What was your job at Exchange City?
I realize not everyone that is a Royals fan is a Kansas City native, but for those of you that are, and that grew up in the 80s and 90s know exactly what I am talking about. Exchange City was a model of a real city that every school in the area visited for an annual field trip around the fifth grade. Everyone was assigned jobs, and you worked those jobs for fake currency you could spend at various shops in Exchange City to learn about the soul-crushing reality of our capitalist system. Oh, and one person got to be the DJ at the radio station!
There were many other kinds of jobs - mayor, judge, traffic cop (stay off the grass!), sign-maker (signs were the major industry of Exchange City), candy store clerk. My job was newspaper reporter, I guess mostly because “poorly paid sports blogger” wasn’t a thing back then. We worked on hard-hitting stories like “KIDS HAVING GOOD TIME AT EXCHANGE CITY.”
Ewing Kauffman, the founder and longtime owner of the Royals, was a financial supporter of Exchange City for many years, which should be no surprise considering how much he supported teaching young people about entrepreneurship. In 2008 Exchange City got a new operator, and it looks like they were hit hard by the recession. Here is a video, that looks fairly similar to the town when I attended in the 80s, except they added corporate sponsorships (kids, learn to be an auditor at KPMG!)
Apparently Exchange City shut down three years ago. But there is a similar facility called “School of Economics”, operating in Blue Springs that some of you may have attended. It has been open since 1994, and will be opening a new location in downtown Kansas City later this year. The School of Economics may not directly teach the kids about Keynes or Hayek, but they do emphasize the producer and consumer sides of an economy.
But I bring all this up because it is time for my son to have the Exchange City/School of Economics experience. My son’s class will be going in a few weeks so they can learn skills for the future, like balancing a checkbook and learning how to write a check. I urged him to follow in my footsteps and write for the prestigious newspaper, but I think an overleveraged hedge fund bought the paper and squeezed out the reporters in favor of video content. Instead he will serve as a cook (I presume microwaving hot dogs or somethin’).
So for those of you that attended Exchange City or one of its descendants, what was your job? What was your experience like? Did you walk on the grass? And is there something like Exchange City in other cities?