Taking Off on the Ten Commandments

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This classroom strategy employs satire in studying the Ten Commandments. By using humor to analyze various societal structures (like MTV, the mall, or soap operas), students have the opportunity to see the "truth" in the tradition. This activity sounds like a fun one!

This classroom strategy is based on a method used by Fr. Steve Brice while teaching religion at Aquinas High School, La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Young people love humor and satire. One way to alleviate pressures students feel from the culture around them is to have them compose their own "Ten Commandments" of their culture or of a societal institution that significantly influences young people's attitudes and behavior. For instance, they might compose a "Ten Commandments According to MTV," a "Ten Commandments According to the Shopping Mall," or a "Ten Commandments According to Soap Operas." Here are some steps to follow.

  1. Begin by brainstorming with the students to come up with a list of societal groups, institutions, media personalities, shows or publications, and so on, that heavily influence their culture. Encourage imagination and fun. They may come up with groups or institutions you would never think of! Write this list on the chalkboard.
  2. Then, to make this exercise more fun, divide the students into groups of four to six. Allow each group to choose a different item from the chalkboard. Have them compose a "Ten Commandments" according to that item. Give them newsprint or poster paper on which to write the final version of their "Ten Commandments." They may want to decorate this version suitably, so provide felt-tip markers. Twenty minutes should be enough time.
  3. Ask each group to present its "Ten Commandments" to the class. As an optional activity, they could put on a skit that shows someone grappling with her or his "conscience" over whether to break one or more of these commandments.
  4. It is amazing how much perspective the students display when given the opportunity to satirize societal institutions that pressure their attitudes and behavior. Wasn't that what Mad Magazine of our own youth was all about--giving us distance and perspective on society through satire?


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Published October 1, 1992.