Epic look at persecution of minorities
Mark Beale had no epic ideas.
Every year his Comparative Civilizations class at Maple Ridge secondary builds an epic project. The students research the topic, transform a classroom into a series of scenes, then tour the rest of the school population through their project over the course of the week.
“I was stuck. It was like, ‘I don’t really have anything,” he said to the Grade 8 class that was about to take the first tour through this year’s epic on Monday afternoon.
It finally came to him, during a classroom discussion about minority groups, and what it would be like to be a member of a minority group in an early civilization. That led to a conversation about modern minorities, how difficult their lives can be in a wealthy, educated country – and how much more difficult it would be in a poor country.
“I started thinking, ‘We might have a project here.’”
A little research led to some shocking discoveries – the kind of gritty facts that have become trademarks of the hard-hitting epics.
There are many minorities that could have been studied, but the students narrowed it down to four main groups – ethnic minorities, the mentally or physically handicapped, women, and people who are LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning).
Beale told those Grade 8s that his class learned about abuse that was shocking and horrendous.
“The museum is no joke. There are scenes in there that are graphic in nature,” he warned them.
The comparative civilization students populate the many scenes.
There is a mentally ill patient shackled to a bed, and they explain that in many poor countries they are restrained or drugged. Another tells how handicapped people are often co-opted to work for begging syndicates.
There are scenes about the plight of women in nations where they do not enjoy equal rights, with female circumcision and under-age marriages highlighted.
A scene from the genocide of 800,000 people in Rwanda highlights the plight of ethnic minorities, and there is a death row scene that offers insight into the execution of LGBTQ people, in countries where sexual orientation can carry a death sentence.
The students researched the projects, framed the walls, built the sets, and from Monday to Thursday this week they will be in the epic project, telling their stories.
About half of the Grade 12 class at MRSS, 125 students, plays a role in the epic project.
“We want to promote social responsibility in the school, and make people aware of issues they’re probably not aware of,” said Beale. “It’s all real. It’s all researched.”
Beale said the school population was to go through the project from Monday to Thursday, and on Monday and Tuesday nights between 200 and 300 parents will visit.
The epic project always gets a reaction.
“A lot of people have said to me, ‘You need to choose happier, upbeat topics,’” said Beale. “But that’s a, ‘who cares?’ There’s nothing that needs to change.”