Students learn what society was like during the Industrial Revolution

Photo courtesy | John Swanson
Each participant had the goal of raising their social status either through individual or collective actions

Every participant was assigned a unique role with their own motivations to approach the game

Rage Against the Machine: Technology, Rebellion and the Industrial Revolution allowed students to step back in time to Manchester, England, in 1817 and 1818. Each student was given a role from society including weavers, spinsters, craftsmen, merchants and aristocrats while having their own motivations in approaching the game.

The Reacting to the Past simulation game was hosted by the Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth, NDSU Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise and NDSU Student Activities – Civic Engagement.

Kali Christianson, the Communication Coordinator for the Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth, explained the purpose of the event and the lessons students would learn from it.

“The Rage Against the Machine simulation helps students understand the major opportunities and struggles faced by people of all classes during the early years of the Industrial Revolution. This was a period of wage crisis, class conflict and rapid technological change.”

Christianson added that Rage Against the Machine would allow students to view the different motivations of various classes within society. This would help students better understand the adaption of technology and how that interfered with society during the time.

“I hope this experience helps students understand that history is made up of real people with unique circumstances and motivations, and that the outcomes we learn about are the result of their choices.”

MacKenzie Teigen, Joshua Carlson and Kole Nichols were three participants who spoke about their assigned roles and what they learned from the event.

Carlson was assigned the role of a conservative newspaper editor while Nichols was assigned the role of a banker and merchant. Both didn’t think they would face too many challenges based on their roles before the game.

Teigen was assigned the role of an aristocrat and mentioned that based on her class status she didn’t have any challenges, but she did face some other obstacles in the game. “I couldn’t vote because I was a woman and a lot of aristocrats thought negatively of me because of my game-gender,” Teigen said. “The way I had political power was by trying to persuade or add voting members, so I have to use my resources more than most aristocrats.”

Throughout the game, participants were able to collaborate with one another to try and build their social statuses. Both Teigen and Carlson had varying opinions on how working with others went for their role.

“I had views that aligned very differently to my social class, so I found trying to work with others had a negative impact on my personal progress,” Teigen said.

“I enjoyed working with others. My ‘goals’ required that I reached out to the townspeople to get ideas of to publish for my newspaper,” Carlson said. “It was fun and towards the end of the game I had people coming to me saying they wanted me to publish an article.”

While Teigen didn’t gain social status since she was already an aristocrat, Carlson said that he lost some social status since some other participants in the game didn’t think his newspaper was reliable.

Though the goal of the game was that students would build up their roles social status and achieve objectives, the game gave a larger picture of society during the Industrial Revolution.

Christianson explained the importance of learning about the Industrial Revolution and how it reflects on the society we’re living in today. “Many of the issues present during the Industrial Revolution remain relevant. One example is the modern minimum wage debate.

Christianson said that the arguments and issues on both sides of the minimum wage debate regarding income inequality and worker’s rights are similar to the debates of 19th century England. Another example Christianson talked about was related to technology within work and everyday life.

“We have a lot of discussions about technology today and it may sometimes seem as if these problems are new, when in fact this has been an evolving issue for centuries.”

When it came to having a knowledge of the Industrial Revolution, Teigen, Carlson and Nichols said that they had a basic understanding, but it had been a while since they had learned about the era. After the game they reflected on what they learned.

“I learned a little bit about the relationship between the church and the elites/aristocrats and their government structure,” Carlson said.

“I think the actual reenactment gives more of an empathetic understanding because the outcomes could be anything, so the learning is more about the social interactions between the classes and less about the industrial revolution,” Teigen said.

The interactive learning set-up of the game added to the experience each participant got out of it. “Interactive Learning pushes students to better understand important historic events,” Christianson said.

“As players in the game, they experience how these events impacted the lives of everyday citizens. It adds a realness to the content that is valuable for helping students connect those lessons to their own lives as citizens.”

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