Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 04/08/2009

Forthcoming “Reacting to the Past” regional faculty conference

The very successful Reacting to the Past series of classroom historical simulations will have its next workshop in October 2009, at Eastern Michigan University:


Eastern Michigan University | October 16-18, 2009

Call for Participation

We are pleased to invite college faculty and administratiors to the regional “Reacting to the Past” Conference hosted by Eastern Michigan University (Ypsilant, MI). At the conference, faculty and administrators will learn about “Reacting to the Past” by participating in intensive two-day workshops on a particular game (see “featured games” below).

In addition to game sessions, we will have discussions of a more general character on student motivation, teaching, liberal arts education, and the problems and possibilities of the “Reacting” pedagogy. Participants are encouraged to attend all game and plenary sessions.

Full conference details can be found here. The conference will, among other things, allow faculty to experience two different simulations from the series:

Track A.  Charles Darwin, the Copley Medal, adn the Rise of Naturalism, 1862-64 thrusts students into the intellectual ferment of Victorian England just after publication of The Origin of Species. Since its appearance in 1859, Darwin’s long awaited treatise in “genetic biology” had received reviews both favorable and damning. Thomas Huxley and Samuel Wilberforce presented arguments for and against the theory in a dramatic and widely publicized face-off at the 1860 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Oxford. Their encounter sparked a vigorous, complex debate that touched on a host of issues and set the stage for the Royal Society’s consideration of whether or not they ought to award Darwin the Copley Medal, their most prestigious prize. While the action takes place in meetings of the Royal Society, Great Britain’s most important scientific body, a parallel and influential public argument smoldered over the nature of science and its relationship to modern life in an industrial society. A significant component of the Darwin game is the tension between natural and teleological views of the world, manifested especially in reconsideration of the design argument, commonly known through William Paley’s Natural Theology or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity (1802), and updated by Wilberforce. But the scientific debate also percolated through a host of related issues:  the meaning and purposes of inductive and hypothetical-speculation in science; the professionalization of science; the implications of Darwinism for social reform, racial theories, and women’s rights; and the evolving concept of causation in sciences and its implications for public policy. Because of the revolutionary potential of Darwin’s ideas, the connections between science and nearly every other aspect of culture became increasingly evident. Scientific papers and laboratory demonstrations presented in Royal Society meetings during the game provide the backdrop for momentous conflict that continues to shape our perceptions of modern science.

Track B. Defining a Nation: India on the Eve of Independence, 1945 is set at Simla, in the foothills of the Himalayas, where the British viceroy has invited leaders of various religious and political constituencies to work out the future of Britain’s largest colony. Will the British transfer power to the Indian National Congress, which claims to speak for all Indians? Or will a separate Muslim state—Pakistan—be carved out of India to be ruled by Muslims, as the Muslim League proposes? And what will happen to the vulnerable minorities—such as the Sikhs and untouchables—or the hundreds of princely states? As British authority wanes, smoldering tensions among Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs increasingly flare into violent riots that threaten to ignite all India. Towering above it all is the frail but formidable figure of Gandhi, whom some revere as an apostle of non-violence and others regard as a conniving Hindu politician. Students struggle to reconcile religious identity with nation building—perhaps the most intractable and important issue of the modern world. Texts include the literature of Hindu revival (Chatterjee, Tagore and Tilak); the Koran and the literature of Islamic nationalism (Iqbal); and the writings of Ambedkar, Nehru, Jinnah, and Gandhi.

Although I haven’t (yet) participated in one of these simulations, I have seen some of the resource materials, and it looks very interesting. Feedback from colleagues who do use it in the classroom has also been very positive.

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