In the beginning of my higher education career, I was introduced to StarPower, a game invented in the late sixties and designed to have the participants experience the dynamics of a stratified society and the power or lack of power associated with the different classes. The game was part of a learning experience for teacher training, student intern teams located in several community elementary schools in southern Colorado participating in a federally-funded project called Teacher Corps.
The students took their college classes on-site, helped to teach in the classroom every day and worked with parents to improve the education of their children as well as their lives. It was also the time of the Chicano Movement and every community action that took place implied political outcomes.
That is why StarPower was so relevant. The three social levels represented by Red Squares, Blue Circles and Green Triangles which were used in the game by three student groups using chips with the same configurations.
The participants were told to trade with each other in order to gain more chips because the object of the game was to merit higher status by being smarter negotiators. Unbeknownst to the players and with some exceptions however, the number of chips handed out to each group assured that the Red Squares would be the richest, the Blue Circles next in wealth and the Green Triangles representing the have-nots.
At some point, the Red Squares were allowed to make the rules for the rest of the game because they “proved” to be the most successful and therefore merited the right. The result was that many in the Blue Circle group attempted to ingratiate with the Red Squares to the chagrin of the Green Triangles.
The key outcome for the Green Triangles was either apathy with some not wanting to play anymore, or conspiracies to change things through coercive methods including open revolution. The anger and tension in the room led to the end of the game and a discussion on what the participants had learned about themselves and others in the face of the inability on the part of the have-nots to change their status.
The election of 2016 saw large groups of Blue Circles vote for a Red Square to be president. An even greater number of Green Triangles turned out to support and elect the Red Square.
It is clear however, that the Red Square does not see them as his equal although the game does not allow him to declare his real feelings and intentions towards them. Even if at some point this becomes known, the Blue Circles will nevertheless continue to try to find favor with the Red Square.
On the other hand, the Green Triangles may become very disappointed, angry and even violent when the white knight they thought they had elected turns out to be just another Red Square.
So 2017 continues the game that began in 2016 even though not all voters played in it or had any intention to take part.
As a matter of fact, the majority of Americans in the three StarPower classes: Red Squares (the rich and powerful), Blue Circles (the middle class) and Green Triangles (the poor and powerless) did not participate in the same game and yet they cannot ignore it. After all, this is the United States and we are committed to making our democracy work despite our political circumstances, the demographic count and our continued march toward a new reality and leadership.