National Security and Civil Liberties

12th July 2013 at 01:00


Enter a state of terror

The word Stasi is short for Staatssicherheitsdienst, which translates as "State Security Service". But for ordinary people living in East Germany after it was divided from West Germany, it meant only one thing: terror.

The motto of the notoriously repressive agency was "Schild und Schwert der Partei" ("Shield and Sword of the Party", referring to the Socialist Unity Party). Its surveillance operations were not only overwhelming - agents would even film suspects through holes drilled in the walls of apartments - but they were also insidious and designed to divide the population.

Between 1950, when it was founded, and its closure in 1989, the Stasi employed 274,000 people. But it is estimated that as many as one in every 63 East Germans collaborated with the agency. Families were driven apart, terrifyingly illustrated in the award-winning German film Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others, pictured below).

No area of life was immune: schools, universities and hospitals were extensively infiltrated. In every apartment building, at least one tenant was designated as a watchdog.

A range of lesson plans on the Stasi can be found on the TES Connect website (bit.lyStasiResources). You could also ask your students to imagine - perhaps for a writing lesson or essay - what they would have done to keep information about their lives private. Or would they have become a spy? How would such surveillance have affected their family life and their friendships? How would they have decided who they could trust? And how would this have affected them emotionally and intellectually?


- Has terrorism affected our rights? Discuss using rclifford12's resources. bit.lyterror Vrights

- Tackle the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four with this detailed scheme of work for students aged 16 and over, shared by jcsmeetonk. bit.ly1984sow

- Explore the Stasi and the film The Lives of Others in charlie_overend's lesson. bit.lylivesofothers


- Define and understand cyberbullying and its effects in Beatbullying's lesson.bit.lycyberbullyLP

- Watch a thought-provoking video about CCTV surveillance in the UK, shared by BBC Class Clips - RE amp; Citizenship. bit.lycctvUK

- Introduce your class to the basics of news writing in TESEnglish's activity. bit.lyNews ReportWriting

- EmmyCD's lesson considers how news stories are reported and why some are given more prominence than others. bit.lyNewsValues


Big brother is watching you closely

In 1948, when George Orwell finished his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, emails, text messages and mobile phones did not exist. But it is unlikely that the writer would have been surprised by the fact that almost 30 years after the novel is set, government agencies are collecting data as part of global surveillance operations.

He might, however, have been pleased by the fierce debate that these revelations have provoked.

Orwell - born Eric Arthur Blair - was under surveillance for more than 12 years by Special Branch, the intelligence division of the Metropolitan Police in London, which kept a file on him because of suspicions that he was a communist (although an officer from intelligence agency MI5 noted that it was "evident from his recent writings ... that he does not hold with the Communist Party nor they with him").

Orwell's dystopian novel was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels between 1923 and 2005 and the term Orwellian still has resonance today.

TES Resources has a number of suggestions for ways in which students can approach and understand Orwell's novel.

Orwell himself was an enigma. A former colonial policeman and teacher, he was often branded as an English eccentric. At school, he was said to be argumentative. He was later described by a fellow student as "an intellectual and not a parrot for he thought for himself".

Find resources on Nineteen Eighty-Four at bit.lyOrwellResources


Better safe than sorry

Young people often appear to be utterly dependent on their mobile phones, constantly texting, emailing or social networking.

But how many of them realise the precautions they should take to stay safe? Or that what they have posted to entertain their friends could make them vulnerable to predatory adults or to cyber-bullying from their peers?

A lesson available on the TES Connect website has elements of fun, including a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?-style quiz called "Who Wants to Be a Safe Communicator?" But it also considers some important points. Start by asking children what they think the term "social networking" means, and check that they know they have to be 13 before they are allowed to use Facebook.

But the most critical message is that, unless they take precautions and understand privacy settings, the information and pictures they post could be available for the world to see.

Incidences of cyber-bullying have increased over the past few years. And it is not enough for students to claim that they would never instigate such activity. Explain that even if they join in with someone else to bully or intimidate another person, they are equally culpable. Courage is needed to put a stop to cyber-bullying.

Find the lesson at bit.lysafecommunicator.

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