Socialism: Entire Class Fails (Upper-Intermediate Lesson Plan)

ESL Level: Upper-Intermediate
Lesson Topics:  Socialism, Capitalism, Communism
Skill Focus
: Speaking, Reading, Vocabulary
Lesson Plan Download: socialism-lesson-upper-intermediate-01122021.docx
Approximate Class Time: Two hours


  1. Teachers, your students must understand the basic concepts of capitalism, socialism, and communism for this lesson to work. Note: This is not designed to be an anti-socialism lesson plan; the meme in this lesson is based on a misunderstanding of what socialism is. Ideally your students can realize that and criticize/discuss it.
  2. Students, this lesson was made for English teachers. However, feel free to read the lesson and leave your answers to the questions in the comment area below.

A college classroom

UPPER-INTERMEDIATE Lesson Plan on Socialism: Warm-up (Pair Work)

  1. When you were in college or high school, did students often fail courses? In your experience, what usually causes people to fail?
  2. Do you enjoy participating in group projects? How do you manage groupmates who don’t want to work hard?
  3. How do capitalism, socialism, and communism differ?

Reading: Teacher Fails Entire Class (Meme)

Note: The below allegory has been circulating online since 2009. Its accuracy is questionable.

“An economics professor at a local college made a statement that she had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on this plan”. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A…. (substituting grades for dollars — something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the third test rolled around, the average was an F.

As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame, and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.”


Socialism Lesson Plan: Comprehension & Follow-up Questions

  1. In your own words, what was the experiment that the professor conducted?
  2. In the second paragraph, why does author’s compare grades to dollars?
  3. Why did the class fail according to the professor?
  4. Do you think it’s a true story? Why or why not?
  5. Do you think the story is an effective illustration of socialism? Why or why not?

Vocabulary: Match the words with their meaning as used in the article.

1. allegory (n)
2. questionable (adj)
3. close to home (idiom)
4. a free ride (noun – idiom)
5. roll around (phr. v)
6. bicker (v)
7. name-calling (n)
8. hard feelings (noun – idiom)
9. ultimately (adv)
a) doubtful, controversial
b) finally, in the end
c) negative feelings due to being treated unfairly
d) to argue, usually about small matters
e) insults
f) a story meant to have a hidden meaning that is often moral or about society in general
g) to arrive or happen again (usually describing an event)
h) a benefit obtained from someone else’s work
i) affecting someone personally (usually making them uncomfortable)

1F, 2A, 3I, 4H, 5G, 6D, 7E, 8C, 9B

Vocabulary Homework: Circle the words that were new for you. Add them to your vocabulary notebook and make sentences for homework.

Socialism Lesson Plan: Role-Play (Pair Work)

Situation: You and your partner are politicians from different political parties. There is an increasing gap in your country between the rich and poor. The public has started to protest and become violent. Choose your role below and read its description (do not read the other role).

Role 1 – Socialist: You believe the rich are responsible for helping the poor. You believe taxes should be immediately raised on individuals and businesses. Take a few minutes to think of other ideas. When ready, present your ideas. (You go first.)

Role 2 – Capitalist: You represent the rich. You are against higher taxes on businesses and wealthy people.  You do not believe successful people should be responsible for unsuccessful people. Take a few minutes to think of reasons to support your position. Your partner will go first.

Socialism ESL Lesson Plan: Economic Principles

The allegory ends with a few principles that the experiment is supposed to teach. Discuss them in small groups, explaining whether you agree or disagree.

  1. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
  2. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
  3. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

Socialism ESL Lesson Plan: Famous Quotes on Capitalism and Socialism

Discuss the below quotes:

  • “The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.” – Karl Marx
  • “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” – Margaret Thatcher
  • “Climate change is a battle between capitalism and the planet.” – Naomi Klein
  • “The essential notion (idea) of a capitalist society… is voluntary cooperation, voluntary exchange. The essential notion (idea) of a socialist society is force.” – Milton Friedman

Socialism ESL Lesson Plan: Other Discussion Questions

  1. Is it fair to fail students at the college level?
  2. Often college assignments are graded on a curve, which means scores are adjusted based on how all the students performed. Is this fair?
  3. If a student fails a class or course, does that mean the instructor has failed in a way?
  4. In life, where do you see free-riders? Have you recently (freely) benefitted from the hard work of others?
  5. Free-riding: Wikipedia is an example of a publicly-shared good that is funded by donors. Do you donate to such organizations, or do you rely on others to do so?
  6. Do you live in a capitalist, socialist, or communist country? Do you feel the system works well?
  7. Ultimately, do you think people in capitalist countries are happier than those in communist ones?

(Note: The main problem with the allegory is that it describes communism, not socialism.)

Lesson plan on Socialism copyright Matthew Barton of

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2 comments on “Socialism: Entire Class Fails (Upper-Intermediate Lesson Plan)

  1. ConcernedCitizen (Posted on 12-7-2021 at 08:24) Reply

    Jesus man, normally I love your stuff but this displays a r/jordanpeterson take on socialism. It’s mega cringy.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 12-7-2021 at 10:08) Reply

      The allegory is completely false, obviously. That’s the point — you use it for discussion. (I didn’t think I’d need to state that — I’ve added a note in the foreword to make it more obvious.)

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