This unit was created by Barbara Lindauer, a high school World History teacher in Collinsville, IL, as part of the 2021-2022 Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellowship program. It is designed for facilitation across approximately five 75–90 minute class periods.

For more units created by Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellows in this cohort, click here.


Students will be able to...

  • Identify and describe elements of authoritarian and  democratic governments.
  • Analyze how policies and practices by authoritarian and a democratic governments impact the lives of individuals.
  • Compare and contrast different government leadership styles.
  • Make distinctions between an underreported and overreported news story.
  • Reflect on human rights, the connection between government structures and human rights,  and what rights they may be taking for granted or feel are being challenged.
  • Analyze and consider what an individual can do to guarantee their universal rights are met.
  • Utilize visual and textual techniques to convey messages by creating propaganda posters.

Unit Overview

In this unit, students will analyze the differences between the authoritarian and representative democracy style of governments. They will explore reporting from Eastern European countries that were once part of the Eastern Bloc countries, and conduct their own research to compare and contrast actions by world leaders from those countries. They will also research and evaluate leadership traits of known leaders and label them as either authoritarian or democratic.  

After examining the work of investigative journalist Simon Ostrovsky about the growing numbers of authoritarian leaders and policies in Eastern Europe, students will evaluate to what degree these policies and leaders are gaining power in the United States. They will also examine the impact of authoritarian leadership on the rights of citizens. 

The unit will conclude with students analyzing the role of propaganda in furthering the policies and leadership of democratic and authoritarian leaders, and ultimately creating a propaganda poster that reflects their understanding of the unit content and themes.

Performance Task

  1. After viewing a variety of propaganda posters, students will discuss the components that the posters have in common as part of a “think- pair-share.”
  2. Students will identify a modern-day (social, political, personal, etc.) issue/theme/slogan that relates  to the Russian and Eurasian Republic Unit, or other content/themes from this unit,  to use as inspiration for their posters.
  3. Students will  create a  propaganda poster for their community that  reflects their understanding  regarding this region of the world and their feelings about how the rise of authoritarian leadership  impacts the world.
  4. Posters will be shared with the class and students will provide reflective responses to at least three other classmates' creations.

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Democracy and Authoritarianism

Democracy and Authoritarianism