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The scapegoat myth: reflections and activities

Michele Frankeni  |  25 July 2018

mary mckillop mosaicAs the feast day for St Mary MacKillop approaches, it’s timely to read the article The scapegoat myth in the 2018 Winter edition of Madonna magazine.

Take part in the following reflections and activities and share your answers in pairs, groups or with the class.


What is scapegoating?

What traits or similarities do scapegoats share? Why would that be?

Why do you think Mary MacKillop was selected as a scapegoat? Does she share any of those traits you identified in the question above?

Can you think of examples of scapegoats today? Why have they been singled out?

What is the underlying purpose of scapegoating these particular people or groups?

Jesus has been identified as the ultimate scapegoat – why would that be?


It has been said that the quickest and easiest way to build a team is to unite against a common enemy. Can you identify why that could be a problem?

Instead of uniting against a common enemy, perhaps uniting in a common cause might be better. Here’s a couple of collaboration exercises to try in class.

Build a marshmallow spaghetti tower. Each group gets 20 sticks of uncooked spaghetti, roll of masking tape, ball of string and one marshmallow. From just these supplies, see which group can build the tallest tower. However, the marshmallow must be at the top and the structure has to stand unaided for three seconds.

Survival. Either as a class or in teams, imagine you’re on a plane that has crashed on a desert island. Pick 10 items from around the classroom (or school) that you consider most useful to survival. Build a consensus in your group and then discuss your choices with other groups in the class.

For younger students

Talk with your students about some people or groups of people are singled out as problems or ‘scapegoats’. Can they think of anyone they know who might be a scapegoat? Talk with them about helping each other to achieve goals.

Play a simple game of ‘minefield’. In a space set up obstacles such as chairs, tables, mats and boxes. Divide the class into pairs. Half of the pairs are blindfolded and have to make it to the other end of the room without setting off any of the mines while being guided by verbal instructions only by their partners.

You can make the minefield as simple or as complicated as you like.



Topic tags: heroesandrolemodels, valuesandmoraldecision-making, healthycommunitylife

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