We are always on the lookout for best practice examples of educating teenage students about the prevalence and dangers of coercive manipulation in the modern world. The following story definitely meets that criterion:
While a middle school class was learning about the Salem Witch Trials, the teacher explained that as part of the learning experience the students would have to play a game.
He went on to say, “I’m going to come around and whisper to each of you whether you’re a witch or a normal person. Your goal is to build the largest group possible that does NOT have a witch. At the end, any group found to include a witch gets a failing grade.”
The students quickly began grilling each other. One fairly large group formed, but most of the teenagers broke into small, exclusive groups, turning away anyone they thought showed even a hint of guilt.
“Okay,” the teacher said. “You’ve got your groups. Now it is time to find out which ones fail. All the witches please raise your hands.”
No one raised their hands.
The kids were confused and told the teacher that he had messed up the game.
“Did I?” Was anyone in Salem an actual witch? Or did everyone just believe what they were told?”
Now that’s how you teach teenage students about how easy it is to
unduly influence and divide a community.
PS – The aforementioned classroom story has been circulating on Facebook and the Internet for the last ten months. We do not know for sure if it is a true story or the product of a very creative and well-intentioned writer and educator. Either way, we are grateful for the effort and pleased to share it.