Study Guide | Theater

A Human Being Died That Night

Enrichment Activities

Activity 1: The Great Reparations Debate

In this exercise, students will research the idea of reparations for the descendants of slaves and stage a debate on the topic.


OVERVIEW
As mentioned previously, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ controversial idea in his article for the Atlantic met with deep skepticism and outright ridicule from those who argued that the idea was little more than a silly liberal fantasy. Coates, however, argued that while slavery has long ended, the systematic exploitation and mistreatment of the African-American community persisted through Jim Crow and beyond, and that we are seeing results of this continued injustice played out in the many cases over the last several years where, to use Coates’ phrase, black bodies have been “broken, exploited, or killed with impunity.” It is interesting to note that the idea of this kind of reparation is not new: it has been discussed on and off in this country since slavery was officially abolished by the 13th Amendment in 1865.

OBJECTIVES
Students will:

1. Research and debate Ta-Nehisi Coates’ idea that the only path to true and permanent racial equality in America is to create the equivalent of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission with the goal of exploring the idea of giving reparations to the descendants of slaves.

PROCEDURE

1. Divide the class into two teams, and put up the following resolution:
RESOLVED: That paying reparations to the descendants of African slaves is a necessary step towards creating racial justice in America.

2. Research the history of the “reparations” movement and instances throughout world history where injured peoples have received reparations. Have students create at least three arguments to support their point. They must support their reasoning with historical evidence and quotations.

3. Break up into pairs comprised of one member of the Affirmative team and one from the Negative. Take 7 to 10 minutes to stage a mini-debate in your pair groups based on the research you have done.

4. Return to your teams. In your team meeting, discuss which arguments and what evidence were most effective in the pair debates; you should also discuss any weaknesses in your arguments that came out in their pair groups.

5. Have each team decide what their strongest arguments are, and which pieces of evidence provide the best support. Then assign members of the team to present particular arguments and pieces of evidence. Other team members may be rebuttalists; their job is to keep track of the other team’s arguments and present counterarguments.

6. Bring in judges, such as other teachers or administrators, and stage your debate.

MATERIALS
Internet for research, and access to Coates’ article on reparations.

ASSESSMENT
The judges will determine the winning team in the debate; students’ participation may be assessed via a rubric that factors arguments, use of evidence and response to counterarguments as factors. In addition, all should write a traditional argumentative essay that establishes and supports their point.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5: Analyze in detail how an author's ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6: Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7: Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person's life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.



Activity 2: “Destroy this Mad Brute:” Dehumanizing the Enemy

Students will see how propaganda designed to make an enemy seem less human and more “other” has made killing easier across the years.


OVERVIEW
In the play, DeKock describes in detail his indoctrination in school and in the national service. In these impressionable years, Eugene was given the message over and over that the white, Afrikaans South Africans were superior, and that their black compatriots were little better than animals. He tells of the time he and his group were shown a film that depicted black revolutionaries raping nuns in the Congo; he was soon convinced that if black people were treated as equals, it would mean the violent and immediate disintegration of his country. Killing someone, even in the context of war, is a difficult thing, but it becomes much easier when you believe that your enemy is something less than human. It is a very old technique, one used to great effect by the Nazis but employed as well in America against our enemies in the great wars of the 20th century, and also at times against our own marginalized peoples.

OBJECTIVES
Students will:

1. Analyze racist propaganda posters that combatants have used to dehumanize their enemies.

2. Make their own creative propaganda pieces that reflect the spirit of empathy, understanding and forgiveness embodied by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.

PROCEDURE

1. Search online using the search term “racist propaganda posters.” Explore some of the most powerful and effective of these, and ultimately choose one that you wish to focus on.

2. Write a brief analytical piece about how the poster you have chosen uses text and graphics to paint a dehumanizing picture of a particular group of people.

3. Share out your findings with the class.

4. Discuss with the class what the posters you have chosen have in common, and use these commonalities as a gateway into a discussion of how propaganda works and why it is often so effective.

5. Alone or with a partner, create a positive propaganda piece that emphasizes equality, compassion, empathy, or commonality. You may do this in poster form, but you may also choose to write a poem, a story, a short scene, a rap or a song, take a photograph, paint a picture, or create a computer graphic image.

MATERIALS
Internet access for links to propaganda posters of the past, and materials to create their own positive propaganda pieces.

ASSESSMENT The above activities will be assessed via rubrics that may be created by the teacher alone or in conjunction with his or her students. Students may also write an answer to the following prompt: “I believe that propaganda can be used to create a positive influence in today’s society by ____________.”

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7 Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment (e.g., Auden's "Musée des Beaux Arts" and Breughel's Landscape with the Fall of Icarus).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5 Analyze in detail how an author's ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person's life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.



Activity 3: The Case for Restorative Justice in Schools

Students will learn how the ideas put forth by Pumla and South Africa’s TRC are being used to change the face of discipline in schools all around the world, including here in the United States.


OVERVIEW
Traditional discipline in our nation’s public schools, according to nearly all studies and statistics, is having no positive impact, and may in fact be leading to negative consequences. In an age when bullying seems to be on the rise, most school districts respond with some form of suspension for the perpetrators. This fails on all levels. For the victim, the suspension of their tormentor for a couple of days provides no comfort or relief, and often makes things worse. And there is no evidence at all that the threat of suspension discourages bullies from doing what they do; all that happens is that they miss school time, which leaves them behind in their work. Some school districts are rejecting suspensions and are beginning to apply the idea of restorative justice, which, like the process we witnessed in the play, seeks to replace ineffective punishment with honest conversation, the development of empathy and, in the best case, a true sense of healing. Would such a system work in your school?

OBJECTIVES
Students will:

1. Research ways in which Restorative Justice has been applied to discipline in certain school districts

2. Discuss the pros and cons of such a system

3. Discuss ways in which a restorative justice system might be implemented in their school

PROCEDURE

1. Alone or in pairs, research the ways in which restorative justice has been applied to discipline in certain school districts. Start with www.restorativejustice.org for an overview of general principles, and then move on to www.disciplinethatrestores.org to see how schools have employed these principles.

2. With a partner, discuss and list some of the drawbacks that such a system might have, and how these might be approached.

3. Share your findings with the class, and discuss ways in which a restorative justice system might be implemented in your school.

4. As a class, create a detailed written proposal for such a system. This may be done point by point by the class as a whole, or the work may be divided as the class sees fit.

5. Present your class proposal to school or district administrators.

MATERIALS
Access to the Internet for research on the use of restorative justice in schools.

ASSESSMENT
Success will be measured for this supplementary assignment by the discussion within the school that the proposal engenders.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5: Analyze in detail how an author's ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1: Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1: Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2: Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.



Activity 4: “Can an Evil Man Change?”

Based on what they have discovered about Eugene de Kock, students will learn and write about de Kock’s recent release on parole this past spring.


OVERVIEW
A Human Being Died That Night ends with Eugene de Kock essentially giving up all hope of ever leaving prison; he must be satisfied with the knowledge that at least Pumla would have him set free if she could. Remarkably, over a decade after Pumla wrote her book and over a year after the play had its premiere, the man once known as “Prime Evil” was in fact granted parole by prison authorities and released. In a New York Times editorial from March 14, 2015, white South African poet and journalist Antjie Krog, who had covered de Kock’s trials in the 1990’s, lays out the cases for and against his release. Many South Africans are not pleased by the development, but Krog, like Pumla in the play, expresses faith in the healing power of truth.

OBJECTIVES
Students will:

1. Read and reflect on an informational text, i.e. a New York Times editorial

2. Write their own editorial of the New York Times piece editorial based on what they have learned about de Kock from the this study guide.

PROCEDURE

1. On your own, read and annotate Krog’s Times editorial.

2. With a partner, discuss and list some of the reasons for and against de Kock’s release, and share these thoughts out with the class.

3. Based on what you have learned about Eugene de Kock, write a letter to the Times editor agreeing or disagreeing with what Krog says. You may look at the real letters sent in response to the piece to get a sense of proper structure. Be sure to refer to as many specific statements in Krog’s piece and specific things you know about de Kock’s life and crimes in your letter.

PROCEDURE
Access to the Internet for the Krog editorial.

ASSESSMENT
Teachers and students should create a rubric together to rate the effectiveness of the letters.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3 Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6 Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.)

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology's capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.


 

“A Vocabulary of Compromise and Tolerance:” Selected Vocabulary from A Human Being Died That Night

To The Educator:

Rather than using a ready-made glossary, it might be more effective to make the students responsible for defining the words below. You might simply have them look the words up; for a bit more fun, have each student “present” the word using an image, a vignette they write, or even a short film that they create.

impoverished apartheid inaugurated repressive
surreal sweltering covert defiance
dismembered traumatic jubilation mutilated
atrocity transcend paradox incongruous
implicate voyeuristic ambivalent xenophobic

Selected Bibliography

Berkowitz, Roger. "The Power of Non-Reconciliation: Arendt's Judgment of Adolf Eichmann." www.hannaharendt.net. The Journal for Political Thinking, 2011. Web. 03 Sept. 2015.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. "The Case for Reparations." www.theatlantic.com. Atlantic Monthly Magazine, June 2014. Web. 1 Sept. 2015

Gobodo-Madikizela, Pumla. A Human Being Died That Night. Boston: Mariner Books, 2004.

Krog, Antjie. "Can an Evil Man Change? The Repentance of Eugene de Kock." www.nytimes.com. The New York Times, 13 Mar. 2015. Web. 5 Sept. 2015.

Oh, Inae. "Families of Charleston Shooting Victims: "We Forgive You"" www.motherjones.com. Mother Jones Magazine, 19 June 2015. Web. 4 Sept. 2015