Broadening Imagination and Awareness
Explain to the participants that they are about to suspend logic and use role-play to exercise their imagination. Albert Einstein, Nobel Laureate, scientist and anti-war advocate said "Imagination is more important than knowledge" because we first imagine what later comes into being. Think of Thomas Edison and his light bulb, or Jane Addams and her creation of safe houses for impoverished immigrants in America. Both the act of invention and intention require the use of our imagination. Yet, the muscle of our imagination is often poorly exercised in a world where video games and films do the imagining for us. However, in the Widening Circles thought experiment, participants are encouraged to use that muscle to imagine the thoughts or feelings of people who hold differing opinions, as well as viewpoints from the future and the more-than-human world.
Make space for a circle of four chairs in the middle of the classroom. Ask for four volunteers, and have them count off 1, 2, 3, 4.
Explain the Following Positions, for a Lesson on Nuclear Weapons Disarmament:
1: represents a pro nuclear position
When explaining each position, the educator should give an example of each. For instance:
In the number 1 seat, you might say something like "Nuclear weapons are really important because we only use them as a threat. They will never really be used. And after they were used in World War II the war ended. If we are going to live in a world where there is threat of terrorism, we better be ready with a nuclear bomb."
In seat number 2, you might say " Nuclear weapons are too dangerous to control. And when one country has them other countries want them too. Think about how much there is with just one nuclear bomb. There is not only death, and death of innocent people, but also radiation. Radioactive contamination doesn't just go away. I think we need to find ways to solve conflict without using war."
In seat number 3, you might imagine that you are a river outside a nuclear reactor that makes plutonium for the bomb. You could say something like "It's hard running by this big building with all that steam. The water that comes into me from the building is hot, and I'm cool. When hot water comes in, the many creatures who live in me are becoming sick. There's something that I cannot see in that water and I'm not happy about that. I'm a river, and the power of my current is mighty, but I cannot fight the current of invisible poison that is being pumped into me from that big building. I wish I could stop it " You might also be a plant such as wild grass, or a mineral such as uranium. Or you may be a cloud in the sky that can see far distances. There are many things to be and points of view to be held in seat number 3."
In seat number 4, you imagine that you are a person living 100 years in the future and might say "What I can see 100 years from now is this: the nuclear bomb factories are closed, humans have found other more peaceful ways to live, but the radioactive waste and contamination from all the years of nuclear weapon production are still with us. We must guard those invisible poisons from the atmosphere. This is the poison gift we give to future generations, but in an odd way it connects us, and we remember you who made it, and those in the future will remember us who guard it. Or you might say, from the future we keep a pact that we cannot say to the present what will become of them, but I can tell you this, unless human ways are changed there will be changes forced on them from nature. I think we can all agree it is easier to decide to change and make that decision based on cooperation, than it is to force change at a rapid pace. It's up to you."
For a Lesson on Small Arms, an Educator Could Use:
1: represents a pro gun rights position
After role-playing each represented space, ask the students to proceed in a round. When they finished, repeat the process 3 or 4 times, by asking each student to choose another for his/her space (1, 2, 3...). Then come together as a group and discuss the exercise. If there's a longer period of time, a fishbowl process could be used to ensure the greatest participation.
Some Guiding Questions for the Educator Might Be:
Adapted from(© 1998).