In the 80’s and very early 90’s, computers had not yet become a fixture in the classroom, so it was considered quite innovative when my department head bought software for one of the few computers we did have for me to use with my business management students. It was a computer simulation program which allowed up to 10 different “stores’” to operate in competition with each other. I divided each of my classes (I had 5 classes of Business Management) into groups of two and three, and they became managers of their own stores.
Students had to make decision of how much of a product to buy and determine a selling price. Each group entered their decisions into the computer; the computer would process the information and print out sales reports detailing how many sales they made, based on the amount of inventory they had purchased and their sales price, and that of their competitors’. The cycle would then repeat, adding new decisions to be made each time, such as how many employees to hire, employee wages, how much to spend on advertising, and how many of an additional product to purchase, etc.
Each year, I saved this activity for the last quarter of the school year, when it was most difficult to maintain student interest and motivation. This became a very competitive and realistic exercise; students would be stopping in between classes to see if their sales reports had been printed yet, what their profits were, and would hold very secretive strategy sessions within their groups. Motivation and interest were no longer a problem once they got involved in their businesses!
One day, as I was circulating around the classroom, monitoring progress and answering questions, I overheard a pair of students discussing how they might optimize their sales. “You know, if we could get one of the other groups to set the same low price as we do, we might be able to force a couple of groups into bankruptcy,” said one. (Bankruptcy was one of the outcomes if bad business decisions were made.)
At lunch time, I discussed what I had overheard with the Business Law teacher. He said, “That’s a violation of anti-trust laws, if you ask me. We ought to arrest them.” We discussed it further and came up with a plan. The next day, one of the business law students who had a part-time job as a mall security guard brought his uniform and handcuffs to school with him. At an appointed time, Phil came into my classroom, in uniform, followed by a film crew (one student with a video camera), and “arrested” the two plotters. As he “read them their rights,” cuffed them, and confiscated all their paper work, one of the alleged anti-trust law violators could be heard saying, “I told your this was a bad idea, I told you!” while his partner was hissing, “shut up!’’
A defense team and a prosecuting team were appointed in the law class. The two teams actually spent time researching anti-trust laws, talking to attorneys, and preparing their cases. The remainder of the Business Law class served as the jury and we actually had a trial. Various witnesses were summoned, and cross-examined. When I was called to the witness stand, the prosecutor said, “I call Eva Gallant, alias Eva LaLiberty, alias Eva, the Squealer.” Of course this delighted the students! (My name before marriage to my current husband was LaLiberty, and they all knew that I had been the snitch!
For the two weeks this was going on, the whole school was buzzing about it. (There were a little over one thousand students in the high school. The trial was held in the business law class and was all captured on video, which all five business management classes watched. The jury found the defendants, “Guilty on all counts,” and they were sentenced to 10 days hard labor (which was how many days were left in the school year.).
It turned out to be an excellent learning experience for all students involved, and the last I heard, the “arresting officer” actually went on to become Chief of Police in the town!