ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Communist brainwashing starts young

Oh what an interesting place the Web can be. You never know what your going to find. In an interesting article over at protein wisdom about the banning of tag at a Colorado elementary school*, there was in the in the comments section, a link to an article at Rethinking Schools banning of all things... Legos.

"I'm making an airport and landing strip for my guy's house. He has his own airplane," said Oliver.

"That's not fair!" said Carl. "That takes too many cool pieces and leaves not enough for me."

"Well, I can let other people use the landing strip, if they have airplanes," said Oliver. "Then it's fair for me to use more cool pieces, because it's for public use."

Discussions like the one above led to children collaborating on a massive series of Lego structures we named Legotown. Children dug through hefty-sized bins of Legos, sought "cool pieces," and bartered and exchanged until they established a collection of homes, shops, public facilities, and community meeting places. We carefully protected Legotown from errant balls and jump ropes, and watched it grow day by day.

After nearly two months of observing the children's Legotown construction, we decided to ban the Legos.

A great Lego city has been constructed. Hints of an economy, for the 'cool pieces' if you will, sprang up, useful real-world skills of negotiation and planning are being learned. And the 'teachers' had to put a stop to it.

A group of about eight children conceived and launched Legotown. Other children were eager to join the project, but as the city grew — and space and raw materials became more precious — the builders began excluding other children.

Occasionally, Legotown leaders explicitly rebuffed children, telling them that they couldn't play. Typically the exclusion was more subtle, growing from a climate in which Legotown was seen as the turf of particular kids. The other children didn't complain much about this; when asked about Legos, they'd often comment vaguely that they just weren't interested in playing with Legos anymore. As they closed doors to other children, the Legotown builders turned their attention to complex negotiations among themselves about what sorts of structures to build, whether these ought to be primarily privately owned or collectively used, and how "cool pieces" would be distributed and protected. These negotiations gave rise to heated conflict and to insightful conversation. Into their coffee shops and houses, the children were building their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys — assumptions that mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society — a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive. As we watched the children build, we became increasingly concerned.

Faced with observing an experiment that demonstrates how the real world actually works, the teachers weren't awed by the skills their pupils were learning. Rather they became"concerned" about how that experiment was not reflecting their preconceived notions of an ideal society.

Hilltop is housed in a church, and over a long weekend, some children in the congregation who were playing in our space accidentally demolished Legotown.
We met as a teaching staff later that day. We saw the decimation of Lego-town as an opportunity to launch a critical evaluation of Legotown and the inequities of private ownership and hierarchical authority on which it was founded. Our intention was to promote a contrasting set of values: collectivity, collaboration, resource-sharing, and full democratic participation. We knew that the examination would have the most impact if it was based in engaged exploration and reflection rather than in lots of talking. We didn't want simply to step in as teachers with a new set of rules about how the children could use Legos, exchanging one set of authoritarian rules with another. Ann suggested removing the Legos from the classroom. This bold decision would demonstrate our discomfort with the issues we saw at play in Legotown. And it posed a challenge to the children: How might we create a "community of fairness" about Legos?
The rest of the article goes into some detail about their idea of community of fairness, and how the kids that were playing with the Legos the most had some sort of 'unearned' power that was oppressing the other kids.

Especially interesting is the "value system" they say they learned from the kids, which magically intersects with their own preconceived notions of fair and "social justice".

*as to tag banning. I'll bet within 10 minutes the kids had already thought up a new game of 'tag' complete with rules. Kids ALWAYS keep score.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

Comments (1)
George said...

Hmmmm. The "teachers" have names like Kendra and Harmony. Wonder if there is a Moon Unit there too.

That article says everything you need to know to convince you that we must take back our schools from the "experts."