Students at an Ohio middle school were asked to decide who they would leave behind if the world was about to end, using age, religion and other descriptions as markers for their decisions

The assignment is ostensibly designed to get people talking about biases and reduce prejudice, which is a fine goal, but the content is arbitrary and inconsistent, and the result of the assignment is the opposite: it encourages prejudice.

The idea is to get students to agree on which people from an arbitrary list will get to leave a doomed Earth and continue the species. Basically, the assignment is getting young people to think about who in society they would kill off and who would they let live.

The list of candidates is an arbitrary list of characteristics, some involving race, age, religion, and sex and others involving behavioral traits like sexuality and occupation. Some included negative history (eg “substance abuse”) but others do not (“60-year old Jewish university administrator”). Why does race matter for some fictional people and not others? Why does behavior matter for some and not others? Age? Religion?

The result is that people are forced to take into account certain characteristics that may or may not have anything to do with the goal. In an effort to reduce the reliance on group identity, students are forced to judge people solely on their group identity.

This assignment is a great example of an attempt to fight bigotry by being bigoted.

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