Gaming Higher Education

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

The long-held academic instinct to “make a game out of it” when teaching is becoming so widespread that it threatens to completely eclipse actual education. “Scholars in the field make the case that traditional schooling no longer meets the labor needs of a post-industrial capitalist economy, but game-based learning can,” Francesco Crocco writes in the latest issue of Radical Teacher, “a socialist, feminist, and anti-racist journal on the theory and practice of teaching.”

Crocco, an English professor at the City University of New York, provides an ample cross-section of the aforementioned scholarship in his article. Nevertheless, his own solution is rather problematic as well.

“My goal was to use Monopoly as a codification medium for examining hegemonic ideas about social mobility under capitalism (i.e. that there is a level playing field with equal opportunity, that success is based on merit, and that merit is rewarded with upward social mobility),” he explains. He divides his class of 20 into groups of four so that the quintet  of players can each play the venerable board game, but with a twist.

Each player must assume a character role. They have four choices:

  • “Harold, White Male Capitalist”
  • “Bob, White Male Middle-Class Worker”
  • “Cheryl, Black Female Lower-Class Worker” and
  • “Maria, Hispanic Female Immigrant Worker”

The role-playing helps Dr. Crocco make his point. “In response to the pre-game question, How do you think the game will end for your character?, the results show that 100% of respondents playing Harold believe they will win, 50% of respondents playing Bob think they will improve his social class and possibly win, 86% of respondents playing Cheryl believe they will improve her social class and possibly win, and 0% of respondents playing Maria believe they will improve her social class,” Dr. Crocco reports.

Clearly, Dr. Crocco is going beyond English to make political points. In fairness, it must be noted that his ratings show that he does make his students write and grades hard on grammar. Pedagogues nowhere near as left-wing as Dr. Crocco cannot often say the same.

  • Nevertheless, the politicized nature of his own pedagogy is apparent in his ratings as well, although he hardly makes a secret of it. Some of his reviews, favorable and not, also reveal this trend:
  • “What The F—? “ one reviewer exclaimed. “e had us read all sorts of communist books in class, Marx,Engels,Orwell… and Some other commie and feminist crap. He used the class as a forum to encourage socialist thinking and push his political views.” Still, if he assigned Orwell, that doesn’t fit the rest of the above canon.
  • “Expects that you will agree with him on everything he says,” one of Dr. Crocco’s favorable reviewers notes. “ wants things done his way.”
  • “Not a bad professor,” another reviewer concludes. “Class discussions are alright. Only 4 essays that increase in size as semester progresses. Also a few journals on the short stories or poems that he requires you to read (mostly on minorities).”
  • “Too much focus on minorities,” another reviewer agreed. “Otherwise very interesting. Easy grader.”
  • “He was the best English professor I’ve ever had,” another reviewer claimed, “extremely intelligent, we learned alot about marxism and how the world really works in his class. He opened my eyes towards the bigger picture of life involving politics, poverty, education etc.”

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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