Students in Bolivia Prefer Sortition to Elections

Here’s the abstract for an interesting new article, “Democracy Transformed: Perceived Legitimacy of the Institutional Shift from Election to Random Selection of Representatives,” in Journal of Public Deliberation:

Authors:

Simon Pek, Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria

Jeffrey Kennedy, Faculty of Law, McGill University

Adam Cronkright, Democracy In Practice

Abstract

“While democracy remains a firmly-held ideal, the present state of electoral democracy is plagued by growing disaffection. As a result, both scholars and practitioners have shown considerable interest in the potential of random selection as a means of selecting political representatives. Despite its potential, deployment of this alternative is limited by concerns about its perceived legitimacy. Drawing on an inductive analysis of the replacement of elections with random selection in two student governments in Bolivia, we explore stakeholders’ perceptions of the legitimacy of random selection by investigating both their overall support for randomly selecting representatives as well as the views that inform this support. Overall, we find that random selection is indeed accepted as a legitimate means of selecting representatives, with stakeholders broadly preferring random selection and recommending its use in other schools—views which are informed by a critical assessment of random selection’s relative merits. Moreover, we find that perceptions may be affected by contextual factors that extend beyond individuals’ own values. Our findings thus contribute to work on random selection, its contextual embeddedness, and on the values underpinning democratic structures.”

Link to download the article: https://www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol14/iss1/art3/

 

“The flag should be held by a student who has achieved and not randomly”

It was reported in August that a lottery is going to be used in Greece to distribute the distinction of carrying the flag. This decision is now being taken to court:

A group of parents wants the state’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, to overturn a decision by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA for flagbearers in school parades to be chosen by lottery and not to the best student as had been the custom.

SYRIZA doesn’t believe in excellence in education nor standards for university admissions but the parents who protested said the flag should be held by a student who has achieved and not randomly.

Education Minister Costas Gavroglou issued the lottery scheme but the parents said it is unconstitutional and was driven by ideology and not merit, nor by popular demand or social necessity. He said the lottery makes the process fairer even if it excludes top students for their work.

The random selection of “an Afghan boy” as flag bearer made him the victim of violence:
Continue reading

What’s the Point of Lotteries

point-of-lotteries

I’ve done an interview for the BBC Radio show “The Inquiry.” The episode is now online under the title “What’s the Point of Lotteries?” You can find it here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p046z7fg

Most of the first half is concerned with lotteries as a form of gambling, but my interview (which starts at 17:23, in part 4) focuses upon the social and political uses of lotteries. I don’t think it came off half-bad.

Democracy In Practice’s newest project

We are happy to announce the launch of our newest project focused on democratic experimentation and innovation in collaboration with the R.V. High School in Bolivia. Check out our launch video below, and stay tuned for more updates! Happy to hear any of your questions and comments.

Democracy In Practice

 

Teaching students government skills

Adam Cronkright, co-founder of the Bolivian organisation Democracy in Practice, gives a Democracy Talk audio overview of the group’s findings so far with experiments in student government.

Democracy in Practice has been helping run student councils in a few different Cochabamba secondary schools since 2013, using lottery selection rather than elections to choose candidates.

Doing away with elections allows for a more representative body of students on council, making room for less charismatic or popular pupils to have a chance at government.

Changing selection methods is one thing, governing differently is another – with all the usual challenges of having representatives turn up on time, or at all, learning how to take collective decisions, not dominating proceedings and following through with promised actions.

An encouraging finding, Adam says, is that students can, and do, learn the necessary skills to govern. That raises hopeful prospects for better government in societies who manage to improve their citizens’ governance skills more generally.

An intriguing curiosity, albeit an anecdotal one according to Adam, is how students who appear to stand out as natural leaders, those who might usually get chosen in elections, are often not the best suited to actual government.

Catch the full audio interview below.
 

Democratic experimentation meets democratic education in Cochabamba, Bolivia: a case study

Founded in 2013, Democracy In Practice is a non-profit organization dedicated to democratic innovation, experimentation and capacity-building in an effort to contribute to government that is more inclusive, representative, and effective.

We present a case study which collectively examines the three pilot projects of Democracy In Practice’s student government program which ran February through November of 2014 in three schools in the Cochabamba area of Bolivia. This program involved replacing student elections with lotteries in which government members were randomly-selected to serve a given term before being replaced by a new group of randomly-selected students.

Program Overview

Implemented in three separate schools in the Cochabamba of Bolivia, the Democratic Student Government Program involved a dynamic and multi-faceted reinvention of student government. Most fundamentally, this reinvention involved replacing elected student governments with those that were randomly selected and rotated from within the student population. These governments of rotated, randomly selected students therefore operated continuously as standing decision-making bodies within the schools. Accordingly, the implementation of this program involved not only clear institutional change but also complex normative change, challenging conventional notions of governance as well as the regular practices and routines of both students and teachers. In this way, the projects explored here differ from other participatory governance initiatives that are typically temporary and limited to a particular issue.

Just How Do CJs support ‘Freedom and Democracy’?

In a spate of moronic ‘reforms’ Education Ministers in England (of all parties) have vowed to set schools free from the dead hand of local (elected!) authorities. Hence there are Academies, Free Schools, Foundations including some for-profit schools. Yet all of these are funded by the State through taxpayer money.

So how should these ‘free’ schools be governed? A Governing Body, but chosen by election? No, no! Continue reading