Official Blog of the Education Exchange Corps

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Empires of Earth: This Summer, the Kids Rule

The United States of America no longer exists. At least, not the country we know as the United States. None of today's countries have survived. In their stead, four empires have divided the world between them. All control the same amount of resources. All can make any choice or perform any action they want. And all are run by children.

This summer, the Education Exchange Corps Summer Academy will house the greatest social experiment ever run at Clay Elementary that we have heard about. Our kids will be divided into four groups comprised of relatively equal numbers of elementary, middle, and high school students. Each of the four groups will manage an empire. They'll name their empires whatever they want, choose whatever government they think appropriate, and determine how national resources should be allocated.

Think a bunch of Kid Presidents.

Each group will be assigned adult advisers, but every decision will be left to the kids, even decisions on how to make decisions. They'll choose whether to launch attacks on other countries, initiate international negotiations, or focus on domestic development. Their decisions will have consequences; an empire that focuses on the happiness of its citizens may be unprepared to defend against an attack by a militaristic empire. An empire that does not determine a process to make decisions may be paralyzed by governmental gridlock or civil war. An empire that supports a strong culture may appeal to the hearts and minds of the globe's citizens.

The empires will also have to deal with world events, some tied to the empires' characteristics as chosen by their managing children. Other events will be related to the interactions between the empires and the crises that inevitably crop up on the world stage. How will an empire that has chosen to govern by dictatorship respond to a rebellion? Will a democracy have an emergency powers doctrine to allow it to respond to an immediate security threat? What if the religious leadership disagrees with the political leaders of an empire--will dissent be tolerated? Will the empires cooperate on global environmental challenges, space exploration, or a variety of other monumental tasks?

Whoa now! These are kids attending a summer academy for four weeks. How are they going to be able to do any of this? Soon after we hatched this idea, we learned of the World Peace Game, which throws elementary school kids into a complex world and asks them to solve 50 interlocking crises. Kids regularly rise to the occasion and become immersed in the game.

Unlike the World Peace Game, our simulation will not ask kids to solve problems. Kids will face global challenges, but the choice to solve those problems or even to make long-term goals will be totally up to them. Our game will end after four weeks, by the end of which anything can happen. I like the concept of the World Peace Game, enough to have purchased John Hunter's book. But I'd like to see what happens in a world where world peace is possible but not valued over other options, where the specter of international competition haunts the hallways with multiple boards comparing the empires' strengths in the military, economy, arts, and sciences, among other measures. 

We won't be leaving the kids totally in the dark. During the program, we will teach the kids about different governments, economies, religions, traditions, and other national characteristics so the kids can make educated decisions about what will characterize their own empires. We will bring in guests to teach lessons and to consult with each empire about their plans. We will introduce kids to the historical empires that came before them and how they managed. We will read, write, do math, all for the sake of the empires' survival. We will give them responsibility and control over what happens this summer.

And then we will watch to see what happens when you put kids in charge of the world. 

Come join us:

Elad Gross
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps

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