Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center
Social Studies

TITLE:    Class Culture

AUTHOR:   Sue Fischer, Spokane, Washington

GRADE LEVEL/SUBJECT:   UE,   Social Studies
                       ( Difficulty:  I )

OVERVIEW:  To begin to understand people of different
cultures, students must first know how all cultures are
alike and different.  There are certain things that all
cultures have, whether or not they are exactly the
same.  These things are called cultural universals and
include such things as religion, values, what is
considered right and wrong, games, music, rites of
passage, etc.  This concept should be discussed before
the  present lesson.  The object of this lesson is to
show that even within the class there are many
different cultures - that every person has his/her own
culture, but within the class there are a few things
that everyone can agree on and those ideas make up the
class culture.

NOTE  This lesson is not for the faint of heart.
Although this is a level I lesson, there must be a
level of trust in the group so that gut level
discussion can take place.  Be prepared issues such as
capital punishment, abortion, and religion to come up.
After doing this lesson, it is much easier to talk
about different cultures and value systems with
compassion and empathy.

Student Motivation:   One of the cultural universals we
have discussed is "right and wrong".  Each culture has
its own ideas about what is ok and not ok to do.  Today
we are going to find out what the people in this class
consider to be wrong.  The things we can all agree on
will reflect the culture of THIS class.

Problem:  List many, different, and unusual things that
you consider to be "wrong", that is, things that are
not acceptable to do.

Each student first makes a private list of things s/he
considers to be "wrong" or unacceptable behavior.
After about ten minutes, students get in groups of two
or three and share their lists.  First, have people
determine categories that the ideas fit into.  This
will determine how many different ideas there are.
Then make group lists.  In order for an idea to be on
the group list, both people in the group must agree to
it.  At this point the teacher may need to remind
people that everyone has his/her own culture that is a
result of being raised in his/her family and his/her
own ideas, but that what we are after is things
everyone in the class can agree on.  When the groups of
two have a common list, they join another group of two
and repeat the process.  At the end of this time, all
the ideas from each group are written so that everyone
can see them.  At this point everyone has discussed and
defended his/her ideas at least twice.  Now, for an
idea to be a part of the class culture, everyone in the
class has to agree that it is wrong.  If there are
disagreements, people may make short speeches
presenting their ideas and reasons in an attempt to
persuade other people of their viewpoint.  In the end,
the ideas that are left represent the cultural
universal of what is unacceptable behavior in this
particular class.

Many - number of ideas on the original lists
Different -  number of different categories
Unusual- number of ideas that no one else thought

Extensions:  People who feel strongly about an issue
may want to prepare to debate it formally, or poll
other people, or find out what the courts have to say
about it.

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