For 12 years, I taught Junior Achievement classes to nearly every grade from K-12, but the Junior High classes were my favorites (I was as surprised as you are). They weren’t too cool to take part and had a lot of energy. They were quick to pick up business concepts such as supply and demand and even the elasticity of supply and demand (e.g., insulin has inelastic demand because no matter how low the price goes non-diabetics won’t buy it, but iPods have elastic demand because the lower the price the more people will buy). Even the non-egghead kids understood the concepts and actively participated in the lessons.
One of my favorite exercises was the Isle of Deserta. The kids pretended that they had won a trip to an exotic vacation paradise and would describe what they would pack. Once they got there they discovered that the island was deserted and they had to figure out how to survive (the exercise predated the Survivor TV show but had a similar concept).
They always created a consistently logical and workable society, but with the proper controls to ensure that it was sustainable. They realized that it was better to split up jobs to those most qualified and interested, such as some doing the fishing / gathering and others doing cooking and cleaning, as opposed to having everyone fend for themselves.
When asked what they would do for those who could work but refused to, the immediate reaction was something like “Make them shark bait!” But what about an injured person who couldn’t help? “We’ll take care of them and give them food anyway.” What if the person gets better but doesn’t want to work? “Shark bait!”
They intuitively knew that a society should care for the weak and needy, but that it couldn’t survive if able-bodied people shared in the benefits but not the workload.
Even the Bible notes that, although the false teachers pretend this verse isn’t there or isn’t from God:
2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
One of my favorite moments was when a girl went against her peers and insisted that everyone should get the same food and benefits regardless of how hard he or she worked. She was most adamant about this point, so I let her share her minority view.
But at the end of the lesson when I went to pass out some candy for their overall good behavior (Jolly Ranchers, the official candy of Junior Achievement), she pleaded for extras because she had participated more than the others. At first I thought she was kidding, but she didn’t catch the irony of her request. I didn’t want to embarrass her, but it was a teachable moment to point out that she was now proposing a system that was the opposite of her previous submission. I hope the lesson wasn’t lost on her, and that I cured her of her liberal inconsistencies!
The 7th graders intuitively understood the basics of human nature, especially when the situations were stripped of politics and sound bites. It is noble and right to help the truly weak, such as widows, orphans and the disabled, but a system without controls and accountability is doomed to fail. And a system full of entitlements, political payoffs and incentives not to do your best is doomed to fail more quickly.
Anti-capitalists choke on this simple example. How do they plan to force people to provide goods and services to others — even those who are able to work but won’t?
I say with all seriousness that our country would be much better off if everyone, including every elected official, had to take Junior High level Junior Achievement classes.
4 thoughts on “The Isle of Deserta exercise, or how a bunch of 7th graders are better at setting up a society than our politicians”
Logic is illogical in Washington.