates both the coalescence and differentiation of cultural preference. Every where I go there is U.S.A. popular music as well as entertainment and fashion influences. On the other hand, when I go to the grocery store, I can't find anything I recognize except salad and cheese (that's a bit of an exageration). Then there is the issue of language. As an English-speaking person, I struggle to communicate with some people but there is almost always someone around who can interpret for me. While Europeans want to preserve their separate languages and cultures, the domination of English is pretty profound. I actually hope that we can create a world where we agree on the essentials and create a shared culture there while letting the other things be unique and special to nations and regions around the world. If it costs more in product development and distribution, then my guess is that many consumers would be comfortable with that.

The Chamay brewery should have been one of my stops in Belgium. Unfortunately, I didn't take the time out during the recent run to Amsterdam. However, you can take a guess at what's in my frig!