Strange Behavior Brainstorming/Scavenger Hunt Session:

Editor’s Note: The following post is an assignment from the La Salle faculty training course Collaboration Online Plus. In this assignment, course participants are tasked with redesigning an face-to-face lesson for the online environment. Please show support to your fellow Lasallians by leaving your feedback on their ideas in the comments section below this post.

Background: After students have read selections from Frazer’s Golden Bough (where Frazer treats myths and ritualized behavior as pre-scientific superstitions) and Wittgenstein’s Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough (where Wittgenstein takes pains to disabuse us of the notion that the ancients are unique in mythic and ritualized behavior – that we, as members of a scientific community, are above such things).

Have you ever wondered what an alien civilization or a civilization from the future would think about some of our wacky behavior?  Or have you been in a foreign culture and thought that a behavior or belief is very strange when they simply take it for granted?

Immediately jumping to my mind are practices involved in funerals, weddings, sporting events.  We lay flowers on the graves of loved ones.  Why?  Might not another culture think that we believe that the spirits of the dead linger and enjoy the aroma?  Sometimes we bury Eagles’ fans in their favorite jersey.  What might a civilization in the future upon becoming aware of that practice, think about our beliefs about the dead?

I think of football fans waving at the opposing teams field goal attempts.  Or Carlton Fisk waving at the ball he hit.  What are they waving at??  Does their behavior imply that they believe that they can affect the course of the ball?  It might be easy for someone from another civilization to think that it does.  But do they really think that?  Is it possible that we’re making a similar mistake in thinking about the behavior of the ancients?

Assignment: Take 10 minutes and try to come up with as many examples from contemporary culture that from the perspective of a civilization in the future would like we have superstitious beliefs or behavior.  Feel free to use the internet.  It might be helpful to jump back and forth between the internet and the whiteboard as you and your classmates stimulate one another’s thinking.

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Looking forward: Your next assignment will be to take one of the practices from the brainstorming session and to write a brief, fictionally anthropological account of this behavior from a culture far advanced of our own.  What mistakes might they make about our beliefs based on our weird behavior?

8 replies on “Strange Behavior Brainstorming/Scavenger Hunt Session:”

  1. This is a great assignment. I like the brainstorming aspect and wonder if there might be some way to allow for students to interact with one another in the process, or comment on each others work?

  2. Casey:

    This assignment is full of a lot to think about. I specifically like how a time limit was set for the students. I’m wondering if the order of the responses in the synchronous session may reveal the various learning styles of your students. Some may easily come up with multiple examples of current practices that may seem foreign, but others may be more introverted & process differently in the online environment as well.


  3. This is a neat and dare I say “fun assignment”? I like the idea of getting students to think outside of the box and utilize the brainstorming idea to push the envelope. This might also lead to great discussion and thought about cultural competency and diversity within the context of the social work profession and education.

  4. I am intrigued by this assignment. Not only does it ask students to look at the past and potential future, but it also helps them to examine how others perceive us. I think this is a great thing to have students think about, as often we forget that what we do can be interpreted as strange to others. Great idea!

  5. First, the introduction to this post was very well-written and engaging. The assignment itself seems like it will be a great writing exercise that provides students with a lot of opportunity to use their own voice and choice. In the online environment, it’s very important to allow a broad range of pathways to get to the same learning objective, and I think this assignment fulfills that. I also like that it is timed and you encourage students to do their own internet research. While we might take it for granted that it’s second nature for us to Google questions nowadays anyway, it is always good to clearly spell out the expectations for the assignment.

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