Teaching Discrimination through Star Wars and a Think-Pair-Share:
- Show students examples of discrimination that occur in the Star Wars series.
- Teach students to think about how similar discrimination cases might occur in our galaxy.
- Help students understand how market forces could impact discrimination.
- Show through demand and supply analysis how, if people of the same ability were paid different amounts, market forces would reduce pay disparities.
Time needed: 15-25 minutes
Materials Required: None
Supply and demand analysis allows us to make several inferences on behavior, and it is a powerful tool to understand discrimination. To help introduce the topic, we recommend that you first show “Mando Pays a Premium for a Human Driver” to help your students understand the type of discrimination that is occurring in Star Wars and that students could see plausibly happening in the real world. This can be a starting point of a discussion on what is meant by economic discrimination, how market forces and the profit motive should decrease economic discrimination, the cases where the profit motive could increase discrimination, and more.
Plan for the Classroom:
- Watch the clip “Mando Pays a Premium for a Human Driver.”
- Clarify for students that in this clip Mando doesn’t like droids and, in fact, Mando is discriminating against droids. You could define discrimination in this context as “Mando does not want to hire those who could best do the job.”
- Ask students to pair up and discuss: “If Mando discriminates against droids and droids are as efficient as humans, will his travels be safer and more efficient?”
After students pair up, you can begin a classroom discussion. Ask students to share their answers to whether Mando’s travel will be safer or more efficient. The class should get to the point where they realize it will be less safe.
After this, you can show the 2nd clip “Mando and the Mechanic Talk About the Ship” of Mando not wanting droids to repair the ship.
Notice – but don’t tell the students – that the Mechanic is discriminating against droids not because she is biased herself against droids, but because her customer, Mando, is. Have students get into small groups and ask the question, is the mechanic discriminating against droids? Once you come back for a group discussion, you can point out that she is to serve her customer, and this could lead into a discussion that if customers discriminate, it might be in the financial interest of firms to discriminate.
Optional discussion for more for students who are comfortable with demand and supply analysis:
- Ask students the following question. If there are two people – one with green hair and one with purple hair, and they both do the job equally well but the person with green hair is earning less per hour – how would firms that only care about profit respond?
- In the discussion, students should realize that the person with green hair would be hired, because they do the job the same but are less expensive.
- To show how market forces reduce wage disparities, students could work through a supply-and-demand analysis in a market for people with green hair and a market for people with purple hair. Start by drawing out side-by-side demand-supply curves as shown below.
After drawing the diagrams, ask students how the firm’s response that they indicated would impact each market. Someone should realize the demand for those with purple hair will drop and the demand for those with green hair will increase. This change will occur until the wages are the same – then firms would be indifferent about whom to hire.
There are a number of ways you could take the discussion from here, based on your comfort level and the goals of the class, including:
- why do we hear of wage gaps when the market forces work to remove them?
- how implicit bias/identity still can have an impact on an individual level.
- the other factors that would cause wage disparities. (Differences in school quality, job choices, etc.)
Finally, you could discuss that when profit motive isn’t involved (e.g., governments), discrimination is more likely to occur and that the most despicable forms of discrimination throughout history were not caused by markets, but by governments.