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Waco Standoff Simulation

When teaching about bias against new religious movements, I often find that students struggle to engage the issue personally. Either they can’t get past “cult” stereotypes, or they blame the bias on “other” biased people. I developed this simulation around 2005 to help my liberal arts college students understand that, given the same information and widespread cultural stereotypes, they too might make similar decisions. When I moved to a mid-size public university, I adapted the simulation from a class of 30 to a class of 300 by using the discussion sections. I have NEVER had this simulation end peacefully, save for one class that refused the time limit and insisted on not finishing the simulation because they could see it was headed for violence. That evening or the next class day, I screen Waco: The Rules of Engagement (William Gazecki, 2003) – this is how students learn that the “game” they played in class was an actual event, and it ended the same way they ended it, and people died. It’s been an extremely effective teaching tool. I recommend casting your most impulsive students as the HRT, and your most insightful as the Tribe of Jesse.

Melissa M. Wilcox

University of California, Riverside

Public College or University, Private College or University
Institution Type

Resource Type

Intro, Undergraduate Course
Class Type

Date Published

Religious Studies, Sociology

New Religious Movements, Other Christianities, Protestant
Religous Tradition


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