Sunday, July 22, 2012

Inflation and Propaganda

After learning about hyper-inflation in the Weimar Republic (which is one of those slippery concepts for me---inflation, I mean---that I feel like I understand but then I get re-confused about it whenever it comes up), we did an exercise to help make it more understandable. This helped ME. I handed out money as "wages" to each child, and had a "store" full of little treats (toasted almonds, pieces of IKEA chocolate, etc.) which they could buy with their money. Prices were a bit high, so after a while I (the government) printed MORE money so everyone would have enough to buy what they wanted. But the stores, needing to pay their employees and suppliers more to keep up with the inflation, had to raise their prices. So I printed more money, and so on. We soon saw how everyone was getting paid thousands of dollars at a time, and then having to spend that thousand dollars on a single almond. To help drive the point home, I had a few historical pictures of kids using stacks of worthless German money to build towers with, and people burning banknotes in their stove since it was more cost-effective than buying fuel. The kids thought this was SO funny! They were pretty put out about how the inflation made all their play-money worthless, though. All day, they kept asking me, "Can I buy another piece of chocolate? I'll give you $5000 for it!"---to which I would reply, "Sorry, the price has gone up to $1,000,000 by now."

Abe's propaganda, showing "The Boiled Hair Cutter" (NEVER BUY) and the horrible fates that await you if you do.

We had talked briefly about propaganda in Sam's political portrait lesson, but in this unit we talked more about Nazi propaganda and showed a bunch of examples (which are horribly amazing, by the way). The Anti-Jewish stuff is the worst, but the idealized Aryan Families are pretty interesting too. The kids liked looking at these examples and proclaiming that they would never be fooled by such things! Too bad most evil messages are more subtle now . . . :) We watched some commercials on YouTube, both older and more modern, to discuss that very point.

Then, we did an activity where we had to pick an object out of a bag and draw a propaganda picture about it, trying to influence the viewer's opinion one way or another. (My own stellar contribution, a diatribe against Sam's yellow rubber dishwashing gloves---"STOP THE FLOP!"---is unfortunately not pictured.) Then we had to give a presentation about our pictures.
Nobody really knows what Daisy drew, or what she was talking about, but she gives a great presentation

Malachi's object was a turkey baster. He tried to convince us to buy it because it makes you magic and turns into a rocket that takes you to the moon. And several other astounding things.

Sebby, predictably, took the sinister direction, like Abe did: this purple teacup attacks you with electricity, knives and guns. "Never, ever buy!" his poster proclaimed. (Subtlety is not a 6-year-old's, or a 9-year-old's, strong point, I suppose.)

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