I Refused to Miss School Today No Matter What. Here’s Why

Best class ever. Here’s why:

  1. Prerequisite: 1st Amendment understanding

Nuclear war left world devastated. Group left makes up Goodist society where the world is always Good. No violence. No poverty. No divorce. Supressive rules: censored music, censored education. Goodist Judges who speak for the people and serve for life once elected. No marriage until 25, but must live with parents until then and train for a true career so when they turn 25, they can have a good life, therefore no money problems, which is a leading cause of divorce. No open religious beliefs since religion is a huge cause of conflict; however, personal beliefs in your own home are perfectly fine. Those who don’t follow the rules or don’t want to try are sent to the nuclear wasteland. Outcasts must sit alone. The Goodists don’t let the Outcasts form a community at the beginning of the game for fear the Outcasts would try to overthrow them and their bubble. Point of project: convince those undecided to join a side. Outcasts also trying to convince Goodists to become Outcast. Goodists trying to convince undecides to join them, but they will not allow those Outcast to join them. (AT NO TIME IN THE SESSION CAN THE MODERATOR interfere with how this plays out. You MUST be like Jeff Probst. You can ask questions, but you can’t make things happen. )

THIS SESSION (end of 2012 semester Jan. 9-11)

1.  Most of class is Goodist. 3 judges chosen, they sit in front and face forward. Only judges speak for Goodists unless a judge sees a silent Goodist with their hand raised requesting the opportunity to speak.  One Outcast. About 10 undecided.

2. An absentee joins Outcasts. 2 against rest of class.

3. Debate begins by undecideds questioning the Goodists judges or the Outcasts. Only judges speak for the Goodists unless a judge calls on a Goodist society member. At any time, the Goodist judges can call for a 60-second Goodist discussion before answering a question. When that happens Goodists meet, discuss and come up with an answer, then judge responds. Outcasts can not talk to each other at all at first. They are solitary.

4. After twenty minutes of debate a Goodist who’s been reprimanded for speaking without judges’ consent three times is kicked out of Goodist community. Goodists cheer. These judges are great at letting their people talk, so they are liked.

5. Goodist judge and undercover operative of Outcasts operating as undecided gets in kerfuffle with Goodist judge over whether a Goodist teenager committing a crime would be Outcast. She says if that’s her child she will be leave with him. Half of Goodists leave. Undecided explains she’s really Outcast.

6. The original Outcast asks Goodist judges if he can have his own group and sign a peace treaty. Goodist judges agree. EVERY Outcast joins with original in new group even though he’s not given them the laws of his new society. End of Day 1

Day 2. Moderator starts by reminding groups where we were at end of day 1 and telling Outcasts we’re going to give them a chance to change their minds about the new society since they all joined without having a clue as to what they were joining. She tells original Outcast to take two minutes to come up with the laws of his society.  (AGAIN, moderator must let student draw his own conclusions. Do Not Get Involved)

7. Moderator takes the eight remaining Goodists to the hall to come up with treaty points while Outcast leader explains new law. Five minutes later Goodists come in to discover three girls left Outcasts and are solitary. Before the new leader speaks his group other than about five on the outside huddle and do a “Go Team!” chant then “1-2-3 break hand clap thing.”) New Outcasts are caller Murica and they are based on the USA and first amendment. One of remaining two undecideds joins Murica society. No one else changes sides.

8. Now President of Murica, his vice president and the three Goodists judges meet to go over peace accord. While they are signing the treaty, one of the three solitary Outcasts asks permission to speak to Murica President and Goodist judges. She requests that the three solitary outcasts be allowed to join together. President says yes. Judges say only if the three girls are willing to move far away so they won’t be a threat to the Goodists or the new Murica society.

9. Treaty signed, but before that one of the Goodist judges tells new president she thinks the three girls really want to assassinate him and take over Murica. President asks judges if he could please have armed  secret service agents to protect him. Judges say yes. Three Murica citizens are chosen to serve as new president’s protection. President tells one agent to go kill as many of the new group as possible; however, while the treaty was in the process of being signed, 1 of the girls in the new unnamed group was silently going to the outer areas of Murica and asking individuals to join her group.1st one she asks is the undercover Outcast who posed as an undecided. The group tells her if she doesn’t join them, they’ll “kill” her instead of letting her return to her group. (At this point they call me over and ask if that would be permissible. I decide yes and tell girl if that’s the case, she will need to sit next to the wall and not say anything. Since her leader and the judges are signing peace accords, no one really notices this conversation taking place. At this time new group also tells me they’re really a violent group set on overthrowing the Goodists because they want the bubble of non-nuclear wasteland world the Goodists have created. They just want to make sure that’s okay. It is. It’s THEIR game.) Girl chooses to join new group. New group sends girl over to Murica to start recruiting for their society.  Every individual who wasn’t part of the original huddle does so. The ones in the huddle do not. (interesting.) The girl originally recruited was actually one of the huddle leaders. (also interesting.) The new people in the group sit a little apart from the original third group except two people. One: the original recruit who chose not to die and a best friend of one of the girls.

10. While peace treaty being signed Goodists left at home sit silently watching and listening. They’ve never been given a voice, so they don’t try to use it now. Muricans from huddle keep talking to each other about what they want to make Murica and throwing out comments they hope President can hear. Three secret service agents pretend to have guns and keep pointing them at new group, but they say nothing about how some of their people are moving over there. Suddenly as the President and judges are signing the treaty, one of the new recruits (best friend) runs across the room and assassinates the most vocal of the Goodist judges.

11. CHAOS ensues. Kids are loud and confused and the everyone backs away from the judge except the other judges. The judge says “You can’t do that” then looks at me for confirmation.
Game over and we go back to a circle to discuss what’s happened over the course of the last two days and how the same thing happens all over the world. We discuss Utopias, WW2, 1984, The Hunger Games, dystopian literature in general. Tomorrow we’ll break it down even further and talk about WHY THIS MATTERS.

Every year this exercise AMAZES me. I’m stunned by how it plays out. It’s an RPG, so the students have to control the outcome. If the adviser tries to, it destroy the learning outcome. Don’t do it. Let the first amendment work. It will.

You do have to facilitate. Since it’s a debate and an RPG. You have to be in control of the classroom at all times. You can’t be too strict because you have to let things happen. Make sure the debate goes on for at least a day so you have plenty of discussion points. If for some reason the debate stalls say you’re taking off your moderator hat and become an undecided and ask questions that will lead to conflicted answers. If you empower the students, they will start taking part in the discussion. In all the years I’ve done this (almost two decades) only two classes ever didn’t make this work. One year every kid in the class went to the Outcast side.  (AWESOME year, by the way.) When that happened I let them lead the discussion on why. It turned into point/counter point. The usual second and third days were spent studying first amendment cases and high school students and how they affected kids in my school district.  The second year it didn’t work, I messed up. I did it at the end of my first set of first amendment lessons, so about three weeks into the semester. The students didn’t have enough confidence in their voice in my classroom yet, so they were afraid to debate each other and afraid to question me if I threw out those “devil’s advocate” type scenarios. Wait to do this until the end of the third six weeks and it should be fun.

I loved this week. Once again, the first amendment wins and once again my students leave the classroom with a lesson they’ll never forget.

It’s kind of like tricking them into working HARD without them realizing it. 🙂 Sneaky teacher. Yeah, that’s me.

*This lesson started as a lesson from the Freedom of Information in Texas organization. It was a freedom of religion exercise about the Church of Goodism. The kids never got into it like that, so I changed it. Turning it into a dystopia and making the religious element one of several points makes this a lot of fun.

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One response to “I Refused to Miss School Today No Matter What. Here’s Why

  1. Pingback: Red4EdTX | A Writer's Life

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