RCAH Parents College 2017: Democracy and Peace

July 29, 2017 - 8:00am - 8:00pm
Snyder-Phillips Hall
362 Bogue Street
East Lansing, MI 48825
United States

This year, Parents College will be held for one full day on Saturday, July 29, 2017 rather than three days. This will allow us to accommodate more participants. As we’ve done in the past, there will be a short set of readings, a hands-on activity, and special guests.

RSVP online or by contacting Dawn Janetzke by phone at (517) 884-0383 or via email. The registration fee of $60 includes the required coursepack and breakfast, lunch, and dinner on July 29. Please register by July 14, 2017.

What is the Peace Game?

The emphasis will be on democratic dialogue and deliberation. We will not only learn about the challenges our democracy faces today and similar challenges faced worldwide, but we will also sharpen our own peace-building skills and sensibilities. One thing that democracies have been well known for has been their commitment to peace. Yet, we also know that not all self-proclaimed democracies are free of violence and not all democracies have avoided going to war. The relationship between democracy and peace has become more, not less complex over the past century.

To explore this relationship between democracy and peace, this year’s Parents College will inaugurate its own Peace Game. RCAH has held several peace games over the past three years, most recently in post-conflict Mali, in the Lansing area with high school students at the Lansing Refugee Development center, at Peckham, Inc. in Lansing for its young adult Crossroads Program (pictured above), and with the 80-person leadership team of the MSU Federal Credit Union.

The Parents College Peace Game is based upon these experiences and inspired by the work of John Hunter, who came up with this unusual simulation more than thirty years ago. His book, World Peace and other 4th Grade Achievements, describes his early work with grade school students in Charlottesville, Virginia. Since then, he has created the World Peace Game Foundation and trained scores of facilitators who have adapted the original games for different age groups in different countries. He gave the first RCAH Wednesday Night Live presentation in fall 2013, and in summer 2015 three of RCAH’s partners from the Institute for Popular Education in Mali joined me in a two-week master class program led by John Hunter. Hunter’s TED talk (featured below) is one of the most frequently watched in this series.

In general, the Peace Game revolves around a set of crises that the opposing parties confront through negotiations, deliberations, and other forms of collective action.  The goal of the game is not for one side to prevail.  It is not a war game.  Peace is a process of addressing crises and conflicts without resorting to violent means AND doing so without worsening the relative positions of the less powerful and poorer parties.  These parties may be nation-states or neighboring towns, depending upon the game.  The crises can be environmental, economic, military, educational, or almost anything that cuts across jurisdictional lines and requires collaboration and mutual understanding in order to mitigate these crises in a non-violent way.

How will the Peace Game be structured?

The Second Republic

The parties in our Parents College Peace Game will be four hypothetical regional jurisdictions within the boundaries of the United States. In 2030 the United States of America has gone through a significant political transformation. A second constitutional convention was held after a series of conflicts and crises, including a failed attempt by the last President to remain in office after his second full term. The new constitution of the Second Republic preserves individual rights guaranteed under the first constitution, but reorganizes the states into four semi-autonomous regions (North, South, East, and West) with their own military forces, currency, regional taxing power, and other regional governing authorities. The central government retains only the authority necessary for the coordination of basic communications and transportation networks.

Each of the four US regions has their own president, cabinet, and local political units. There are no longer states within these new regions. They also contain many non-governmental organizations and voluntary associations, some of which cut across regional lines. The regions also have distinct political cultures based on the languages and traditions of their particular populations.

  • South is predominantly Christian and rural, although there are areas of greater of religious diversity where minority religious groups have settled in urban areas. There are more private and parochial schools than public schools for K-12 students, and more students in for-profit post-secondary educational programs than in public and private non-profit institutions. Labor union membership is lowest in this region and tourism is the leading economic sector of the regional economy.
  • The population in the North is more diverse in terms of race, national origin, and religion than in the other regions, including some communities that have welcomed refugees and immigrants from outside the four regions. Because of the aging infra-structure and the changing demographics, family income is declining in the North to the point where it is the lowest of the four regions.
  • The median age of the population in the West is the youngest of the four regions; it is the only region with increasing k-12 enrollments. Average family income is highest in the West, primarily because of the expansion of the hi-tech industry in this region. It is also the region that has seen the most climate change, including changes in air temperature and rainfall, affecting health and agriculture.
  • East is dominated by its large military-industrial economy that employs a large segment of the population. Sales in the private market and to other countries make up a large share of this sector, but it also includes sales to the other three regions. Family income in this region is most unequal with a large percentage of the population working at low-wage service sector and entry-level military contract jobs and another group working in management and executive positions.

The Crises

Several crises have developed that cut across these four regions.  These include:

  • An education crisis that begins with a scandal in South because of lawsuits alleging fraud by cyber-academies for k-12 education and for-profit post-secondary programs.
  • A freedom of the press crisis that begins in East in which the regional government has curtailed access of the press to public information and channeled its information to the public through private internet sites.
  • A freedom of religion crisis that begins in the North in which government employees and contractors are permitted to refuse to serve individuals based on the officials claim to religious freedom.
  • An immigration crisis that begins in the West as more local towns declare themselves sanctuary cities and refuse to cooperate with regional law enforcement agencies seeking to detain and deport undocumented individuals.

Each of these crises have ripple effects in the other three regions, forcing government authorities to explore both cooperative arrangements and also methods for sealing themselves off from the adverse effects in their neighboring regions. At the same time citizens groups are organizing, sometimes militantly, to resist policies that they claim are contrary to the spirit of democracy.

The Roles

Each region has its own set of government officials and civil society leaders relevant to the four crises in the Game.

In addition, there are special roles for international non-governmental organizations such as NATO, Human Rights Watch, the Heritage Foundation, and the Ford Foundation.  There will be a regional development bank official and executives for transnational private corporations.  The regional bank official certifies the assets of the four regions, can make loans, and determines whether loans and sales are approved.

There is a “Weather God/Goddess” who announces unexpected events such a fall in the stock market(s), epidemics, or natural disasters, and serves as a chief judge in the event of impeachment or other legal proceedings.  He/she also determines whether a crisis has been successfully addressed without resort to violence and whether the least advantaged regions have suffered or improved the quality of life for their citizens.  In other words, whether the Peace Game has been won or lost.

An undisclosed Saboteur periodically undermines negotiations and settlements.

The Facilitators

One facilitator watches the clock and announces the times for caucusing, negotiating, and proposing.

Another facilitator serves as the guest artist, designing the game board on which the resources of the four regions are portrayed.


In order to prepare for the RCAH Peace Game, we’ll have to read, view, and discuss some background material on the meaning of democracy and the challenges it faces today. There are many ways to approach this vast subject. Is democracy a form of government, a way of life, or the potential that citizens have to act occasionally for the sake of some common good? Each day we seem to be encountering new challenges and imminent crises that threaten democratic institutions and practices.


Photo credit: Becky Shink Photography | A participant from the Peckham, Inc. Crossroads Program takes part in the Peace Game.


Additional Media
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