Students are studying complicated and controversial Global Studies subjects like capitalism and socialism through role-play and interaction. ‘Forced’ to perform menial tasks, such as breaking sticks and collecting acorns, for inadequate ‘wages,’ they experienced firsthand the plight of the working class in late 19th/early 20th century America, where unionizing was considered by many to be akin to communism.
One student even attempted to organize a strike against the overbearing Mr. Pullman, a caricature of the infamous George Pullman, owner of the Pullman Palace Car Company, who forced his workers to live in company towns and pay inflated prices for basic necessities despite their low wages. The real Mr. Pullman ran a veritable monopoly and was challenged in a famous strike in 1894 that resulted in dozens of worker deaths and led to the designation of Labor Day as a federal holiday by President Grover Cleveland.
“Mr. Pullman was being a big bullyman because he’s raising all the taxes and choosing favorites,” said Andrew, who started shouting “protest, protest” after Mr. Pullman refused to pay him the requisite wages for gathering acorns. Even when they received their wages, many students were unable to afford ‘food’ and other necessities from the store, whose proprietor (another teacher) was notorious for raising prices arbitrarily and colluding with Mr. Pullman.
“Mr. Pullman is a big, fat meanie who doesn’t give money,” said Cameron, who chose to stay low-key and laugh off Mr. Pullman‘s transgressions. “Life is hard, ” he added.