The Man and the Eagle (Icebreaker Activity)

"The Man and the Eagle" (author unknown)

There was once a man who had never seen an eagle. One day a magnificent eagle landed on his windowsill, and when he saw it, he exclaimed, “What an ugly creature!” The man grabbed the eagle and pulled it into his house. “First, I’m going to fix that curved beak of yours.” He used a file to remove the hook in the eagle’s beak. “Those claws are vicious looking,” the man said as he clipped the eagle’s claws until there was little left. When he finished, the man said, “There, now you look better.” And he put the bird back on his open windowsill and shooed it away. You can imagine how long the newly trimmed eagle lasted in the wild.


The man changed the bird drastically in this story. Without valuing the bird’s special qualities, the man altered the bird to what he thought would be better. This story can be used to discuss discrimination and the effect it has on those who are discriminated against.


■ Think about the eagle for a moment. How important do you think it is for the eagle to have its claws and sharp beak?

■ Why are the eagle’s beak and claws important to its survival?

■ After reading this story, why do you think the man changed the bird?

■ Did the man know the importance of the eagle’s claws and beak? If he knew more about eagles, do you think he would have appreciated the eagle instead of changing it?

■ Have you ever tried to change a person who is different from you?

■ Are some people cruel in this manner to people with whom they are not familiar?

■ Do you think it’s ethical to change people because you think their characteristics are different or somehow less superior to yours? If so, in what situation do you feel this is justified?

■ What happens when people place their beliefs on others?

■ Can all people be judged by the same standard of beauty? Why or why not?

■ In your opinion, what makes a person beautiful/attractive?

■ What role does a person’s preference play in deciding what is beautiful or attractive?

■ How do we treat people who don’t look like us—have different skin colors; are taller, thinner, or heavier; have braces or glasses; use a cane to walk; have wrinkles; are older, younger, deaf, or blind?

■ How does this story parallel the history of America?

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