In my post about the Devil’s workshop, I mentioned the fictional state of Gerkhania, a self-created simulation that I’ve been using as a vehicle for competitive student presentations my comparative politics course. In years past, I used Gerkhania as a constitutional convention simulation, in which teams of students represented the country’s various ethnic groups. This exercise didn’t work very well, I stopped doing it for a few years, but then brought it back in its current form, which is fully described here.
Students have been getting a lot of practice with presentations, but the presentation content is still somewhat vague and unfocused. I’m wondering if I should continue to group students by their choice of theme but also assign them to a different set of teams that represent Gerkhania’s ethnic groups. Some classes could be devoted to the theme-based teams presenting about the panopoly of reading assignments. In other classes, students could role play as ethnic interest groups and deliver presentations on Gerkhanian politics.
I’m thinking that for this latter scenario to avoid the vague nature of this semester’s presentations, I will need to create some specific policy debates for students to grapple with. For example, I could dream up a scenario in which exploitation of natural gas reserves has the potential to enrich one ethnic group but cause ecological damage in the region inhabited by another. Perhaps establishing a Gerkhanian News Network in which I’d announce events like street protests would be beneficial as well. But my goal is to keep things as simple as possible and get students to do the work, not me.