An in-class exercise for our post-pandemic world: learning about the role of luck in generating social inequality

Here is an in-class exercise for our post-pandemic world. It illustrates how sociological concepts can increase a student’s understanding of the social world and supplement individual explanations.

Click here to go to the game.

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Americans tend to believe that opportunities to get ahead are available for everyone and that people’s positions in the stratification order are a function of their abilities, traits, and efforts, rather than social and economic factors. Given the beliefs that students bring with them to class, instructors must find creative ways to illustrate that structural factors can and do play a large role in the various stratification processes. Linda Renzulli, Jeremy Reynolds, and I developed a classroom exercise for stratification and organization courses that demonstrates how social structures can constrain individual actions. I turned it into a post on EiX Exchange, with instructions about how to run it as an in-class exercise. Then, Vin Bhalerao, of Redmond Labs, approached me & suggested turning it into an interactive online game.  

The game uses the simple process of flipping coins to show students how individual actions, when aggregated at a system level, produce outcomes that look as if they could be the result of individual intentions, but are actually an outcome of structural constraints imposed on actions: the “rules of the game.”

The game helps students understand that individual effort is not always the only factor in individual and organizational success. It is intended to show that forces other than (or in addition to) individual characteristics shape outcomes and distributions of societal rewards.

Here is the original article: Linda A. Renzulli, Howard E. Aldrich and Jeremy Reynolds. 2003.” It’s up in the Air, or Is It?” Teaching Sociology, Vol. 31, No. 1 (January), pp. 49-59.

Here is the EiX Exchange version

1 thought on “An in-class exercise for our post-pandemic world: learning about the role of luck in generating social inequality

  1. Pingback: The Evolution of Wealth Inequality: An Interactive Guide – Deepest Turtle

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