On the Road to Cultural Bias: A Critique of The Oregon Trail

Time Periods: 19th Century, 1800
Themes: Education, Native American, Racism & Racial Identity

Because interactive computer games like The Oregon Trail are encyclopedic in the amount of information they offer, and because they allow students a seemingly endless number of choices, they may appear educationally progressive.

But like the walls of a maze, the choices built into interactive computer games also channel participants in very definite directions. They are programmed by people — people with particular cultural biases — and children who play the computer games encounter the biases of the programmers (Bowers, 1988).

Just as we would not invite a stranger into our classrooms and then leave the room, teachers need to become aware of the political perspectives of computer simulations, and need to equip our students to “read” them critically.

Lesson originally published by Rethinking Schools | Zinn Education Project

Originally published in Rethinking Schools Volume 10, No.1 – Fall 1995.

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