While working on pedagogical methods for the year 2100, our group’s first issue was what kind of topic to chose in history and from what perspective to approach it? Should we speak about a long term reality such as the Berlin wall, should we pick a specific moment in time such as spring 1968 or some other iconic event? And also, should we conceive the class as a history lesson (and then, how do you go about it with objectivity?) or a class where we “teach” a value?
We decided on choosing the construction of the Berlin wall in August 1961 and treating it as an even relevant for building (material and non-material) borders. The intention behind building the wall, defining two separate German states, was made reality with deciding on a more or less arbitrary location. On the one hand, we also though about the fact that physical division preceded the mental one, but, as a later visit to “West: Berlin. Eine Insel auf der Suche nach Festland” showed (for example, in the creation of separate currency for West Germany in 1948), mental divisions had already been created.
Our lesson for the year 2100 targeted adults that work as public servants, so that the lesson bears reminding of the fact that from their position, they can either reinforce the laws and customs without giving any thought to how just or oppressive they are, or they can keep a critical eye on their daily routines and question, if necessary, the authority.
The lesson would, on the one hand, be a multimedia immersion. Footage of personal experiences of people with similar position to theirs who had experienced the building of the wall, accounts on the same event from two opposite positions (Eastern and Western), in order to see differences in ideology and propaganda (e.g. in newspapers) and many more would all offer comprehensive accounts on multiple aspects of the historical event. Personal stories, the official discourse, counter-stories, experiences of minority groups would be experienced by the participants in an individual manner, for as long as they need or desire. On the other hand, our lesson wanted to offer a collective experience, that would move and irritate the participants.
Two trainers would moderate the sessions. At one moment during discussions, they would separate the room using a string that would allow participants to see everything, yet feel a separation. The two trainers would simultaneously show the same images in a synchronized presentation, yet their explanations would be different. The narration on the events or realities shown would represent the two ideologies, politics and interests (Eastern and Western). The participants from the “Eastern” side will be denied access to coffee and refreshments and will be refused breaks for a solid 2-3 hours. Any act of disobedience will be condemned and “punished”. The activity will be followed by the acknowledgement of the fact that it was a simulation, that the trainers played well rehearsed roles and that such feelings of confusion and injustice were common and fueled by the state.
Many points in methodology were also raised during the Q&A session ofter the groups’ presentation, concerning how (much) should trainers use emotions, feelings, how to respect personal boundaries while also making an impact on participants, how to make the content (a past event) relevant for the present etc.