Deliberating in a Democracy
Teacher Exchange: Estonia
March 23-30, 2007


Colorado teachers learned about Estonian history, education, government and controversial public issues during an exchange in March 2007. The delegaton visited classrooms, historic places, and both local and national government sites. The entire nation of Estonia has a population the size of the Denver-metro area, 1.4 million.

Participants in the exchange were teachers from Aurora, Colorado: Eliza Hamrick and Ben Lindemann, Overland HS; Dan Jarvis and Corey O'Hayre, Hinkley HS.

Riigikogu, the Estonian Parliament

Throughout the exchange, we learned a great deal about the multi-party parliamentary system in Estonia, in contrast to a 2 party presidential system and we often discussed the advantages and disadvantages of both systems.

The opening of Parliament was delayed while a governing coalition was negotiated. On April 3, a three party coalition (Reform Party, Pro Patria, and Social Democrats) was formed, representing a "center-right" coalition led by PM Ansip. See Baltic Times, Ap. 4, 2007. There are 101 members in the Riigikogu (View results.)

We learned how Estonia's e-voting system works (see See Rueters article, Feb. 21, 2007) We also registered as "MPs" from Colorado to participate in a legislative simulation while visiting Parliament.


Controversial Issue:
Tallinn Bronze Soldier Monument

Debate about the Soviet-era war memorial, the bronze soldier statue shown at right, continues. To many Estonians, the statue is a reminder of the forced rule of Soviet dictatorship that lasted for over 50 years following World War II.

To many Estonians with Russian heritage the statue pays tribute to those who defeated Nazi fascism in Europe to end World War II.

Relocating the statue to a military cemetery has been the subject of both public and parliamentary debate. (See
New York Times article, Feb. 16, 2007 and Reuters Article, Jan.25, 2007.)

Deliberating in a Democracy: Kolga Gymnasium
Teachers listen to Kolga DID students deliberating the question, "Should our democracy sign a binding international treaty to regulate global greenhouse gas emissions?" Student groups presented differing opinions on the question for their nation.


Rakvere Gymnasium Students Deliberation
Students of DID teachers Eve Raja and Heli Kirsi at Rakvere Gymasium deliberating the question, "Should our democracy sign a binding international treaty to regulate global greenhouse gas emissions?" Student groups presented differing opinions on the question for their nation.

Deliberating on the Basketball Court in Rakvere
Ben, Corey and Dan – high school basketball coaches – on the court with Rakvere Gymnasium students.

Rakvere Castle
Two DID teachers, Heli Kirsi and Eve Raja from Rakvere Gymnasium, escorted our group to Rakvere Castle, stepping back to the Middle Ages, including a display of weapons and the "torture chamber."

Rakvere: Democracy and Local Government
Our group discussed local government with Rakvere Mayor Andres Jaadla. Mayor Jaadla had recently visited Aurora to learn about municipal governments in the U.S. Discussion focused on two types of local government – strong mayor and city manager sytems. Mayor Jaadla hosted a medieval banquet for the group and especially enjoyed demonstrating the firing of a replica of a 16th century canon on the the castle grounds.

Narva Castle and Border Town
Rakvere DID teacher Eva Raja escorted our group to Narva castle on the border between Estonia and Russia (also a European Union border). We climbed to the top for a view of the opposing Ivangorod Castle, built by Ivan III, across the Narva River in Russia.

Farewell Dinner
Many thanks to Piret Multer and Sulev Valdma, DID Directors, and our partner teachers in Estonia: Eve Raja, Heli Kirsi, Natasha Gosteva, Mai Kahru, and Bibi Raid.

Rakvere Newspaper: Virumaa Teataja, March 29, 2007
Article in Estonian • Article in English

Photo: Tairo Lutter, Virumaa Teataja.