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Third World Problem Solving

| Learning | July 28, 2014

(Our geography class has been divided into groups, each representing a country, and sent to a table in the school dining hall. The tables are filled with a mix of paper, pencils, scissors and rulers. Each country is given $500 of its local currency and we are told we have to create shapes from the paper to sell at the world bank, who is represented by our usual geography teacher. The catch is that countries like the UK and USA have lots of scissors, pencils, and rulers but not much paper, and the third world countries have lots of paper. Since their national currency isn’t worth anything they cannot afford to buy the scissors or rulers to cut their paper, but rich countries with lots of money can buy the paper really cheap and make shapes to sell. I wound up in a third world country and decide I wasn’t going to lose, so I take all of our paper and money and go to the USA.)

Me: “Hi. I’m from Ghana but we’re losing badly. If I give you my nation’s resources and money can I be American?”

USA Team Member: “No. Go away.”

Me: “Okay, fine.”

(I go to the UK instead.)

Me: “Hi. I’m from Ghana but we’re losing badly. If I give you my nation’s resources and money can I be a UK citizen?”

UK Team Member: “Sure. Just start cutting out squares quick.”

(My best friend is also in a third world nation and decides he wants to win, too, and cheats by stealing from other countries and ‘sneaking’ across international borders when restrictions of trade were put in place. At the end of the class we are speaking to the head teacher.)

Me: “So, you aren’t annoyed that I cheated my way into another country?”

Head Teacher: “You stole your countries natural resources and sold them out for personal gain… Who said that was cheating?”

Me: “You mean to say that although probably not what you expected I behaved exactly like someone with power in a third world nation might by exploiting his own nation to benefit himself, right?”

Head Teacher: “Exactly.”

(To this day that ‘geography’ class is still the best education I have ever had on how world politics works.)

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