Students at a Utah high school got a taste of totalitarianism for two weeks, complete with party leaders, secret police and inquisitors. They weren't even entirely free when they returned home, as they were required to text notifications of their whereabouts.
In Cottonwood Heights, Utah, 240 students from four different classes at Brighton High School were part of the dictatorship for two weeks, or 10 school days. The program was set up by teachers Aaron Hadfield and Allen Roberds to teach students about the importance of freedom and the Constitution. The school has done this for seniors since 1978.
“We are actually trying to introduce them to a foreign political structure — not for the purpose of having them adopt that political structure, but to help them understand how important the Constitution is,” Hadfield told KSL-TV.
Students were assigned a roles of dictatorships of either being in “the party” or “the people,” according to the Deseret News newspaper, playing the party chairman, grand inquisitor and head of secret police. They wore ID badges and uniforms to promote mass conformity. “The people,” had to salute members of “the party.” Classes would begin with students who were among “the people” standing orderly to await the grandiose entrance of “the party” members.
The newspaper reports that there could be no laughing or criticism of the simulation and violators were punished by losing points when caught. Students who turned violator in earned more points.
“My job was literally to make the whole class paranoid about saying anything bad about the simulation,” said student Trevor Aiken, head of the secret police. “If I didn’t have two trials that were going to go every day, then I wasn’t doing my job right.”
Another student Jake Momberger, a member of “the people” said, “You’ll never really know freedom if you’ve never had it taken away from you.”