Jan. 28, 2021

Drama about Othering and Social Justice

The Drama unit, 'The Elgons and the Kingdom of Hasmala', offers a rich resource for those who are concerned about 'othering' of minority groups. There is a wealth of starting points for discussions about minorities, why we do what we do whether as oppressor or oppressed, and what stories we choose to believe. The drama is done through fable or fantasy, and the under-group is the Elgons, who are known by their big ears (outline provided).

This drama is ideal for a society which wants to change the hearts and minds of people. It doesn't just seek cognitive change, it seeks the most important change of all - behavioural change. We know from research in therapy that the direct approach can create resistance and delay behavioural change. However the use of metaphor is extremely powerful, and allows people to absorb the impact of issues from a safe distance. The practice of Milton Erikson offeres a vivid demonstration of this, as described in his biography: 'My Voice Will Go With You: The Teaching Tales of Milton Erickson' by Sidney Rosen.

A teacher who practises this drama with their class might well wonder: "Do I make the connections with real life explicit, or do I allow the children to remain within the metaphor?" Would an explanation of the metaphor impede the responsiveness of the class? At the end of the day only the teacher can make that decision, being guided by the reaction of the class.

Care needs to be taken when assigning children to the part of the undergroup. It is especially important that all children have the opportunity to play both the oppressors, the Hasmalans, and the oppressed, the Elgons.

There is a famous experiment which went horribly wrong, known as the Stanford Prison Experiment. In this a college lecturer assigned half a group to be prisoner and half a group to be guards. It was not long before they were all inhabiting their roles all too realistically, and the line between role play and reality became very blurred, so much so that outsiders had to step in and cancel the experiment, as the participants, including the lecturere could not see how it had spun out of control.
See https://www.rd.com/list/psychology-experiments-gone-wrong/ for a brief summary and do follow the link on that page to where the lead researcher speaks: https://www.prisonexp.org/conclusion
This drama is a fabulous opportunity to explore delicate social issues safely.
Don't forget to check out the drama unit: 'The Elgons and the Kingdom of Hasmala'.

See https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Social-Justice-Process-Drama-Unit-The-Elgons-in-the-Kingdom-of-Hasmala-6524488