Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Modified Monopoly: Experiencing Social Class Inequality

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Modified Monopoly: Experiencing Social Class Inequality

Article excerpt


Many teachers use simulation games. Games offer opportunities to foster communication with students in both large and small classes. In the present paper, ten points are presented with the adoption of the popular game Monopoly whose rules have been modified to create a shared but simulated introduction to social inequality. The game provides a simulation experience for cadets and faculty who are learning and teaching in the unique educational environment of the United States Military Academy at West Point.


Simulations games have long been a feature of teaching (Dora 1989). Goldsmid and Wilson (1980) note that simple games offer the instructor opportunities to foster communication with students in both large and small classes. McAllister, Warren, and Witschger (1996) successfully adopted a simulation game to teach about structured inequality that required few resources, accommodated a large class, and was well liked by students. In an extensive and exhaustive review of the literature, Dora (1989) offers ten points in consideration of adopting a game for the classroom: 1) set goals; 2) integrate and supplement with course material; 3) time games to course material; 4) establish rules; 5) time, space, and costs; 6) pre-game preparation; 7) enthusiasm; 8) equitable familiarity with the rules; 9) structured post-game debriefing; and 10) reflection, evaluation, and assessment.

I have considered each of these points and adopted the popular game Monopoly. The roles are modified to create a shared introduction to social inequality for my cadets. The next section describes the rules of the game.

Student Rules for Modified Family Monopoly

Introduction: Monopoly is considered the leading proprietary game in the Western Hemisphere. Published in 43 countries, most cadets will have familiarity with the game. The objective of the traditional game is based on one primary rule to "... become the wealthiest player through buying, renting, and selling property." Monopoly represents a simulation of a significant feature of a capitalistic political economy and when played can help highlight the experiences of living in the Western world. However, one assumption of the rules of the game is that everyone begin equal--$1,800. I call my version of the game Modified Family Monopoly (MFM). This classroom version accounts for the socio-economic error and distributes income according to four different classes--upper, middle, working, and lower socio-economic to more robustly represent class distributions in the United States. Other rules are also stratified along class lines.

Family Roles: First, cadets must be "born." Cadets must draw slips of paper from a hat containing the social-class families. The drawing is random with no replacement. Eight possible family arrangements representing the four different social classes are available. After all cadets have drawn a socio-economic class, they next get with their respective family members and adopt family roles. For example, if four cadets draw middle class family, then they must decide what type of family they will be--mother, father, and two children or two single parent mothers or four adult sisters, and so on. Ages must be identified for purposes of voting--described below. Family roles are static.

Beginning Salaries: Each family begins with the following amounts of money: 1) upper socio-economic class (05--LTC is a Lieutenant Colonel, a higher ranked military officer usually with 12-14 years of service) receives $2,000; 2) middle socio-economic class (W4--Warrant Officer, a higher ranked specialized officer with 12-14 years of service) receives $1,500; 3) working socio-economic class (E9--Sergeant Major, a higher ranked enlisted soldier, with 12-14 years of service) receives $1,000; and 4) lower socio-economic class (E5--Sergeant, a lower ranked enlisted soldiers with 12-14 years of service) receives merely $500. …

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