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British Pupils Play Games Based on Ancient Greece to Understand Politics

Ancient Greece helps understanding of politics
Nineteenth-century painting by Philipp Foltz depicting the Athenian politician Pericles delivering his famous funeral oration in front of the Assembly. Credit: Philipp Foltz, Public domain

Games and workshops based on Ancient Greece and its political figures were recently created by group of academics from the University of Exeter in England and ”The Politics Project,” an educational charity.

The innovative project aims to help British students understand the basics of modern-day politics by acquiring valuable knowledge through a series of enjoyable games and workshops, most of which, employ the work of Thucydides.

It shows GCSE and A-level students how games and classical political thought can help them to understand democracy and how politicians negotiate with one another.

Professor Neville Morley from the University of Exeter developed a series of games after studying the work of the father of historiography, Thucydides.

Professor Neville Morley, from the University of Exeter, developed the games through his research on the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, whose ideas help people understand war, politics and power.

“Brexit has obviously made everyone very aware of how complex politics can be, but what Thucydides wanted to do was tell us that the world is always complex and difficult,” Professor Morley said.

“But it’s pointless just to tell young people something is complicated and unfair, it’s too abstract.

“Playing games helps them think more about the issues and discuss the role of power and responsibility in a more concrete way.

“We’ve found this does lead to young people talking about different sorts of power relationships they’ve seen themselves, for example relationships with parents or bullying they have been a victim of or witnessed,” Morley said.

The workshops, including the innovative games, are divided into four sessions.

During the first session, students will have to play an ancient Greek version of the popular ”rock, paper, scissors” game, where they will have to figure out how their Greek city-states will survive in an environment of anarchy which defines the fate of their cities.

This is seen as akin to today’s anarchic status quo in global affairs.

The second session involves the famous ”Melian Dialogue” of Thucydides.

The pupils will learn what it feels like being in a weak position in global politics, which was perfectly depicted by the “Melian Dialogue,” where Athenians demanded that the people from the island of Melos surrender.

The third session of the workshop incorporates elements of societal groupings and how these shape politics and politicians.

During the final session, which takes advantage of all the knowledge students gained playing and learning through ancient Greek experiences, pupils are asked to ”interrogate” local and national British politicians to understand their ways of conduct and their motivations.

This innovative project has already begun trials in the town of Crediton in Devon, with students from Queen Elizabeth’s Community College, and it aims to become a nation-wide teaching method.

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