Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Mandarin Game

A couple days ago, I remembered a diversity training game that we played when I was in RA training. It was called the Mandarin Game.

It's set up with everybody sitting in a circle. (When we played, it was a big circle, with easily sixty people.) The premise is that there is a little old Mandarin Chinese man somewhere in the world. As the jury, the group must decide what the Mandarin's life is worth.  As the game progresses the criteria changes. The Mandarin goes from a middle aged healthy rich man to an old man on death's door. The rewards for killing him include everything from world peace to global financial stability.

If you make it through the game without deciding to kill the man, an envelope is read, telling you that the man was one who would cure all diseases and bring peace to the world. By killing him, you would have had peace, but under the rule of a cruel totalitarian.

I was remembering how much I hated the ending to that game.

For me, the ultimate flaw is that ending. It was the slap in the face to people who'd decided that world peace was worth ending the pain of a man who would die in a week anyway. I remember a sophomore telling about a family member in the army and pleading with the group to think of the lives that would be saved instead of the one who was lost. I remember feeling smug because I'd done the "Christian" thing and argued to not kill the man. (Ironic, since Christianity is based on one guy taking the fall for everyone.)

Most of all, I hate it when you teach that diversity has a right and a wrong answer.


Unknown said...

I wouldn't have played. I would have decided, early on, that the game was a contrived time-waster, and I would have gone back to my room to read. Diversity training is just another term for situational ethics--disguised ways to turn evil thinking into normal.

ThatOneRedhead said...

It's easy to say that you wouldn't have played, but much more difficult when you're seventeen and in training for your first job.

I don't have a problem with diversity training when it falls under the umbrella of explaining cultural differences and learning communication techniques.

There's ways to do it correctly, but this wasn't one.

Chi said...

Oh man. I remember when we did this. I think you remember my objections: Pretty much the same as yours.

Having a singular correct answer stifles intelligent and nuanced discussion.

Unknown said...

Urgh, I remember how incredibly pissed off that game made me. I worked with Kristi for a while to try and improve it, but I don't think it ever went anywhere, which is sad. I liked my version a lot better.

What spurred remembering that game?

Andrew M. said...

Hey... I've been trying to get information on the Mandarin Game for years... if anyone can remember any extra details of it, can you email me? PLEASE :)