Every other year I am given the chance to teach world history or governments. Each time starting of with the same script of dissecting the concept of nations, states, and governments. Eventually we would touch on democracy, being the most predominant form of government today. Like my previous script, I’d end up with the age old dissection of the word to its Greek origin. From there we’d lift off into the functions of a democratic government. In the five years I’ve been teaching, I have yet to really explore the history behind the formation of democracy and its beginnings in the Greek city-state of Athens.
Picking up Alecos Papadatos’ graphic novel aptly-titled “Democracy”, I have spent the last few days learning about its origins and how Greece ascended from a period of tyranny and dictators to a period of a government of, by, and for the people. Democracy follows the story of Leander and his retelling of Athen’s transformation into a democratic state. At different junctures, Leander meets or introduces readers to Greek political heavyweights like: Solon, Peistratus and the father of democracy himself, Cleisthenes. Alongside these political heavyweights are little snippets of Athenian culture and society, Democracy expounds a little bit about the role of oracles, councils and from time to time, the occasional Spartan.
From the beginning to the end, I couldn’t stop myself from trying to get in as much of the story as possible. Democracy, unlike my old college readings, isn’t difficult to understand. In fact there are no long dialogues and confusing terms, but rather simple ones a person who is really interested in learning about democracy would be able to pick up easily. There are some moments where I got lost and confused with the story, but after a few page turns it becomes clear again.
Democracy is one of those rare graphic novels, like Persepolis or Pyongyang, that excited me. It was another opportunity for me to relearn democracy in an exciting and fun way. At the same time another avenue for me and my students to bond over when the time comes for me to teach governments and history again. At least this time I won’t have to use my usual script and just engage them in their thoughts about democracy.