A fun method of engaging students in the "capitalism vs. socialism" discussion.

Author:McCutcheon, Robin S.
  1. Working with Millennial Students

    If you have been teaching for more than a decade, you may have noticed a sea change in the type of students arriving on campus. (1) These new students, commonly referred to as millennials, are different. (2) They don't like old-fashioned teaching methods. Sitting and listening to podium lectures drives them away, and question-and-answer lectures leave them inattentive. Millennial students want to be actively involved in the teaching process itself.

    An alternative way of engaging students is to present dichotomously opposed economic concepts and have the students analyze them from a free-market entrepreneurship economy (capitalism) perspective versus a command-and-control economy (socialism) perspective. (3) For example, Mackey and Sisodia (2013), in their book Conscious Capitalism, point out that a free-market entrepreneurship economy is good (because it creates value), ethical (because it is based on voluntary exchange), noble (because it elevates our existence), and heroic (because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity). To deal with the different learning style of millennial students, I have adopted what was to me a new way of doing things and moved away from the traditional lecture approach. Rather than stand at the front of the classroom and tell them what they should think, I invite them to discuss and debate ideas of economics and political economy. I have my own views about economics and politics, but I find that students are more engaged in the learning process if they feel invited to share in and guide the classroom discussion. One could focus on opposing views in many areas, but I like to have students debate the relative merits of capitalism versus socialism. To do this, I divide the board in half, put "socialism" on the left side and "capitalism" on the right side, and write the four concepts listed earlier (good, noble, ethical, and heroic) on the capitalist side. I have students break into small working groups and send a representative to the board with their group's definition of the words. I use this method of teaching in approximately 40 percent of my class days (about 13 days), and I spend the entire class time (about 1.25 hours) on this method to allow all students who wish to be heard to express their opinions.

  2. Student Discussions

    I then encourage students to debate and discuss whether they agree or disagree with the ideas put forth by Mackey and Sisodia and other...

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