This past week, my students and I participated in a cross-cultural simulation called Bafa Bafa, which is a significant title for the Beta culture. The Alphas do not learn the meaning of the name until the conclusion of the experience. Here’s how it works.
Students were divided into Alphas and Betas. Then they learned the rules and values of their new culture and began to play “games” related to those same values and rules. The Alphas are social, tactile, and paternalistic. The Betas, however, are individual, capitalistic, and goal-oriented. Next, an observer from each culture is sent to just observe and report. After discussion and hypothesis, the game continues and then small groups of visitors are sent to each culture. They are given artifacts and they are encouraged to try to learn the rules of the other culture. Each returning group of visitors report and brief discussions focus on claims, beliefs, language, interpretation, and culture.
The stated purpose of Bafa Bafa is to 1) explore the concept of culture 2) create feelings 3) analyze the process for gaining knowledge.
Specifically for Theory of Knowledge we want to consider these ideas:
belief, certainty, culture, evidence,
experience, explanation, interpretation, intuition, justification, truth, valuesClick here for “Understanding Knowledge Issues” Understanding Knowledge Issues
The follow-up discussion created a range of strong emotional reactions and claims about each culture. Groups were even hostile toward one another (in a kind of playful manner like “Boo Alphas suck!). Our discussion questions can be reviewed here Bafa Bafa Discussion Questions
The next day, we brought our analysis away from the culture simulation and considered the more personal questions:
1. Which of your knowledge communities’ values and rules do you feel you best know? How might “outsiders” see you and your kn. community?
2. Have you felt like an “outsider” or visitor before? When? Why?
3. In our world, where do we see polarities like the Alphas and Betas?
We identified these alpha / beta analogous relationships:
male/female; Iran/USA; teacher/student; Pakistan/India; Muslim/Christian; World/USA; parent/child; science/religion; art/science; rich/poor and many more.
The entire experience lasted nearly three hours and we are considering these questions to further our personal reflection and insights:
Consider your BAFA BAFA experience and write a reflection, providing specific examples from your BAFA BAFA experience as well as examples from your life.
- How do cultures’ values differ with respect to the ways of knowing and areas of knowledge?
- How do beliefs about the world and beliefs about what is valuable, influence the pursuit of knowledge?
- What constitutes ‘good evidence’ within the different ways of knowing and areas of knowledge?
- What are the dangers of equating personal experience and knowledge?
- What are the difference between persuasive explanations, good explanations, and true explanations?
- To what extent does classification systems (labels and categories) adopted in the pursuit of knowledge affect the knowledge we obtain?
- To what extent does the truth of a statement depend on the language used to express it?
- To what extent do the different ways of knowing influence the values adopted by individuals and societies?