Discontent in Upper Canada: Democracy and Oligarchy in the 1830's role play

Discontent in Upper Canada: Democracy and Oligarchy in the 1830's role play
Discontent in Upper Canada: Democracy and Oligarchy in the 1830's role play
Discontent in Upper Canada: Democracy and Oligarchy in the 1830's role play
Discontent in Upper Canada: Democracy and Oligarchy in the 1830's role play
Discontent in Upper Canada: Democracy and Oligarchy in the 1830's role play
Discontent in Upper Canada: Democracy and Oligarchy in the 1830's role play
Discontent in Upper Canada: Democracy and Oligarchy in the 1830's role play
Discontent in Upper Canada: Democracy and Oligarchy in the 1830's role play
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This role play is a favourite I've used many times to have students understand how British North America's colonial government worked (or rather, didn't work). It emphasizes creative problem solving and historical perspective. Essentially, after explaining how the colonial system was structured (with the oligarchical Family Compact and Château Clique and governor essentially running the place), students adopt roles, find out who is who, and attempt to pass a bill into law under this system

1) Slice up roles cards and have students randomly draw a role play card. They read it and note if they're an Assembly Member or Counsel Member or other role of significance.

2) Slice the last sheet into thirds. Have students go around locating the people on the final sheet. There are 3 versions, so 1/3 of the class takes sheet A, B, and C respectively. You can have them race, with the first student done getting some kind of prize. This serves to help them learn who is in each role and what kinds of people are in the class / society of the 1830's.

3) After they've located the people playing the roles on the final sheet, they have to try and pass a bill into law.
Divide the class into 3 groups, according to the roles they drew. 2 of the groups are regular folks (according to their role card) and one group is made up of everyone in the Family Compact and the Governor (or Legislative and Executive Counsel). Assign one "Member of the Assembly" (from the role cards) to represent half of the regular people. Have each group draft an idea for a piece of legislation they would like (eg. better funds for roads, freedom of religion, etc.), Their member of the Assembly then presents their idea it to the counsel members and governor (who have other interests) and veto power. They decide whether or not the laws proposed by the people will be passed. This gives a great opportunity to discuss why this system is so flawed and undemocratic. In most cases the laws put forward by the Members of Assembly on behalf of their constituents are shot down in flames by the counsel and governor.
4) Discuss what needs to change in order for the people to have a real voice in their government. Further, discuss in what ways a frustrating government structure will encourage radicalism or rebellion. Make connections to places in the world today with undemocratic governments (Saudi Arabia, North Korea, etc.)
Total Pages
40 pages
Answer Key
N/A
Teaching Duration
90 minutes
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