One great way to bring concepts to life is to use simulations. Some may term these role plays, but it is safe to say that these are more structured and controlled – there is ‘freeplay’ but roles are more limited. This strategy will take time to prepare, but once there, you can use them time and time again to introduce new ideas to generations of students. I personally like them because they are highly engaging and make heavy concepts meaningful.
Example: Freedom Press Inc. (An introduction to basic Marxism).
Marxism, by it’s nature, is quite complex for many to grasp. We could argue that this is due to the effectivness of ideological conditioning and a state of hegemony that reinforces a mindset that is more in-line with conservative Functionalism. With that said, this activity will help make the essentials of Marxist theory clear.
– multi-coloured paper
– there shoudld be tables around the classroom set up for groups of 4.
– also have in a corner of the room a table for 2 people to sit at (where they can view the whole room).
You are to recreate the ‘shopfloor’ of Freedom Press Inc. This is a company that manufactures multicoloured booklets. This activity aims to illustrate the experience of exploited, alienated workers and their relationship with the capitalist owners of the company.
1. Allocate students to various tables around the classroom. At each table there should be scissors, rulers and pencils. This is where each team of workers will be based. Elsewhere there should be a ‘resources table’ with staplers and sheets of multicoloured paper (ideally 6 colours). In a corner of the room, two students will be based – they are the owners.
2. Alllocate roles to students on each table:
– Cutters (who will cut out the separate pages for booklets – should be 6 inch aquares).
– Sorter (yellow page, orange, white, blue, green and red).
– Title Writer (to measure a straight line 2 inches from TOP of yellow page and 1 inch from the left and
right hand sides of the page). The title should read ‘Freedom Press Inc.’
– Checker and stapler (check the order of each page, number each page and add a single staple in the centre
of the left hand side of booklet which joins pages together).
The ‘workers’ muct not communicate with each other – only to pass work onto each other.
The ‘workers’ shall not stop productivity until they are told to do so by the owners.
Each booklet earns each team £1.00.
3. The ‘owners’ can do whatever is needed to ensure that productivity is maintained. This may include including
various incentives to achieve this. Generally this will be applying pressure on the workers and insisting
that they are quiet or they will be punished (this may take the form of fining them etc).
4. At a given point the owners will stop production and collect in the booklets from each team. They will pay
them according to the numbers produced.
When the booklets are collected in – bring this together by compiling a chart on the board which looks something like this.
Use this to explore the differences in individual worker’s wages and the money earned by the bosses. Do further calculations based upon the number of hours per week etc.
Ask students how they feel about this and introduce concepts like labour value, social relations of production, exploitation etc. Ask students about their experiences of having no power, no control of the process etc and introduce concepts like alienation.
Vary this in whatever way suits – but it should at least get students thinking about these complex ideas.