The first part of this activity,
when participants position themselves along the line, should not
take more than a couple of minutes. The point of this is simply
to establish people's "starting positions" and for them
to see where they stand in comparison with others.
The purpose of the activity is as much to practise skills of
communication and persuasion as to think through the issues themselves.
Therefore, participants should be encouraged to think not only
about the content and presentation of their own opinions, but
also about the type or form of arguments that will be most persuasive
to people on the other side. They are aiming to draw as many people
as possible into their "party". They can use the breathing
time between "speeches" to consider the opposition's
position, and to think about ways of weakening it.
You may have other topics besides those suggested below that
could equally well be used as the basis for discussion. The important
thing is to select a statement that will be controversial within
Note: it will take about 30 minutes to discuss one statement
going through the different rounds of discussion. If you want
to use more statements, you will have to allow more time accordingly.
It is advisable to be flexible about the exact order of events,
depending on the strengths and weaknesses of the group and on
the liveliness of the discussion. For example:
- You may want to add one or two more intervals for the groups
to prepare arguments, so that different speakers have the opportunity
to present their points of view.
- If you have performed this activity before with the group
- or even if you have not - you can keep an element of surprise
by varying the way that the first speakers are chosen - for
example, you could select the two people third from each end.
- You may decide, in one of the intervals for preparing arguments,
to ask the "supporters" of each speaker to work with
the opposing speaker - in other words, to prepare arguments
against the position that they themselves hold. This can be
a good way of getting people to consider the opposite point
of view, and can provide an interesting variation if people
do not appear to be changing sides at all.
You may want to allow the speakers to have a postcard-sized
piece of paper on which to make brief notes to remind them of
the different arguments and to which they can refer while speaking.
You may want to raise the issue of whether "pluralism"
or freedom of expression should be subject to any limits in a
tolerant society: should fascist or nationalist demonstrations
be permitted, for example?
Suggestions for follow-up
If you are interested in following up the idea of how opinions
are formed or changed, especially by the media you may want to
look at the activity "Front page".
If you would like to think further about the relationship between
the opinions people hold and the images and stereotypes
they have of the world, then you may like to do the activity,
"Cultionary" in the all different all equal education
Ideas for action
If you choose the statement on voting, you may want to follow
up the activity with a survey of voting habits in your local community;
see the activity "To vote, or not to