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COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — To learn about how totalitarian governments work, one brave group of high school seniors "lived" under a totalitarian regime.
For the past two weeks, students in Aaron Hadfield's classes at Brighton High have simulated life in an authoritarian society in which everyone's lives are tightly controlled.
"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 said.
Throughout the unit, 240 students in Hadfield's American Problems classes experienced a drastic change to their daily lives.
Each day, their classroom was nearly dark. Government leaders sat at the front of the room as citizens, sitting up straight in perfectly aligned desks, adhered to strict rules. They wore uniforms, ID tags, and were not allowed to laugh or smile. Violators were reported and put on trial.
The point? To learn about what life might be like in places like North Korea or China where obedience is the norm, and questioning authority is not allowed.
"We all had to wear the same thing," said senior Jake Momberger. "I found that to be really annoying. There was nothing to make you different."
The simulation was a 24-7 ordeal. Students had to constantly text-message the hierarchy about their whereabouts — not just at school, but at home as well. Violators got reported by the secret police.
"My job was literally to make the class paranoid about saying anything bad about the simulation," said senior Trevor Aiken.
Now that class is back to normal, students are relieved that they aren't constantly being watched.
We all had to wear the same thing. I found that to be really annoying. There was nothing to make you different.
"I appreciate the freedom a lot more now," said senior Terra Wunderli, "and I'm just a lot more aware that I have it."
With the two-week unit in the rear-view mirror, students will turn their focus to learning about the U.S. Constitution and how the American government works.