The Dilemma

Some students at Standiford High School would just about die if they lost their 4.0 GPA. Charlie is not one of them. He’s happy to stay in the middle of the pack, doing just enough work to maintain a C average. He’s smart enough — if he tries, he can earn a B to offset the occasional D — but he would rather not waste any effort.

Given his limited motivation, Charlie loves group projects, which let him benefit from the work of the class brainiacs. But one such project puts him in a quandary.

For Ms. Pace’s American history class, he and three classmates are supposed to prepare a 10-minute presentation on the Civil War. The project takes lots of research, including several trips to the library, and plenty of time building a PowerPoint presentation. One group member, Michael, somehow manages to do even less work than Charlie. In fact, he doesn’t contribute to the project at all, offering an excuse about trouble at home.

The group’s two brainiacs don’t seem to mind doing most of the work, but their attitude changes when they learn that the project has earned only a B. They decide to tell Ms. Pace about Michael’s nonparticipation — and they want Charlie to go with them.

What should Charlie do?

For Discussion

Have your youth read the dilemma together, and then discuss these questions:

  • Should the group complain to Ms. Pace about Michael’s nonparticipation? Why or why not?
  • The brainiacs didn’t seem concerned about Michael’s nonparticipation before they got their grade. Does that make them hypocrites? If so, does that change your answer to the previous question? Explain your response.
  • Assume Charlie did less than his fair share of the work. Does that give him less of a right to complain about Michael’s nonparticipation? Why or why not?
  • Michael says his nonparticipation was the result of trouble at home. Should the group investigate that claim before talking with Ms. Pace? Explain your response.
  • Assume Michael’s nonparticipation is typical for him. Does that affect whether the group should complain to Ms. Pace? Explain your response.
  • Now, assume Michael usually participates more fully in group projects. How does that change your response to the previous question (if at all)?

Finally, invite the youth to discuss their own experiences with group work in school. How did they approach situations in which group members weren’t doing their fair share?

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