by Jessica Jervis-Viville

A typical college classroom would normally include students sitting at their desks while a teacher lectures, and the students would be taking notes.

University of West Georgia students playing Monopoly in Tiffany Parsons' sociology class. In the classroom of Tiffany Parsons, sociology lecturer at the University of West Georgia, students are rolling dice, clutching fake money and trading properties. Parsons has utilized the classic board game Monopoly to teach her students important lessons about sociology.

“I wish I could take credit for coming up with the idea,” said Parsons. “But it was sociologists Catherine L. Coghlan and Denise W. Huggins who created the activity and published it in 2004 in Teaching Sociology.

“I had been searching for ideas on how I could help my students truly understand how social forces shape our lives.,” Parsons continued. “It seemed no matter how many times I told them that the social class status into which one is born is most likely the status he or she would occupy at the end of life, they didn't believe me.”

Parsons hopes that her students will learn more about how circumstances can shape their lives.

Each student is presented with a different set of money, so everyone does not begin the same way.

Students often feel after playing the game that it was unfair and that they did not have equal opportunities that other players may have had. After a period of reflection, they began to realize the purpose of the game.

“I played number two in the monopoly game which is close to poor,” said student Summer Blake. “My initial feelings about my position in the social structure was nonchalant because I didn’t believe that it really made a difference, but later on in the game I learned differently. I was shocked that it really happened that way. When I got out of the game, I watched as the social structure worked. Seeing all of us getting out of the game in order was baffling and eye opening."

University of West Georgia students playing Monopoly in Tiffany Parsons' sociology class. Drexal Alexander, another student, shared a similar sentiment while playing the game.

“Initially, my reaction towards my position in the social structure was an emotional one,” Alexander explained. “Because I could not control where I was placed, I even festered some real emotions into the situation. I did not even make it to the end of the time limit and took the position of the banker to stay active throughout the game. I asked for help, but it just seemed like my classmates were not trying to help because everyone was trying to win or make it. I responded with confusion and even possessed a little hostility because I felt that it was not fair. However, it was all in fun.”

Students began to realize that circumstances do have a profound impact on where they end up in life. Ultimately, this is the lesson to be learned within the game.

“Throughout the game, my students quickly realized that even though those who began the game with little or no wealth, and who earned less income throughout the game, technically had a shot at winning the game,” Parsons concluded. “As such, it makes it easier for them to take this small experience and apply it more broadly to our society. They now understand how the American class system reproduces itself, and that hard work alone isn't sufficient for upward social mobility.”

Posted on December 13, 2017