This simulation, created by Shawneen Morrison, provides an engaging introduction to Marxist theory. It can be used in U.S. History classes to differentiate between 20th Century progressives who believed that necessary reforms could be achieved through democratic processes and communists who believed a complete revolution to empower the “dictatorship of the masses” was necessary. This helps students understand the political conflict over communism during the First Red Scare, Second Red Scare, and Cold War. The lesson can be used in World History classes to explore the social impact of the shift to industrialized economies. I have also used a variant of this demonstration in U.S. Government to discuss comparative political and economic systems. It works well in all three cases.
The simulation begins by creating a wealthy class consisting of an industrialist, doctor, grocer, landlord, and banker. The remainder of the class forms a working class that must struggle to survive through four rounds of potential employment. If they are hired, they are paid three pennies. Then they have to pay their living expenses. Afterward, each round of employment exposes students to the “vicissitudes of the market” through three potential “misfortunes” that they incur according to the roll of a die. Students who fall into debt are sent to debtor’s prison for a round. Ultimately, the working class ends up spending all of their income in ways that profit the wealthy. As a result, they cannot break through the class barrier. The simulation concludes with a discussion that demonstrates the communist rationale for eliminating private ownership of the means of wealth production. Then, students complete a primary source analysis of six key excerpts from The Communist Manifesto. This analysis can be completed in class (recommended for younger students) or as a homework assignment.
INCLUDED IN THIS LESSON:
➢ 3-Page Teacher Background Notes on the History of
Communism in the U.S.
➢ Complete Lesson Instructions Including Instructor Notes
➢ Complete Simulation Instructions Including a Teacher Script
➢ Student Handout for Primary Source Analysis Including
Definitions for Difficult Vocabulary
➢ Placards, Worker Cards, and List of Misfortunes for the
➢ Simulation Debriefing Discussion Guide
➢ Answer Key
➢ Common Core Alignment
For other lessons examining the relationship between economics and politics, please preview:
WORLD WAR ONE: NATIONAL SECURITY V. BILL OF RIGHTS
STAMP ACT SIMULATION: WILL YOU COMPLY?
SLAVE SHIP SIMULATION - COMBINED MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL LEVELS
POLITICS OF GOVERNMENT SPENDING: WHY CAN'T WE BALANCE THE FEDERAL BUDGET?
POLITICAL OPINION ON GOVERNMENT: WHAT IS GOOD, EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP?
MIDDLE EAST POLITICS: WHICH GOVERNMENTS SHOULD THE U.S. CHOOSE AS ALLIES?
THE LUDLOW MASSACRE: COAL MINING AND UNION LABOR WARS
FEDERAL DEFICIT SIMULATION AND ACTIVITY: CAN YOU BALANCE THE FEDERAL BUDGET?
ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS SIMULATION: POPULATION, CONSUMPTION, AND GLOBAL WARMING
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