The Long Walk to Freedom
Module 5 – Exercise 3: Mandela's The Long Walk to Freedom
This exercise asks students to draw on the pre-assigned reading of the excerpt (pp. 50-55) from The Long Walk to Freedom. The excerpt describes Nelson Mandela's first major ethical/racial (in)justice case, when his university president threatens him with expulsion if he does not violate the wishes of other students he represents who are involved in a boycott and school election.
In small groups, ask students to discuss what they would have done if they were in Mandela's shoes. In particular, ask them to address these three questions:
- In the excerpt you have just read, how do we make judgments about their behaviour? Is either person morally correct? Or are both of them right "in their own way"?
- How might you have handled the problems based upon race, role, and age emphasized in this excerpt?
- Education is supposed to help diminish intolerance, ignorance, and discrimination. And yet Mandela experienced what he called institutional racism in this case within his own university. Are educational courses like this one an antidote to racism or does higher education embalm and transmit "eternal" problems of human nature which cannot be changed in diversity and ethics courses? How important and practical is what we are doing in this class?
Ask the students to choose a spokesperson who can report the group's answers to the class. The spokesperson should explain the rationale for why the group chose their answers, and give a "minority report" on behalf of any member of the group who had a different opinion.
Another version of this exercise would be to ask two students to conduct a role play of Nelson Mandela's ethical dilemma, and then ask the other students to discuss the case study they have just seen enacted by addressing the above three questions.