“The ‘In’ Group” provides an opportunity to discuss themes such as conformity, peer pressure, and belonging—themes that resonate with students’ own experiences and that have shaped the behavior of individuals throughout history.
The following activity helps students develop a vocabulary they can use to analyze their own actions, the behavior of those around them, and the actions of individuals and groups in the past. Often when students think about acts of injustice, they divide those involved into two groups: the victims and the perpetrators. Yet others contribute to the prevention or the perpetuation of injustice. For example, a bystander is someone who witnesses or knows about an act of injustice but chooses not to do anything about it. On the other hand, when confronted with information about an unjust act, an upstander takes steps to prevent or stop this act from continuing. Introducing students to the terms bystander and upstander can help them recognize the consequences of their own actions (and inaction) and the choices of individuals and groups throughout history.
As a final activity, review the terms victim, perpetrator, bystander, and upstander with students, and ask them to apply these terms to “The ‘In’ Group.” Following are some prompts to help guide this discussion:
- In this story, who was the victim?
- Who are the perpetrators?
- Who are the bystanders?
- Who are the upstanders?
In this story, Eve Shalen might represent a bystander. She did not steal the diary herself or do anything excessive to torment its owner. Yet, although she knew that reading the diary was wrong, she watched while the “in” group read it without doing anything to stop them. An interesting question to ask students is, “What would an upstander have done in this situation?”
To end this lesson, have students discuss the question, “Why do you think people do nothing even when they know something happening around them is wrong?” This is an ideal time to introduce students to the terms belonging and conformity. Often, because people want to belong to a community, they will adopt the values and behavior they think are most likely to be accepted by this group. Indeed, Eve Shalen wanted to belong to the “in” group so badly that she participated in reading the diary even though she knew it was wrong.
Curriculum connections: You can use the terms introduced here (victim, perpetrators, bystanders, and upstanders) to help students understand and interpret events in world history such as the trial of Socrates or the Spanish invasion of the Mayan Empire.