SWITZERLAND: Scaling the Heights...
"Love of liberty and [of] democratic structures is deeply engrained
in both our countries' constitution[s]," observed Switzerland's Foreign
Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey in a recent
address in New York City. The Minister's meaning was clear to those
in her audience who were familiar with the idea that Switzerland and the
USA are "Sister Republics." But what about young Americans who
have not yet had occasion to explore Switzerland's democratic heritage?
American teens are familiar
with their own country's role in promoting democracy. What they may not
realize is the extent to which small, landlocked Switzerland protects
and promotes it, too. "The creation of a multicultural state and
the political integration of different religions and languages ... is
probably the most precious legacy of Switzerland's democracy," writes
political scientist Wolf Linder in his excellent Swiss Democracy
Linder's got it right. And
students can begin to discover why, as they read this unit's Student Text
Pages and consult its Map Page and Data
Page…. [NOTE: If you're looking for ways to help your class
sharpen their Social Studies Reading Skills, see
LE's new reading skills segment at the end of this Teacher Page!]
Each of the three student pages in this unit is self-contained, and the
pages can be duplicated and distributed in any sequence, though the numbered
"I-2-3" order makes good sense. As a whole, the unit should
be an excellent supplement to courses in European History, World Regions,
Government, and Contemporary Issues (9-12).
Among current learning standards
supported by the unit are these four, cited from Expectations of Excellence:
Curriculum Standards for Social Studies (National Council for the
Social Studies). Thus, students in high school should be able to:
- "demonstrate the
value of cultural diversity, as well as cohesion, within and across
- "identify significant
historical periods and patterns of change within and across cultures,
such as the rise of ... [nations], and social, economic, and political
revolutions." "Time, Continuity, and Change"
- "explain the purpose
of government and analyze how [over time] its powers are acquired,
used, and justified." "Power, Authority, and Governance"
- "describe and evaluate
the role of international and multinational organizations in the global
arena." "Global Connections"
Historically, Switzerland's cantons have been the 23 small regions,
or "states," which, over time, formed a loose federation. Student
researchers may discover that three of those states were later divided,
yielding the current total of 26 cantons.... In many sources, the term
confederation is used when referring to the early Swiss alliance.
In this unit, however, Confederation is reserved for the federal
republic that was formed in 1848, with its new level of federal powers....
Finally, you might want to point out the difference between casual meanings
sometimes assigned to the term neutrality in the USA ("We
chose to remain neutral and stay out of that matter") and the term's
meaning in Swiss policy, where it has nothing to do with an occasional
decision to withdraw and everything to do with traditional Swiss geopolitics.
Other terms in the unit that
you may want to preview: astrophysics, entrepreneur, federal republic,
Habsburg, pharmaceutical, precision machinery, sovereignty, technical
standards (in world trade).
LE’s unit on Switzerland has been developed around a "widening-circles"
approach to the study of modern-day societies. Among the student duplicatible
pages, Switzerland is explored first as a nation (see Student
Text Page No. 1), next as a member of its geographic and political
region (Student Text Page No. 2),
and finally as an active participant in global affairs (Student
Text Page No. 3). The Switzerland Data
Page and, especially, the Switzerland Map
Page contain valuable supplementary information for topics addressed
on the Student Text Pages.
Running through the entire
unit are underlying questions: What role does Switzerland play in today's
world community? What does its experience teach us about preserving and
protecting diversity within one's nation, while maintaining a single "policy"
voice in the world at large? You may want to use those questions
as well as the "Key Questions" at the end of each unit page
to evaluate students' knowledge and understanding of the overall
BACKGROUND ON STUDENT PAGES
As you introduce this unit to students, ask them to speculate on the meaning
of the unit title. In what sense might Switzerland (or any nation) be
said to "scale the heights"? Urge them to look for appropriate
examples (achievements in research, trade, democratic institutions, global
relations, etc.), as they examine each of the three Student Text Pages.
Here's additional background and some commentary on those pages:
Text Page No. 1: "As a Nation." The page begins with an account
of record-setting hot-air balloonists, one of them a Swiss hero. Students
researching the event can find reports of interviews and other accounts
in which the trials that defined "courage" on the balloonists'
venture are described. Piccard and Jones told of the fears that had dogged
their voyage: Ice formations threatened to weigh down the Breitling,
their flight over the Pacific Ocean for six straight days was daunting,
their fuel ran too low too soon...
Beyond the Breitling story,
other topics on this page that are likely to interest teenage readers
include the origin, characteristics, and heritage of Switzerland's multicultural
population. For example, you may want them to research the country's four
"national languages." The fact-packed Swissworld
Web Site indicates the following distribution of the four languages among
Switzerland's population: German, 63.7 percent; French, 20.4 percent;
Italian 6.5 percent; and Romansch (a very old regional language) 0.5 percent.
The remaining 8.9 percent of the population speak other languages. In
fact, 20 percent of Switzerland's 7.3 million inhabitants are natives
of other countries. The reason? Switzerland does not have enough workers
to fill all the jobs that its thriving economy creates…. Which suggests
another research topic: Switzerland's export trade, the motor driving
that economy. Most teenagers know about traditional Swiss exports —
watches, cheese, and chocolates. But, as the "Nation" Page points
out, Swiss chemicals, machines, electronics, and pharmaceuticals are in
big demand around the world. And a perusal of the current "Swiss
Foreign Trade: Facts and Figures (2003-2004)" reveals an even
greater variety of exports — one ranging from jewelry, to motor
vehicles, to textiles. It's no wonder that Switzerland, which ranked 94th
in population size in 2002, was among the top 20 nations in trade volume.
(Editor's Note: For current trade statistics, GDP, and other economic
data, see also the World Factbook profile of Switzerland,
a source that goes through many revisions throughout the year.)
Text Page No. 2: "Within Its Region." Democracy and its evolution
among the Swiss is a key theme on this page, which looks only at the canton
and federal levels of government. But Switzerland has 3,000 communes,
too. And that's where many democratic choices first occur. A few places
even have open-air, show-of-hands voting! There's quite a contrast here,
in power symbolism, to the federal government, where executive power is
vested in a seven-member Federal Council chosen by Switzerland's bicameral
legislature. Indeed, Switzerland's focus on the power of its citizenry
is manifest in many ways for example, through the referendum described
on the "Region" page. You might want to tell students that,
with only 100,000 signatures, Swiss citizens can also initiate a complete
or partial revision of their constitution! Then, when the discussion really
kicks off, add the fact that Swiss women did not gain the right to vote
at the federal level until 1971! That might be a good point at which to
have students draft an editorial on "The Meaning of Democracy: Examples
From Home and Abroad."
Text Page No. 3: "In Today's World." Swiss participation in global
organizations is an important theme on the "World" Page. It's
a participation with a long history. In 1864, Swiss humanitarians in Geneva
persuaded 16 nations to pledge that they would let medics tend to all
wounded soldiers on the battlefield, regardless of what flag a soldier
might be defending. The work begun by those nations soon evolved into
the International Red Cross just one of the many institutions through
which the Swiss still work to improve human conditions. They're also active
members of such diverse groups as the European Space Agency (ESA), the
United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and the World Health
Organization (WHO). For students who love (?) detail work, you might recommend
that they consult the "Appendix"
of the current CIA World Factbook (in print or on-line), to check
the memberships of each of the many international organizations and environmental
treaties that this source lists.Switzerland's name pops up everywhere.
STUDIES READING SKILLS
Realizing that the recent U.S. Elementary and Secondary Education Act
(ESEA) will exert a mounting pressure on social studies teachers to emphasize
reading skills with secondary school students, LE offers the following
tip for use with this unit (see also LE's Page on Reading
Skills in the Social Studies):