Big Brother Is… Teaching You?

Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

A week ago, I asked if I could be a fly on the wall of a ‘simulation’ in Totalitarianism. It was a different way of teaching a unit of history. I really didn’t know what to expect other than what some of my students had described. They seemed all fired up by the fact that it was a simulation, and others had a few choice things to say about totalitarianism.

The teacher, Mr. Greer, began the class by asking his ‘party’ members to report on the citizens, who sat in rows, in true Orwellian fashion. They comprised a Clothing Officer, Lunch Officer, Education Officer and Propaganda Officer. Some students had been recruited to play the roles of snitches and spies. The other hapless citizens lost points for smiling, or for not standing up when addressing him. They had to defend themselves about the food they had at lunch or the color of clothing they did not wear to conform to that day. On one occasion, when a student was accused of a ‘thought crime’ there’s an audible gasp in the room. Luckily I had taken my recorder.

In the podcast of this class, you’ll hear ‘Chairman Greer’ do what, well, totalitarian leaders do: behave erratically, and throw people off balance. The students, however, loved it! As one student pointed to me, “If you don’t experience it, you don’t really learn anything!” Yeah, right, my teacher mind went. I hate PowerPoints as much as the next fellow, and students have had enough of it. No wonder simulations are dope, to use their expression.

Indeed, inside this ‘simulation,’ it didn’t feel like a classroom at all. It felt like theater. Made me think: This is the kind of education you sell tickets to attend. If only we could implement that model more!


A longer version of this article could be found at

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