Teaching SuggestionsPrint this Page
- Subject(s): Language Arts & Literature, Cross-Cultural Understanding
- Region / Country: Central & Eastern Europe / The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
- Grade Level(s): 9–12
Students will weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a state-controlled social system and look into the strains that occur in the transition of a state-controlled system to a democracy, such as that occurring in Macedonia.
After reading the letter and participating in class activities students will be able
- To explain the difference between a communist and a free-market economy
- To describe the challenges facing Macedonia today, and explain the mood of the people that the author describes in her letter.
- Looking Back by Carla Bachechi
- Ask students to do some rudimentary research on the history of Macedonia for the last 40 years. Library or Internet sources should provide quick references for this purpose. Without going into too much detail, they should discover how the dissolution of Yugoslavia came about and some of the ethnic issues involving both Albania and Greece that Macedonians have faced.
- Discuss with the class how a state-controlled economy under communism contrasts with a free-market economy under a democratic system of government. Ask students to name possible advantages of each system, considering factors such as stability, well-being, security, and freedom of choice. What are some possible disadvantages of each system?
- Have students read Carla Bachechi's letter. Discuss with the students how Carla's observations corroborate some of the points the class just discussed in #2, above. What are some of the things that Macedonians lost when they abandoned a state-controlled economy after independence in 1991? What are some of the things they gained?
- On the surface, Carla's letter may seem simply like a descriptive account of a despondent mood that she encounters in Macedonia. But if students analyze the letter carefully, they might discover that the writer carefully crafted her observations to build her case. Have students break into groups of four or five to analyze the letter. Ask them to look for a specific structure and strategy the writer used to convey her points. Have them write down what they decipher in the form of an outline or rubric.
- For example, students could suggest the following:
- In the first paragraph, Carla dispassionately reports the national mood and establishes her theme: Macedonians look back at a better time; they had money, were free to travel without visas, and could take vacations.
- She explains that "experts" call this a period of transition, and she identifies both the system the society has left behind, as well as what system the people are adapting to. She provides hard evidence for the change—the wealth of household goods and the faded glory of the resort hotels—in her third and fourth paragraphs.
- In paragraph 5, she states the facts about what has actually changed—the folding of the state enterprises, the closing of factories, the growth of corruption.
- In the penultimate paragraph, she provides a hypothetical example from the United States, as if Disneyland were vacant and decrepit, so that readers can identify with her observations. The author ends by succinctly putting the problem in perspective.
- Ask students who the experts are that Carla refers to but doesn't identify. (You might point out to students that it is commonly necessary for us to infer information—i.e., to take available evidence, in this case the reference to "experts," and rely on what else we know to figure out a reasonable conclusion.) [Suggestions as to who the experts are might include economists, political scientists, and journalists.]
- Have students write a short essay about a change in their lives. Ask them to use the rubric or outline they built in analyzing Carla's letter as a guide, similarly stating the issue of their choice and building evidence for it in various, but specific, ways. When the essays are complete, ask for a few volunteers to read their work aloud, and solicit constructive criticism from the class.
Former Peace Corps Volunteer John Deever, who served in Ukraine shortly after it became independent, observed many traits in society in Ukraine that Carla sees in Macedonia. Have students read John's account, titled "Mr. John and the Day of Knowledge." You can download it free from the Uncommon Journeys publication page. In a class discussion, ask the students to compare the Ukrainian response to democracy that John describes to the reactions Carla describes in her letter.
Framework and Standards
- A new democracy doesn't ensure the immediate welfare of the populace.
- The transition from a state-controlled economy to a free-market economy can be unsettling and challenging.
- What is it about a state-controlled economy, under communism, that can provide stability, predictability, and reasonable welfare for a populace?
- What economic and social risks are there in a democracy?