"I learned that the small population of the upper class have more money than the huge population of the middle class. I do not think it is fair because a small amount people get a huge advantage over the massive amount of people in the middle/lower class."
That's right, today in class we talked about the very agreeable subject of…. Money! We started our Economics unit yesterday with a simulation. In our activity we had the students do IR (independent reading) in spaces that simulated how wealth is distributed in the US.
1 student has 11 chairs (wealthiest 1% has 42% of US wealth)
3 students have 9 chairs (next 9% has 36% of US wealth)
22 students have 6 chairs (bottom 90% has 22% of US wealth)
This part of the simulation was all fun and games for us. We squealed and giggled and playfully whined about our legs being squished trying to cram onto those 6 chairs. But then…
We brought out two large doughnuts, and we split the doughnuts along the same proportions. As you can imagine, this made the division of "wealth" much more real. The complaints about 'fairness' and frustrations began to fly. After the students representing the bottom 90% had a few minutes to squabble over how to split up the remaining part of a doughnut between all 22 of them, we called all of the students back together for discussion.
We started by asking: How are you feeling right now? Students went around and shared one word summing up their current emotional state. Many students said “unfair,” while the student who represented the top 1% said “deliciously luxurious.”
Other questions we asked were:
What did you notice? How might you have felt or acted if you were in a different group? What are you thinking about money/wealth? What connections can you make to your life or to the world around you?
A very rich discussion ensued, including students reflecting about how they learned how to talk about money (or not talk about money, as the case may be). They described how it felt to learn about the reality of wealth distribution in our country, but simultaneously try to figure out how to feel sort of comfortable doing so and avoid being rude or making people feel bad.
Below are a few of our additional thoughts (from discussion time but also students’ homework reflections):
Here are some things that make us think about money:
When a bill comes (like the water bill)
When my mom goes to the bank
When other people talk about it
When people talk about their gifts
Houses.. And other people’s houses
Here are some questions we have now that we have entered our initial study of economics:
Around how many people are in the upper class?
Besides housing, food, and care, what advantages does the upper class have?
What if you make little money (so you are considered experiencing poverty), but your parents give you a lot of money. What “class” are you in then?
What would it be like if, for a different country, people did the same thing and calculated the distribution of wealth. What would it be like?
Out of all the people in the middle class in DC, how many people are in the upper middle class?
Will there be a test?
What class is my family in?
Let us know if you talk about money, wealth, or class in your classroom. How do you broach the topic? Do you discuss class issues? Study Economics? We'd love to hear!
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