Sunday, December 11, 2016

Building Better Classrooms And Countries

Forum reply: 4th Grade Nation State

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You know I actually did something like this (in the loosest sense of the term) in sixth grade when I was 11. My teacher would give us fake money when we did things like help out other students, assist the classroom chores, and of course do well on money assignments (extra credit that we got paid for instead of points for). Afterwards we could spend the money in the store of knickknacks etc. There were other lessons associated with it such as checkbook balancing and loan management, but that wasn't the main goal. The goal was to demonstrate to the students how a simple market works, a person's place in it, and how to manage your money.

Did we create an independent economy between students? No, but that was never was the goal. Did we waste our parents money or try to cheat the system? No, there was no point in doing that. But what we did do was create a simple market where the classroom employed and paid students for doing jobs for the classroom and the students purchased things from the classroom. Would you consider that "building" something? - Lost heros 

What your teacher did was better than nothing. But would I consider it "building" something? Not so much.

Why do you perceive that the citizens of Classtopia are wasting their parents' money? You said that the students in your class purchased things "from" their classroom. But in Classtopia... the students are purchasing things "for" their classroom. Well... so far only labor has been purchased... but when the Garden Dept, for example, buys a plant... then it's going to be "for" their classroom... and/or the school. It's the difference between private goods and public goods.

Yesterday Michelle came over and picked up my collection of unused postcards and foreign currency. This week each of her 30 students will receive 22 foreign coins, around 4 foreign bills and around a dozen postcards. I put the items in 60 zip lock bags.

Of course the students are going to be given the opportunity to trade with each other. Not just trade though... but also buy, sell and share.

From my perspective, a market is obviously beneficial because the students aren't going to equally value their Christmas gifts. Some students might prefer the postcards while others might prefer the currency. Maybe most students will prefer the currency?

Michelle is going to ask the students what they can trade their gifts for. I'm hoping that one of the students will respond with "quotes". Then hopefully... while they are trading quotes for currency/postcards... they'll realize that they can trade copies of their quotes with each other.

When Michelle and I talked yesterday she guessed that perhaps the issue is that the kids have been indoctrinated against trading. Kids are known for making really bad trades... so their parents and teachers admonish them against making any trades. Sure, lots of kids don't know the real-world value of most things. When the kids are trading/buying/selling the postcards and coins... they aren't going to know their real-world value. Well... to be clear... I don't really know their real-world value. Except for the French Francs and the 100 yuan bills. Michelle told me that the Francs are obsolete but I wanted to know whether the metal itself had any value. I kinda gave up after a few searches. As far as the 100 yuan bill... I believe it's worth around $14 dollars. There were at least a couple of them in the collection.

Anybody who exchanges a 100 yuan bill for a Franc will probably be making a mistake. And I say "probably" because I can't know how much the student might value the coin itself.

Over Christmas break the students with the currency will have the project of using Google Sheets to inventory their collection. One of the columns will be for the currency's dollar value. So the students will need to do some research.

Generally it's a good idea to figure out something's market value before you decide to trade it. But I'm pretty sure that it's a good idea to allow the kids to make some bad trades in order to learn from their relatively small mistakes.

Building a better classroom means that you're making improvements that can benefit the next batch of students. If this year's Garden Dept buys a Tillandsia ionantha and attaches it to a tree in the school... then it can benefit the next batch of kids. Same thing if the Book Dept buys A Wrinkle in Time and adds it to the classroom library.

Sure... improvements can be made just by the students contributing their time... but that's certainly not how most countries work. Most countries have taxes. Of course, there aren't any countries that allow their citizens to choose where their taxes go. Nearly everybody takes our current system for granted. But I certainly do not. I've thoroughly researched our system and have found absolutely no logical/rational (ie economic) explanation for allowing a small group of people to spend everybody's taxes.

So... Classtopia. You have 30 citizens each using their pennies to say, "I've found some room for improvement and my penny is proof that the improvement should be made".

Can America learn anything from Classtopia? Imagine citizens using their dollars to say, "I've found some room for improvement and my tax dollar is proof that the improvement should be made".

Well...

A. Americans don't truly know where there's room for improvement

Or...

B. Voting is an adequate method for Americans to communicate where improvement is most needed

I'm pretty sure that neither of those is the right answer. Ideally, sooner rather than later, some of you will apply America's current system to some classrooms. The 30 students will elect one student who gets to decide how all their tax pennies are spent. And then we'll see! We'll see which system is better at improving classrooms. We'll see which system is better at building more beneficial classrooms.

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