Friday, April 9, 2010


     In recent months I’ve seen a great deal of heated debate, on tv, on a number of hot issues in government and in every instance the same scene seems to play itself out! You know the one, where a person with an opinion contrary to the larger group is being shouted down by the masses, basically quelling any further argument or debate. Recently, I had a similar situation play out in my class only I was the “shouter” and a student of mine would be the one who would lose his voice.
     Recently, I assigned a map exercise to my students and towards the end of the period I decided to bring up a copy of the map on the whiteboard to go over it. I started with the first location called on a student to give the answer and had the student write the answer on the board. I did this a couple of more times when I called on one of my more outgoing students, who we will call “Mr. Wrong”. I asked “Mr. Wrong”, “where is Macedonia, he came up to the board and wrote the answer right where it needed to be. After he wrote the location, I quickly turned and asked the class, “Is this correct?” I had one person from the peanut gallery say "no", and I said, “Right this is supposed to be up here” and moved his answer up further than would be reasonable for the location of Macedonia. He quickly jumped in and said “no its suppose to be lower” and at that point other members of the class said, “No, Mr. H is right it should be higher” Immediately other voices chimed in and quickly all argument ceased.. Had I pulled it off?( I thought to myself). The remainder of the exercise, he sat there quietly just watching and listening. At one point he started to look through his book, but still not a word. I got through the entire map and the end of the period was upon us, so I asked, “Any questions on the map?” Well of course “Mr. Wrong” had something to say, “Mr. H, you are wrong. Here look at this map. Here is Macedonia and it’s in a pretty straight line with this sea which is where I had it. Not up there where you have it..” I looked at his map gave him a smirk and told him to write it up on the board. I then announced to the class on your maps you will need to change Macedonia from here and write it here (pointing to the map as I gave this instruction). I announced, “That was my lie!”

     This unlike other lies was group a effort though they didn’t know it. I got this idea from a psychology experiment where people in a group will give blatantly wrong answers to convince the subject to go along even if they knew the answer was wrong. I varied this of course, rather than the group give the wrong answer I hoped they would side with the “expert” and in doing so pressure “Mr. Wrong” into giving up his argument. If it didn’t work he still caught my lie.


The “expert”. The whole idea of me being an expert is absurd. Many students don’t challenge me for various reasons, the most common one I hear is, “Well you are the teacher”. In a democracy we need to speak up and have our voices heard no matter how unpopular our ideas may be to others. Example, Health Care Reform… (Next time I do this, it will be with one of my more introverted students)
Next Entry: Technology

No comments: