We both tend to be lecturers (sage on the stage, with class discussion following), but these days, it's good to be more interactive. Last week his Situational Ethics class was supposed to discuss international trade. How to make that interactive?
We thought about some TED talks. We thought about reading international treaties. But then I remembered an exercise from the long ago days of youth groups, an exercise designed to teach us about world hunger. In that exercise, we divided into groups and were given popcorn. Some groups were given more than they needed, some less, and some had other resources; I have a memory of pennies. What would each group do? How would they negotiate? Could we get to a point where everyone had what they needed?
It's an exercise that stuck with me, obviously. Here I am, decades later, suggesting it.
So, I used that idea as an inspiration for a different kind of classroom exercise. I would divide the class into groups and give them items representing wealth (pennies), weapons (matches, which my spouse lit and blew out so that there would be no risk of mishap), manufacturing resources (pieces of cloth), food (popcorn), and natural resources (shells and rocks). Each group would represent a country, and each would have some of what they needed, but not all of what they needed, and each group except one would have excess resources of some type.
He gave them 20 minutes to analyze the situation and to strategize. And then it was time to negotiate.
He says it went well, although he was somewhat disappointed that they didn't immediately make larger connections to the philosophers that they'd been studying. But that might happen, if not immediately then later. And it might help them understand trade relations in a way that they hadn't before.
I think back to my own high school years. I remember in a Civics class we pretended we were members of Congress. We created bills and worked to get them passed. It taught me more about the way that government works than anything I've done before or since.
Because I like the idea of this blog being a resource, let me see if I can post the curriculum that we created. I have a vision of it being a flexible assignment. For example, I talked to a friend who teaches in a Hospitality program. We thought about how we could adapt the process, what the items would represent: money, food, staffing, . . .
I won't go through and standardize the spacing and type font--that would take more time than I have.
I'd be interested in hearing about result across varying curriculums. I remember once doing something similar in a Composition class and having students write about what they learned about the experience. I liked it for a variety of reasons: it was something that they hadn't experienced before, and the writing assignment was fairly plagiarism proof.
Country 1 (U.S. counterpart)
Popcorn: 30 kernels
Country 3 (poor country in Africa)
Should you have more time: You could have something happen: a famine, that wipes out the food resources
of some countries (popcorn taken away), a recession (pennies taken away), a
natural resource that finds new use in manufacturing (shells given)—how do
outside factors like these influence negotiations?
Ask them to spend the next week paying attention to news stories about trade negotiations and international relations. Tell them that you’ll expect them to report back at the beginning of the next class. Was the class simulation realistic?
Popcorn represents crops/food
--This country finds itself bordered by hostile neighbors with many weapons.
--This country is close to countries that can’t provide for their own citizens and so this country often finds refugees trying to enter the country. These refugees often have few skills.
--This country is also close to many nations torn apart by war and refugees fleeing the war with nothing more than the clothes on their backs want to come to this country. But the country is already stretched thin economically providing for its own citizens.
--How will this country pay for all the needs of refugees?
Stable, well educated, but average age of citizen is 50-70
Popcorn represents crops/food
--Can’t grow much food—infertile land
--Bordered by nations at war
--Citizens living as if the Industrial Revolution hadn’t happened: not much widespread electricity or plumbing or sanitation. Many people living in small villages where they try to farm.
--At this point, the country isn’t threatened by neighbors. But historically, they have been. The debate continues: do they need more weapons do they have?
--the weather isn’t always stable. The country can’t provide as much food as it needs to feed its population.
Lots of people, wide range of ages, but the majority is under age 45. Equal mix of educated and not as well educated.
Lots of manufacturing and the huge population doesn’t mind working long hours for less pay than they’d get in country 1 or 2.