Monopoly as a Social Experiment

This is one of those Reader Responses posts – I’d like to get your ideas on a project – but first, an explanation:

Today or tomorrow, I’ll begin teaching “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorainne Hansberry. It’s one of my favorites, and it’s the story of a 1950’s African American family in the slums of Chicago who receives insurance money from the death of their father/grandfather. The money isn’t enough to catapult them permanently out of the ghetto, but it’s enough seed money to move them in that direction if they are smart about their decision. Naturally, there is great disagreement about how the money should be spent.

And so I’ve contrived an idea that I think would help my students understand what’s at stake. Many of the students I teach have the perception that families can work themselves out of poverty simply by getting a job, saving their money, and slowly climbing out of the hole they are in. They perceive the American Dream to be something that is equally attainable for every member of society. In short, they confuse social freedom and legal freedom.

Many of you may agree or disagree with the premise that not every American family can work their way out of poverty – even with hard work, determination, and a positive attitude. The statistics say otherwise; though many may simply attribute this to laziness or a lack of effort on “their” part.

It occurs to me that I might be able to play the board game Monopoly with my students. Four teams, and each team is a family of six people who get to collectively decide what to do on each turn – just as the Younger family got to choose what to do with the insurance money.

The rules of the game will be the same for everyone – just as the laws in our society are the same for everyone.

But I’m adding three twists:

1. Family #1 gets $5000 dollars to start. Family #2 gets $2000 to start. Family #3 gets $2000 to start. Family #4 gets $500 to start.

2. We will play the game under two presidents. In the first half of the game, the houses and hotels are half-priced (because corporate tax breaks and write-offs mean more home construction). In the second half of the game, the houses and hotels cost more (a $100 house is now $150) but the extra money is handed directly to Family #4.

3. It is possible to start building houses and hotels on any owned property, no monopoly is necessary (this is for the element of time and reality).

So here’s where you come in . . .

What rules and adjustments would you make to the game to make it more realistic?

I will share everything (appropriate) you write with my kids to let them know how others view our economic social structure!

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5 responses to “Monopoly as a Social Experiment

  1. A suggestion would be to include a way of “borrowing money”.

    Example:
    The “poor” team lands on a property that another team already owns, thus they cant afford the fee associated with landing on the spot they did. Instead of instantly taking all of their money, the team has the option to borrow money from the bank. They decide to borrow money from the bank, lets say, another $500, in order to pay the team who already owns the property. In order to do this they need to put their properties up as collateral.

    The catch would be though that they would need to pay back the bank within the next 2 turns, and if they cant, then they have to give up all their properties to the bank. This not only would anger the team who lost all the property, but also the team who will no longer get any profit from the space that the poor team landed on.

    The bank could then go around and sell the properties for cheap, to the other teams. Which would even further make it more realistic.

    This would just add a real world twist that many Americas today are going through. You could also play the game once more at the end of the unit, with the same teams. The team that borrowed money and lost all of it would no longer be able to borrow again.

    Just a suggestion.
    -Matt

  2. Its a clever concept, but it won’t work.

    I do like the idea somewhat, although you are an english teacher and I guess I’m just someone who prefers english teaching not indoctrination.

    But it does sound fun.

  3. The houses and hotels thing is pretty good, i must admit!

  4. That is an amazing idea. I am so glad you are blogging again regularly. I need to catch up!

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