The New York State Constitution
- Begin by giving the following instructions to the group:
- We will give you a series of binary choices.
- Each choice requires you to choose a side of the room to stand on.
- Once you’ve made your choice, please go stand on that side of the room facing into the room
- You may not stand in the middle as a hedge of your choice; you must choose a side. But it’s just for the sake of this exercise and not etched in stone for all eternity! So no pressure.
- Start with some innocuous prompts to introduce the concept of the exercise:
- If you prefer warm weather, please go stand on that side of the room, and if you prefer cold weather, please stand on the other.
- Vanilla vs. Chocolate
- Dogs vs. Cats
- Have siblings vs. only child
- Move on to prompts relevant to the source text (in this case, the New York State Constitution):
- States rights vs. Strong federal gov’t
- Identify as a New Yorker first vs. identify as an American first
- Feel close to power vs. distant from power
- Your opinions have a voice in government vs. your opinions are absent from government deliberations
- You vote regularly (however you define that) vs. you don’t vote regularly
- You are engaged and informed vs. you are not engaged and informed
- You feel loyalty to New York state vs. you don’t feel loyalty to New York state
- You feel loyalty to the US vs. you don’t feel loyalty to the US
- Invite everyone to sit down somewhere on their own to do a minute of free writing about the experience of that exercise.
- Put people in groups of four to share some initial thoughts
- Invite everyone back together as one big group to share thoughts in an organized way
- If forcing you to choose a side allowed you to make a choice that surprised you, how did that feel?
- In what ways have your opinions on the source text changed, softened, or hardened by doing this exercise?
- Do you feel more clear or less clear about your feelings?