Where Do You Stand?

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  • Number of participants = Any
  • Theme = Stereotypes, prejudice
  • Duration = 50 minutes
  • Difficult for participants = Level 2
  • Difficulty for facilitator = Level 1

Summary

In this discussion activity, people literally stand up for their opinions.

Goals/Learning Objectives

  • To understand our own and others’ attitudes
  • To use and develop skills of discussion and debate
  • To foster respect and open mindedness.

Materials

  • One copy of the handout ‘Where Do You Stand Statements
  • Flip chart paper, pens
  • String or chalk (optional)
  • Space for people to move about

Preparation

Prepare two posters – one says: ‘I Agree’ and the other says: ‘I Disagree’ – and put them on the floor at opposite ends of the room, so that people can form a straight line between them. (You may want to draw a chalk line between them or use a piece of string). Choose statements from the handout which you want to discuss.

Flow of the Exercise

Explain that you are going to read out a series of statements that the participants may agree with to a greater or lesser extent.

Point out the two extreme positions – the posters stating ‘I Agree’ and ‘I Disagree’. Explain that people may occupy any point along the (imaginary) line, but that they should try to position themselves, as far as possible, next to people whose views almost coincide with their own. Brief discussion is permitted while people are finding their places!

Read out the statements in turn.

Stimulate reflection and discussion. Ask those at the endpoints to explain why they have occupied these extreme positions. Ask someone near the centre whether his/her position indicates the lack of a strong opinion or lack of knowledge.

Allow people to move position as they listen to each other’s comments.

When you have gone through the statements, bring the group back together for the debriefing.

Debriefing

Begin with reviewing the activity itself and then go on to discuss what people have learnt:

  • Were there any questions that people found impossible to answer – either because it was difficult to make up their own mind, or because the question was badly phrased?
  • Why did people change position during the discussions?
  • Were people surprised by the extent of disagreement on the issues?
  • Do you think there are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers to the different statements, or is it just a matter of personal opinion?
  • Might it ever be possible for everyone to reach an absolute agreement about these topics?

Variations

Compose other statements or ask members of the group to create their own.

Possible Follow up Activities

Organise a formal debate on one of the issues, asking people to prepare their arguments in advance, and then take a vote at the end of the debate. You could invite other young people or members of the public to attend.

After talking and reflecting on the statements, the group could continue working on understanding discrimination, reflecting on their own prejudices and exploring their experiences of interpersonal discrimination during everyday life in the method Do Not Act Like Me!

The group may like to discuss the issues of plain speech and political correctness. Regarding the sensitivity of stereotypes and privileges, you can use the methods Check Your Privileges! and What Is Your Single Story? afterwards.

To discover what consequences arise from stereotypes, prejudice, oppression and discrimination, use Columbian Hypnosis. Or in Image Theatre, participants can have a feeling for power dynamics, exploring these issues from their own experience, or participants can try to overcome them as a follow up activity.

Recommendations

When talking about stereotypes and prejudice, it is important to be aware of the words you use and the impact they have. For instance, you should consider whether to say ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’, or whether to use the term ‘disabled people’, ‘handicapped people’ or ‘people with adaptive needs’.

You may want to run the lining-up part of the activity relatively quickly, without giving much time for discussion between the various points, and then select two or three of the statements and discuss them in more detail with the whole group. However, it is worth stopping the activity at certain points in order to give people the opportunity to reflect both on some of the points and on their position relative to that of other people.

Adapted from Council of Europe (2017). Compass: Manual for Human Rights Education with Young People. Where Do You Stand. Strasbourg.

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