Whilst Ron Jones’ The Third Wave has received a lot of attention and been dramatised, George Muldoon’s experiments in capitalist democracy involving two groups of seventh graders in Mill Valley, California have seemingly slipped under the political radar…
“I said years and years and years ago that the public school system is like a microcosm for the United States, all of its goods and its bads and its smelly politicians and corruptness can be found in the school system with teachers, administrators and their damn passing the buck from one thing to another.”
- George Muldoon, 7th grade social studies teacher.
In June 1978 George Muldoon, having just six months previously re-structured his class so that it was in line with how the Unites States was governed, was forced to intervene and resume complete control.
The Ruling Classroom (1979), below, documents Muldoon’s repeat experiment in which a second class of seventh grade students were granted a greater degree of autonomy and were to establish their own country with its own rules. Peter Bull and Alex Gibney recorded the proceedings using a verité approach paired with after-school interviews with students. As the semester progresses the imaginary society, like the one they would soon inherit, develops serious problems such as freedom of the press, white collar crime, economic monopolies, and unemployment. The tape was aired nationally on PBS and evoked local controversy when the school’s principal called off the experiment after the video team uncovered a story about a teacher slapping a student. He then unsuccessfully tried to prevent the tape’s further release.
Watch The Ruling Classroom Online Now!