Nitpick: It's "Lego" not "Legos", kthx
April 3, 2007 2:26 PM   Subscribe

Why We Banned Legos - Exploring power, ownership, and equity in an early childhood classroom. National Review response. (via this post on Salon Broadsheet)
posted by Melinika (224 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
What'll they ban next, 100-sided dice?
posted by phaedon at 2:33 PM on April 3, 2007


Blockheads.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:33 PM on April 3, 2007


Legotown sounds a lot like Wikipedia...
posted by Artw at 2:34 PM on April 3, 2007 [4 favorites]


Oh, god, it's like the worst of Seattle PC wussiness and over-protection of kids....dear lord I love kids, but these kinds of people in Seattle drive me fucking NUTS.
posted by tristeza at 2:36 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Those people are overthinking things.

Alternatively, they should only allow 2x4 bricks. Seems like that would solve their "cool piece" problem.
posted by GuyZero at 2:39 PM on April 3, 2007


Ann Pelo and Kendra Pelojoaquin teach at Hilltop Children' Center, a child care program in Seattle.

/me makes note to never, ever send my kids to this den of lotus-eating, navel-gazing ninnies.
posted by frogan at 2:39 PM on April 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


On further review: Hippies suck.

This kid will go far: What power looks like
posted by Artw at 2:40 PM on April 3, 2007 [9 favorites]


"They were unable or unwilling to see that the rules of the game — which mirrored the rules of our capitalist meritocracy — were a setup for winning and losing.."

God, what an odiously written article.

The author/teachers cling to a creepy tunnel vision perception of the kids' interpretation of the game.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:41 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


I love the way the folks at the National Review are all over that whole projected power thing right up until you start beating the hell out of them and taking their stuff.

Damn latte-sipping rugged individualist wannabees!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:41 PM on April 3, 2007


Clearly some kind of market is required to solve everything, possibly utilising micropayments and block-futures.

Looking at the solution they eventually implemented it seems to be some kind of commie planned economy thing, allegedly egalitarian but with ultimate power devolving to a poltical overclass (the teachers).
posted by Artw at 2:47 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


They were unable or unwilling to see that the rules of the game — which mirrored the rules of our capitalist meritocracy — were a setup for winning and losing

The funny thing about this is that it's true. If you don't teach a kid that games have winners and losers, it's not something they necessarily figure out on their own.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:47 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Too bad those idiots didn't consider buying more bricks and "cool pieces."
posted by fandango_matt at 2:48 PM on April 3, 2007 [4 favorites]


They should have the children play with Lincoln Logs - all of the pieces are brown and bland, and shaped from pieces of wood. Oops! Not enviro-friendly! Also, Lincoln was a capitalist.
posted by billysumday at 2:50 PM on April 3, 2007


Ugh. Everyone's a winner! An important lesson to learn is that you can lose, that it's OK, and that it will happen at some point.
posted by maxwelton at 2:51 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Also: Lincoln Logs? The suck.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:51 PM on April 3, 2007


banned legos? I can't read this. :|
posted by boo_radley at 2:51 PM on April 3, 2007


So the kids and teachers set up a scenario where there would be resource scarcity but were shocked when that scarcity generated conflict? Then, instead of rearranging the game to end the artificial scarcity they simply banned the game? I love my Volvos and lattés as much as the next Progressive but that's just stupid, and it completely ignores some fairly basic aspects of human nature.
posted by lekvar at 2:53 PM on April 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


This kid will go far: What power looks like

Artw's link reminds me of this oldie, but goodie: I am better than your kids.
posted by ericb at 2:54 PM on April 3, 2007


Power looks like preschool teachers forcing defenseless children to play in regimented ways and sucking the joy out of childhood through their pedantry.
posted by footnote at 2:55 PM on April 3, 2007 [8 favorites]


Until today, I never thought I would ever marginally agree with a National Review columnist. It's probably a slippery slope from here.

Ion cannons for all!
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:56 PM on April 3, 2007


Well wait a minute here. The teachers are trying to create a "society" where everyone has fun. After all, it's just a daycare not a real school. So, preventing concentration of power and ownership is a reasonable goal if the purpose is to keep all the kids happy.

Yes, that's not how the "real world" works, but would you want to send your kids to a daycare that closely mirrored the "real world" or would you want to send them somewhere where they could have fun?

It was an interesting article.
posted by delmoi at 2:56 PM on April 3, 2007 [8 favorites]


Another example of bad pedagogy getting in the way of kids having fun with Legos.

Backstory on Zbigniew Libera's Lego Concentration Camp.
posted by felix betachat at 2:56 PM on April 3, 2007


The problem is perceived scarcity + artificial scarcity : lego pieces were not enough to satisfy kids preference (yet one could get more blocks hence artificial scarcity) and somehow some of them decided some piece was cool (if it is cool, many want it so it becomes less avaiable)

Possibily somebody just took it, others wanted it , but didn't ask the teacher they wanted some time with the shared toys...so they lost for being shy, not necessarily because of bullism.

Others were probably bullies that need to learn cooperation is better then competition (see how oligarchies govern unorganized masses ?)

Simply put, the teachers overreacted and the guy gives some opinion, probably without a month of actual schoolteaching on his shoulders.

Meh
posted by elpapacito at 2:57 PM on April 3, 2007


Ugh. Everyone's a winner! An important lesson to learn is that you can lose, that it's OK, and that it will happen at some point.

Are We Raising a Nation of Little Egomaniacs? -- "Debate erupts over whether kids get too much praise or not enough."
posted by ericb at 2:59 PM on April 3, 2007


Basic summary:

Teachers at a church-based alternative after-school program try to deal with the tragedy of the commons.

National Review pundit interprets results according to pseudo-libertarian bias.

Mefi pundits trip over themselves to celebrate their own narrow-minded prejudices.

Best of the web?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:59 PM on April 3, 2007 [6 favorites]


In my day we'd grind up some legos and snort them with Keith Richards.
posted by mattbucher at 3:00 PM on April 3, 2007 [17 favorites]


KirkJobSluder, my prejudices are not "narrow," they are "horizontally-challenged."
posted by lekvar at 3:02 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Yes, that's not how the "real world" works, but would you want to send your kids to a daycare that closely mirrored the "real world" or would you want to send them somewhere where they could have fun?

I imagine National Review writers would want to send their kids to a daycare where the rich kids can lease all the lego (with appropriate tax breaks) and the others can just darn well pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they want in on the action.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 3:04 PM on April 3, 2007 [5 favorites]


The teachers at the school turned an argument about Lego into a lesson. Sure, the writing is a little pretentious and idealistic, but the fact is that they made kids consider factors in their society. Just because the kids decided on communism for Lego town doesn't mean that their imaginations are stifled or their hippie teachers have influenced their thinking. It's all about opening the kids' eyes to different perspectives. When I teach my students "The Stranger," I'm not trying to teach them to have a bleak view of an indifferent world - I just want them to know these views can exist.

That National Review article was ridiculously harsh and short-sighted. I hardly think this lesson limited these kids' imaginations. They get to build a freaking Legotown. When I was in daycare, I got to play Mousetrap with tons of missing pieces or take a nap.

Teachers make kids think. Yay. If conservatives don't like idealistic hippie teachers, they should make education a lucrative career for go-getters.
posted by daedsiluap at 3:05 PM on April 3, 2007 [18 favorites]


KirkJobSluder writes "Mefi pundits trip over themselves to celebrate their own narrow-minded prejudices. "

Isn't "celebration of one's own narrow-minded prejudices" in the mission statement for the internet?
posted by mr_roboto at 3:06 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


I wonder if some of you read the same article I did. Or read it at all. You know, these links go beyond the "grabber," right?
posted by absalom at 3:07 PM on April 3, 2007


No one seems to have read the article, in which Lego play was not, in the end, banned. If fact, the article was hardly about Lego at all, but how to teach about systems of rules through game play.


Too bad those idiots didn't consider buying more bricks and "cool pieces."
posted by fandango_matt at 2:48 PM on April 3 [+]
[!]


I'm sure the kids could have chosen to 'buy more bricks' as one of their policy options, but it seems they decided to share instead. Way to insult 8-year olds, dude.
posted by eustatic at 3:07 PM on April 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


Mefi pundits trip over themselves to celebrate their own narrow-minded prejudices.

I'm finding it very hard to avoid celebrating my narrow-minded prejudice against people who use the word 'Legos'. Freaks.
posted by jack_mo at 3:08 PM on April 3, 2007


Legos Pinkos.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:10 PM on April 3, 2007


The teachers at the school turned an argument about Lego into a lesson. Sure, the writing is a little pretentious and idealistic, but the fact is that they made kids consider factors in their society.

It's 8 year olds at an after-school daycare for crying out loud, let 'em play with fucking Legos until Mommy or Daddy comes to get them. Everything doesn't have to be a lesson on social justice. That has to be the least fun daycare in the country. Damn hippies.
posted by MikeMc at 3:11 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


So a couple of babysitters don't like legos, and then a magazine did a cover story about them. I once had a babysitter who was terrified of squirrels, but nobody ever did a cover story about that. I guess that life really is pretty arbitrary sometimes.
posted by Slap Factory at 3:13 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh my sweet Christ, y'all a bunch of fucking morons.
Now, possibly this is because I both study politics and went through the SEED (Students Educating Each other about Discrimination; also making words out of acronyms that don't fit), but there WERE unspoke assumptions about ownership and collective good. And making kids examine them was a GOOD thing.

I came in expecting to see a lot of "Jesus, that NRO article looks like it was written in a particularly unreflective 20 minutes," but instead there's the mass thumping of the We Hate Hippies and Liberals and Latte bible.
posted by klangklangston at 3:17 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Mefi pundits trip over themselves to celebrate their own narrow-minded prejudices.

Dude, don't harsh out our fun! We're just playing in the internet commons!
posted by Artw at 3:18 PM on April 3, 2007


So this is bullshit, right? I didn't bother reading the whole atrociously written thing. But it seems like it's just some fictional parallel to the intrusion of private special interest in public government.
posted by shmegegge at 3:18 PM on April 3, 2007


Klangklangston: You are a moron, possibly because you both study politics and went through the SEED, but also because you sound like a hippie.
posted by Slap Factory at 3:19 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


My children have spent a large portion of their young lives playing with Legos. They have never, to my knowledge, constructed “community meeting places.” Instead, they make monster trucks, space ships, and war machines. These little creations are usually loaded with ion guns, nuclear missiles, bunker-busting bombs, force-field projectors, and death-ray cannons.

That sounds about right. We used make "monster derby" trucks out of them, then we'd have contests where we smashed our trucks into each other, and whoever fared best was allowed to take some of the scraps from the vanquished. It didn't take us long to invent ingenious low profile vehicles, bumpers, shock pads, battering rams or rolling blocks. We did the same thing with lego helicopters that had to survive an 8 year old's drop onto the basement concrete without ejecting its "precious cargo". Cities are what you built when you followed the instructions, fun was everything else.
posted by furtive at 3:21 PM on April 3, 2007


"And we wanted to encourage them to consider that there are times when rules ought to be questioned or even broken — sharing stories of people who refused to "play by the rules" when the rules were unjust, people like Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez. "

This quote (from the complete article) stuck in my narrow little craw too.

On the contrary, the larger lesson seems to be - but don't break the community rules imposed by the teachers though!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 3:23 PM on April 3, 2007 [5 favorites]


eustatic - I have, indeed, read the article, and I amaware they get the bricks back in the end (albiet in a highly monitored Stalag Lego type way). I just choose to take the piss out of hippies anyway.

TBH I think GuyZero has it: Those people are overthinking things.
posted by Artw at 3:24 PM on April 3, 2007


Those people are overthinking things.

Probably true, but probably FAR BETTER than the (much more common) alternative.

I started out really disgusted with the teachers too, but if you read the article it's not that simple. They brought the Legos back but made the kids think about how sharing and power work. I may disagree with some of their ideology, but the important fact is this: they spent time talking with the kids about what the rules should be and why. That's more important than any particular toy or rule. They also recognized the kids' conversations and evolving social structure as interesting, and describe their conversations as important and insightful.

Even if the teachers are a little over-the-top with their politics, I would like my children spending time with people who respect them and their education that much.
posted by freebird at 3:26 PM on April 3, 2007


Anyway, I am investing heavily in privately-funded spaceflight futures so that I may consturct an orbital ion cannon and blast this wretched peoples collective of hippies fun-bashers out of existance.
posted by Artw at 3:28 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


The original article made me vaguely uneasy. A little too much socialism there for 8-year-olds thanks.

I think it's telling that the teachers (or at least the article) focused so strongly on the development of hierarchical social structures when such a fascinating insight into human nature was staring them in the face:
To make sense of the sting of this disenfranchisement, most of the children cast Liam and Kyla as "mean," trying to "make people feel bad." They were unable or unwilling to see that the rules of the game — which mirrored the rules of our capitalist meritocracy — were a setup for winning and losing. ... So most of the children resolved their disequilibrium by clinging to the belief that the winners were ruthless — despite clear evidence of Liam and Kyla's compassionate generosity.
Personally, I would have spent a whole lot more time analyzing that feeling. To be sure it's a natural feeling, but it's also a self-destructive one. I tend to think that Joe Average would be better served by understanding the rules of the game than casting those more fortunate as "mean." Instead, they dove headfirst into collective whatsis and centralized control.
posted by Skorgu at 3:29 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


posted by eustatic I'm sure the kids could have chosen to 'buy more bricks' as one of their policy options, but it seems they decided to share instead. Way to insult 8-year olds, dude.

The word "idiots" refers to the parents, school administrators, or whoever was in charge of buying the Lego bricks. Clearly, there was a shortage of "cool pieces", which led to kids fighting over who got to use what. So either teach the kids to share, or buy more "cool pieces."

Way to misconstrue what I said, dude.
posted by fandango_matt at 3:31 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


"This quote (from the complete article) stuck in my narrow little craw too.

On the contrary, the larger lesson seems to be - but don't break the community rules imposed by the teachers though!"

Well, except that in both cases, the kids pretty much created the community rules. Which is why this is interesting from a PoliSci point of view.
Further, the test of any given rule is whether it's in the best interests of the people following it (or prevents harm, depending on whether you like your freedom positive or negative). What the teachers did was give the kids a radically broader context for evaluating their own best interests.

And yet most of you guys seem like you're sitting around tryin' to come up with something just a hair better than "Preschool's gay."
posted by klangklangston at 3:32 PM on April 3, 2007


"So either teach the kids to share, or buy more "cool pieces.""

And they taught the kids to share, dufus.
posted by klangklangston at 3:33 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know, I think I'm going to go outside my comfort zone here and actually explicate my opinions here. Of course, I enjoyed the article a great deal. I'm clearly in the minority here, and that's fine.

I think people are being too dismissive of the article, and needlessly snarky to the point of obscuring the true discussionworthy points raised. (On MeFi?!? Say it isn't so.) I especially think the attitudes of blanket dismissal are downright silly. Dismiss it all as Granola-Eating-Tantric-Yoga-Practicing-Lotus-Ass-Wiping Neo-Hippie schlock, tacitly sidestepping the real issue(s) here.

For me, as an educator (at least according to the State of Tennessee), the most interesting issue here revolves around society, the inherrent problems with it, and how to make those problems a little less inherrent. As what might loosely be classified (if you feel the need to do such things) as a "Social Reconstructionist," I obviously bring my own beliefs and biases to bear here, but it seems to me that - a small margin of error notwithstanding - human behavior comes from :
1. Evolution
2. Socialization

We have control over exactly *one* of those factors. To not examine, question, test, and reexamine the *one* thing we can course correct seems an absurd way to worship the status-quo. Also, to go a little further, what is the prime agent of socialization in our society?
Television School.
{I expect to have to take up this end of the debate later, but I will set it aside currently for brevity's sake... Shit, too late.}

By the time they get to me (in high school), I can teach them to question all day long, but not to question everything. Some things, by that point, are socialized to the point of invisibility. The only time to have these discussions, to see the forces of acculturation and socialization in action, is in the earliest stages of development.

Oh, and since I gotta play to the room, I'll write this now so I don't have to write it later:
Spare me your strawmen retort and/or hyperbolic chaining of my statements to extremism I do not advocate (thus trying to discredit rather than discuss). At no point did I say the capitalist superstructure needs to be dismantled (nor, I believe, did the authors), but to deny there are inequalities built into the system is blindness. To refuse to even examine and discuss those inequalities is willful ignorance.
posted by absalom at 3:34 PM on April 3, 2007 [10 favorites]


Enforced sharing. Clearly as soon as the supervisory dictatorship is removed it will descend into civil war.
posted by Artw at 3:35 PM on April 3, 2007 [6 favorites]


I read this awile ago in "Rethinking Schools" magazine. At first I was highly skeptical (banning legos!?), but the teachers involved seemed very thoughtful and I thought the outcome was positive.

Some people here seem to think it's overmuch to interfere with the way kids want to play, but the whole point of preschool, as far as I'm concerned, is teaching kids to play nicely with each other. They need guidance. It may seem restrictive but it's ultimately empowering when the kids get to the point where they can play nicely on their own - their friendships will benefit for life.

I work at a school that is very focused on academics, starting in kindergarten (inner-city, very anxious about test scores), doesn't have recess, and is in a neighborhood where kids can't play outside unsupervised. The result? Kids have trouble getting along. It interferes with learning in the classroom and means the kids are constantly on an emotional roller-coaster because their friendships are so fraught with tense power-dynamics. Better to teach them how to play in an egalitarian way when they are young.
posted by mai at 3:37 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Artw, even if that's what happens (which in my experience is not a given), isn't that just as interesting a lesson for the kids?
posted by freebird at 3:37 PM on April 3, 2007


Klang, I went to an elementary school that routinely pulled "encounter groups" like this, trying to broaden our little minds, and every single one of us resents those motherfuckers for putting us through guilt-trip-inducing, share-or-else armchair-sociologist rap session bullshit. This doesn't broaden children's minds, children know how to play and, unless there's something seriously wrong with them, they know how to share. Yes, I read the whole article and the experiment, to me, seems flawed at the outset. Kids don't need moralizing, they need to play and work things out for themselves. If it comes to fisticuffs, then an adult needs to intervene, but everything else is just masturbation on the part of the teachers.
posted by lekvar at 3:39 PM on April 3, 2007 [6 favorites]


posted by klangklangston And they taught the kids to share, dufus.

They did indeed. They taught them how to share from each according to their ability, and to each according to their needs. And then they taught them that the State will exert eminent domain over Legoville and destroy it if the workers get out of line.
posted by fandango_matt at 3:41 PM on April 3, 2007 [5 favorites]


freebirs - in my experience civil war amongst any group of kids larger than 1 is a given, about once evevry half hour or so. Fortunately the consequences are pretty inconsequential (it makes a lot of noise, sometimes you have to get off your butt and be the UN).
posted by Artw at 3:43 PM on April 3, 2007


And they taught the kids to share, dufus.


Actually it sounds more like they taught the kids to run a collective, Comrade.

Clearly as soon as the supervisory dictatorship is removed it will descend into civil war.

Nice. The pint sized proles will rise up against the big kid bourgeoisie and seize the means of producing a new Legotown. A Legotown where all the buildings will be the same and all animals will be equal... at least until they are the big kids and unwilling to share power.
posted by MikeMc at 3:44 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


If I was running the show I'd make the fact that it was a fascist autocracy completely trnasparent, and demolish legoville every night. That is what true power looks like!

(Dissenters can attemopt to recinstruct the shattered lives of the lego-folk each morning, for all the good it will do).
posted by Artw at 3:45 PM on April 3, 2007 [4 favorites]


I went to an elementary school that routinely pulled "encounter groups" like this, trying to broaden our little minds, and every single one of us resents those motherfuckers for putting us through guilt-trip-inducing, share-or-else armchair-sociologist rap session bullshit.

Then that sounds like bad teachers. I went to a school where we would regularly end up in debates involving the entire school - staff and students - arguing about the rules. Notable ones I remember were "should bad words be OK at school" and "should we be able to form clubs and not let other kids in". Very hippie, often not really getting anywhere - but some of the most valuable time I spent in school I think.

Thinking about what the rules *should* be; thinking about them as somewhat arbitrary and negotiable; seeing how pointless some discussions could get. These were really good things for a child to experience I think.

Years later, I was hitchiking and got a ride from an old teacher. We were talking about the old times, and the subject of those old debates came up - she laughed and said "well, we don't have time to waste on that sort of thing anymore." Nowadays they're all too busy with standardized testing and preperation for the next standardized preparation. I felt it was a tragic loss, and was glad I was at the school when debate about what the school should be was still part of the curriculum.
posted by freebird at 3:48 PM on April 3, 2007


It's 8 year olds at an after-school daycare for crying out loud, let 'em play with fucking Legos until Mommy or Daddy comes to get them. Everything doesn't have to be a lesson on social justice. That has to be the least fun daycare in the country. Damn hippies.

I'd rather have my kids go somewhere where the teachers actually gave a damn about the kids an interacted with them rather then "let 'em play with fucking Legos until Mommy or Daddy comes to get them"

Maybe you don't agree with the teacher's ideology, but at least they were making the kids think and engaging with them.
posted by delmoi at 3:48 PM on April 3, 2007


I think the people who think the teachers created some overly socialist Lego regime are missing two points:

1. The kids are creating the rules.
2. Kids are naturally socialist. Sure, at first they want everything for themselves, but once they realize that is problematic (it's against the rules, or it hurts other kids) they tend to go to a hyper-fairness mentaility -- everyone must have EXACTLY the same.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:48 PM on April 3, 2007


So giving, as in giving to be charitable, is bad because to shows the reciever that I have more stuff and therefore more power? So the act of charity is actually an opperssive act? Do I have this right? If that's the case I should tell the little girl on the late night commercials, you know the one standing in the mud puddle, the one I could save for just pennies a day, to fuck off.
posted by Wonderwoman at 3:50 PM on April 3, 2007


eustatic - I have, indeed, read the article, and I amaware they get the bricks back in the end (albiet in a highly monitored Stalag Lego type way).

Here's what you missed, almost completely: The rules for sharing were rules that the kids came up with themselves. The rule imposed by the teachers that led to this decision was "come up with your own rules democratically."

This occurred after the teachers led the class through a rule-generating rule of "the wealthy make the rules"--the children learned that no one likes to play that game, because the wealthy get hated and yelled at no matter now nice they are, and the poor have no fun.

"Come up with your own rules democratically" is not what the Nazis asked the pow's to do in the stammlager. The Nazis did not conduct surveys of the pow's as to how the stalag would be run.
posted by eustatic at 3:51 PM on April 3, 2007


All structures will be standard sizes.

Pretty much says it all.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:51 PM on April 3, 2007


Forget it Jake, it's Legotown.
posted by Artw at 3:52 PM on April 3, 2007 [13 favorites]


A little too much socialism there for 8-year-olds thanks.

This statement made me think a bit, because the status quo (democracy and capitalism in an ebbing and flowing battle with a managed free market economy) is something that children are exposed to on a regular basis as soon as they're old enough to say "I want that" and "Why does Jimmy's dad have a nicer car than us?"

So while I might ordinarily echo the statement about "too much socialism", suddenly I find myself thinking that perhaps more socialism, and collectivism, and fascism, and capitalism, and every other ism should be consciously explored in classrooms even at a young age.
posted by davejay at 3:54 PM on April 3, 2007


posted by Rock Steady Kids are naturally socialist. Sure, at first they want everything for themselves, but once they realize that is problematic (it's against the rules, or it hurts other kids) they tend to go to a hyper-fairness mentaility -- everyone must have EXACTLY the same.

Yes, but there's always some kid who tries to claim Legos and Bristle Blocks are separate but equal.
posted by fandango_matt at 3:54 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'd rather have my kids go somewhere where the teachers actually gave a damn about the kids an interacted with them rather then "let 'em play with fucking Legos until Mommy or Daddy comes to get them"

I'd rather have my kids go somewhere where the teachers interacted instead of indoctrinated.
posted by MikeMc at 3:55 PM on April 3, 2007 [4 favorites]


Fascinating article. And even more interesting comments so far. I do think the teachers were a bit heavy handed with the collectivism. But I do applaud their efforts in teaching kids of this age critical thinking. I wish I had teachers who did that when I was 8.

Would be interesting for the teachers to introduce a system of currency, maybe based on grades in some way to introduce capitalism and the reward of hard work.
posted by NotMyself at 3:56 PM on April 3, 2007


All structures will be standard sizes.

Pretty much says it all.


Actually it doesn't. Your quote makes it sounds like some imposed doctrine rather than a rule the kids explored themselves. Even if the whole thing fails miserably, isn't that a great exercise for the kids too?

All you people who are so upset about indoctrination and fun-spoiling - did you miss that the kids debated and made these rules? If they suck and make it no fun, they'll have learned that capitalism > socialism or what have you. Why are you so upset about encouraging kids to play with the rules of the game a bit?
posted by freebird at 3:58 PM on April 3, 2007


- did you miss that the kids debated and made these rules?

I doubt the kids would have made any of these rules had they not been prompted by the staff.
posted by MikeMc at 4:00 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]




absalom,

Loved your comments - they almost won me over - but they don't really dilute my acid reaction to the article.

You wrote: "To not examine, question, test, and reexamine the *one* thing we can course correct seems an absurd way to worship the status-quo".

The "one" thing here being "socialization" - as you explained, right?

As the authors explain: "Hilltop is located in an affluent Seattle neighborhood, and, with only a few exceptions, the staff and families are white; the families are upper-middle class and socially liberal."

Strikes me this wasn't exactly a brave, utopic (sic?) social experiment as simply reinforcing do goodism in a play environment with a bunch of relatively well behaved moppets.

Plus, I've always thought the crucial quality of admirable rule breakers is courage - as well as a vision of justice. The author shoving in stuff about Rosa Parks with reference to the lessons of Legoland makes me twitch.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 4:01 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Now, if there was a rule like Ion Cannons do 1d20 damage I could buy that the kids made that up...
posted by Artw at 4:01 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


I doubt the kids would have made any of these rules had they not been prompted by the staff.

OMG IT MUST BE INDOCTRINATION!

Seriously - I also doubt the kids would spontaneously learn to read without the staff's prompting. Does that somehow make it bad?
posted by freebird at 4:03 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


If it comes to fisticuffs, then an adult needs to intervene, but everything else is just masturbation on the part of the teachers.

Followed by storytime and nap.
posted by hal9k at 4:03 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


I agree that the teachers were heavy handed and can't write and sound like zealots and all, but I also agree that they did a pretty good job with a tough situation. The fact is that the older kids were shutting the younger kids out of the Lego fun, sometimes explicitly, and rather than simply forcing them to share the teachers decided to make a lesson plan out of it.

From this, guided by the admittedly commie teachers, the kids came up with some rules (including the somewhat odd standard-sized buildings) that allowed them to have a more level playing field. It's not like life, sure, but for Christ's sake it's daycare not the Ayn Rand Institute.

Also, if you don't take moments like this and use them to teach your kids a little heart you end up with idiotic neocon pricks like John J. Miller spouting nonsensical crap in the National Review Online -- guy can't even make the real mag.
posted by The Bellman at 4:04 PM on April 3, 2007


I concur with the idea that these teachers ruined lego time. This isn't school, this is an afternoon program where the kids just want to mess around and have fun. If they want to play with the legos, I don't see the problem. Turning it into some boring socialist society for the kids sucks. Socialism isn't even fun for adults who try it, so why would eight-year-olds?
posted by KingoftheWhales at 4:05 PM on April 3, 2007


So the act of charity is actually an opperssive act? Do I have this right?

Charity is an oppressive act when it is designed to maintain a control system. See: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Jericho Road. I don't know enough to say whether this applies to your example or not.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

The point of the article was that the "wealthy" givers seemed oppressive to the "poor" kids, even though it was the rule that divided kids into "wealthy" and "poor" that made everything suck, and not the individual sentiments of the "wealthy."

The "wealthy" kids did not have to be mean to participate in an oppressive system, they just had to avoid opposing the system.
posted by eustatic at 4:06 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Idiots. And it's Lego, not Legos.
posted by Elmore at 4:06 PM on April 3, 2007


kthx
posted by Elmore at 4:07 PM on April 3, 2007


posted by lekvar Kids . . . need to play and work things out for themselves. If it comes to fisticuffs, then an adult needs to intervene, but everything else is just masturbation on the part of the teachers.

I believe this was part of the McMartin PreSchool curriculum.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:07 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


All structures will be standard sizes.

Pretty much says it all.

Actually it doesn't. Your quote makes it sounds like some imposed doctrine rather than a rule the kids explored themselves. Even if the whole thing fails miserably, isn't that a great exercise for the kids too?

All you people who are so upset about indoctrination and fun-spoiling - did you miss that the kids debated and made these rules? If they suck and make it no fun, they'll have learned that capitalism > socialism or what have you. Why are you so upset about encouraging kids to play with the rules of the game a bit?


You're reading too much into my comment, freebird. I wasn't really objecting to the experiment so much as pointing out the invitable stifling result. That the kids chose to stifle themselves actually makes it more revealing, IMO.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:08 PM on April 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


but everything else is just masturbation on the part of the teachers

Oh, memories of the hysteria of the '80 and '90s.
posted by ericb at 4:10 PM on April 3, 2007


The thing about the kids making up the rules reminds me very much of my 4 year old neice, who loves rules, any kind of rules. She's constantly trying to apply any rule she's come by to other kids, or passing adults. Interestingly when any rule gets in the way of something she wants to do she ignores it or turns rules-lawyer, trying to weasel her way out of it, so if the kids did come up with the rules (and I share the suspicion that they would be miore than a little directed in that) I wouldn't necessarily put it down to altruism - it could just as well be a desire to become a stasi style snitvh and screw over other kids, while finding loopholes for themselves or lobbying for special favours from the Polit Bureau.

(My neice is, BTW, a thoroughly lovely kid whenshe's not pulling that trick)
posted by Artw at 4:10 PM on April 3, 2007


Jody: Point well taken, and the issue of homogenetity in the classroom is one that cannot be ignored. But, in my mind, the point of the exercise was not even to create that utopia, but simply to get children to examine and question things they might otherwise assume as immutable reality (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation are still at the top of Bloom's Taxonomy) - laudible goals. I would, in fact, be interested in seeing how such an lesson and discussion would run in a similar classroom in the inner city.

I mean, I suppose you'd have to get those class sizes under 40 first.

And, of course, there is another point I might raise here: If the goal is only to instill tools and questions, then what better place to start than what might be considered the very engine of the status-quo: white, upper class suburbs. I mean, the disenfranchised already know the system as built in inequalities. (And, writ large, react in many of the same ways as the disenfranchised children in the article. Anger and apathy, primarily.)

Also: Rosa Parks references are the new Godwin. Insert yuck face here.
posted by absalom at 4:14 PM on April 3, 2007


I think it's a good thing that the teachers take exposing kids to important questions seriously and I think much of what they did was probably good. But I don't like the fact that the teachers were so fixed in a rather extreme ideology and am unwilling to chalk up the children embracing that ideology in the end to mere coincidence. There are scores of other less stifling solutions that could have been pursued had the teachers been less crushingly egalitarian.
posted by I Foody at 4:14 PM on April 3, 2007


while finding loopholes for themselves or lobbying for special favours from the Polit Bureau

Well, she's got good role models in Bush, Cheney, Rove et all!
posted by ericb at 4:14 PM on April 3, 2007


You're reading too much into my comment, freebird. I wasn't really objecting to the experiment so much as pointing out the invitable stifling result. That the kids chose to stifle themselves actually makes it more revealing, IMO.

Fair enough and an interesting point. I actually thought about that interpretation whilst writing, but reacted to the OMGCOMMIES noise. Should have given you the benefit of the doubt as you usually come across as pretty level-headed.

It is a fascinating point. Isn't there a Gore Vidal book where everyone with exceptional talent or ability handicaps themselves to make it all even? There is an interpetation of this outcome which is pretty depressing about society in general. Kids shouldn't learn that about themselves and the world until they're older and can drink!

OTOH, the quote from the children suggests that this just meant each person builds their house with a standard set of pieces. This would obviously encourage creative competition, and be less depressing...
posted by freebird at 4:17 PM on April 3, 2007


I really enjoyed the teaching that was employed, and how it was employed. If there were more education like this, we might have people who were actually interested in voting. Not only voting, but actively debating, being involved in the democratic process. As for making fun of the teachers ideologies, well, I find it hard to believe that 2 hours after school when you are eight is going to make a whole heap of difference when it comes to having to participate in the 'real' world. Might be interesting to see what would happen if any real dialogue took place around here, rather than kneejerk reactions--I know, I know. That would spoil all the fun...
posted by BillJenkins at 4:17 PM on April 3, 2007


Well, she's got good role models in Bush, Cheney, Rove et all!

Heh. Her parents are total Seattle Hippy-Yuppies of the type this article is about. I'm pretty sure she got it from them.
posted by Artw at 4:18 PM on April 3, 2007


Stupid daycares shouldn't giving children any damn toys to play with in the first place. Toys are a waste of money and they just put kids on a lifelong treadmill of always wanting to buy something bright and shiny to make them happy. Knives, rocks, dirt and water are the only things children need to have a good time.
posted by nixerman at 4:21 PM on April 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


...the admittedly commie teachers...

Wow, the centre of political gravity really is screwed hard to the right over there in the States, eh?
posted by imperium at 4:27 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Imperium - if they weren't commies they would have become stock brokers or something, obviously.
posted by Artw at 4:36 PM on April 3, 2007


the centre of political gravity really is screwed hard to the right over there in the States, eh?

Yes, it is screwed hard. Real hard.
posted by jefbla at 4:41 PM on April 3, 2007


China's gonna kick our asses
posted by Mick at 4:47 PM on April 3, 2007


One thing that hasn't been mentioned in this discussion is how the children who were very enthusiastic about the legos in the beginning had their ability to be creative circumscribed by the teachers' nagging and interference. It's quite possible that alot of kids didn't want to play with the legos - some may have favoured more physical activities, or were only mildly/fleetingly interested and made a basic house and then abandoned it from boredom... but the "ringleaders" of the lego group derived continued pleasure from their work. They were engaged in creative play while learning how to negotiate and manage limited resources.

The teachers assumed that every student had an equal desire to play with the legos, but I highly doubt that this was the case. If the teachers gave everyone an equal amount of pieces - enough to make their commie 16x16 plot of land or whatever it was - and let them trade at will, in a month's time the original builders would probably have most of the pieces again, simply because they cared more.

The variation of utility curves across a given population is, incidentally, one of the better game-theoretical arguments against basic redistributive communism.
posted by Spacelegoman at 4:49 PM on April 3, 2007 [12 favorites]


It is a fascinating point. Isn't there a Gore Vidal book where everyone with exceptional talent or ability handicaps themselves to make it all even? There is an interpetation of this outcome which is pretty depressing about society in general. Kids shouldn't learn that about themselves and the world until they're older and can drink!

I was blessed with a few unconventional teachers when I was young who occasionally broke out the odd eye-opening social experiments for the kids. I can't say the experiments did much to improve my view of human nature.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:50 PM on April 3, 2007


Wow, the centre of political gravity really is screwed hard to the right over there in the States, eh?

Very. I think it's ridiculous as hell, and I don't even like commies.
posted by PsychoKick at 4:51 PM on April 3, 2007


National Review writer refuses to examine complex, fascinating issues, chooses numb-nutted oversimplification. Film at Eleven.
posted by facetious at 4:53 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


8 year olds dude...
posted by subaruwrx at 4:54 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Fucking Brilliant! 8 year olds would do a better job running America than those currently in charge. Viva la kinde-revolution!
posted by HyperBlue at 4:55 PM on April 3, 2007


Now that's a solid and interesting case for the prosecution, Spacelegoman. Great point - though your nom de filter suggests you may not be unbiased, mmm?
posted by freebird at 4:56 PM on April 3, 2007


Oh, and I didn't even comment on the National Review article.

My children have spent a large portion of their young lives playing with Legos. They have never, to my knowledge, constructed “community meeting places.” Instead, they make monster trucks, space ships, and war machines. . . Perhaps kids in Seattle, under the careful watch of their latte-sipping guardians, are different. But I don’t think so.

An ordinary person might recognize this as child’s play.

Instead of practicing phonics or memorizing multiplication tables, the children played a special game:

At Hilltop Children’s Center, all imaginations will be a standard size as well: small.

Do I need to say more? Well, other than bringing enormously normative bias on modes of play (Building communities? What hogwash! Every kid really wants to build monster trucks and missile ships.), it's filled entirely with prejoratives about the authors and seeks only gotcha-style attack points (This is just like when they banned dodge ball!, etc.)

Beyond that, it takes someone with zero comprehension of human development to realize than to a child, play is reality. It's not fun to think so, but play is the primary means of acculturation for children of that age. Play is how children explore, test, and practice normative adult social behaviors. I mean, what's the most archtypical children's game of them all? House, for God's sake! As adults, we tend to think that play is sort of the opposite of work, but it's way more than that. A huge portion of play is emulation, and emulation is the first step on the road to creation and action.

But, of course, if he was trying to make a real point instead of hollow rhetoric, I doubt he'd have followed a paragraph chiding the teachers for not letting the kids have fun with a criticism that they are not memorizing multiplication tables, but are instead wasting their time on a game with Legos and, for that matter, essentially blasting them earlier for trying to teach anything at all in a day-care. (Except,I guess, multiplication tables, which I remember being my very favorite game in elementary school.)

In closing: Mr. Miller's imagination clearly only comes in one size.
posted by absalom at 5:03 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


There are scores of other less stifling solutions that could have been pursued had the teachers been less crushingly egalitarian

Careful Comrade, if you keep talking like that the All Children's Legotown Soviet may have agents of the Children's Committee For The Preservation Of The Revolution waiting at your coathook at the end of the day to discuss your anti-proletarian writings.
posted by MikeMc at 5:06 PM on April 3, 2007


OMG that's so funny! It's like you're talking Socialist Totalitarian Propaganda! But it's Ironic! Wow!
posted by freebird at 5:12 PM on April 3, 2007


nixerman writes "Knives, rocks, dirt and water are the only things children need to have a good time."

The words of an idealist. Reality, unfortunately, is not so kind. Kids don't need rocks or knives. What they do need are:
  1. Dirt
  2. Water
  3. Sticks
  4. Legos
  5. Dirt bikes
That is all.
posted by Bugbread at 5:18 PM on April 3, 2007


i'd say something brilliant but you bullies took all the cool ideas

jokes aside, there's something wrong with enforced mediocrity ... and for those who say the kids came up with the rules themselves, i wonder how long a monarchical solution would have lasted in that center

and yeah, that's just what this is ... enforced mediocrity and, in spite of what the day care teachers might think they're teaching, by having a bunch of kids "create" a bunch of houses of identical size, they're preparing them for an existence in soulless suburbs full of "little boxes on the hillside" ... they're preparing them for a world in which the little people are taught to share and the big people give lip service to that while doing something else altogether

Before, it was the older kids who had the power because they used Legos most.

participation and interest is power ... what's next? ... ensuring that the artists in the class don't draw more than the other kids so they don't get better than them?

enforced mediocrity and conformity ... but that's ok, because when they grow up, and they're in their identical little lego houses, with their identical lego cars, the capitalist system will gladly sell them things to make them believe that they're individual, powerful and rebellious people, to make up for the lack of uniqueness and earned self-esteem they feel in themselves

don't these people get it? ... they're not teaching these kids to question the system, they're indoctrinating them into it

by the way, so is anyone who says anything about people not being "special snowflakes"
posted by pyramid termite at 5:18 PM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


I don't understand where the teachers were when the kids starting hording pieces and asserting claims of ownership.

Taking the Legos out of the classroom was both a commitment and a risk. We expected that looking frankly at the issues of power and inequity that had shaped Legotown would hold conflict and discomfort for us all. We teachers talked long and hard about the decision. We shared our own perspectives on issues of private ownership, wealth, and limited resources. One teacher described her childhood experience of growing up without much money and her instinctive critical judgments about people who have wealth and financial ease. Another teacher shared her allegiance to the children who had been on the fringes of Legotown, wanting more resources but not sure how to get them without upsetting the power structure. We knew that our personal experiences and beliefs would shape our decision-making and planning for the children, and we wanted to be as aware as we could about them.


it's hard to do but really cool when adults can help kids construct equitable societies of children, but it's hard to do and requires alot of work. this is a bunch of over-educated child care workers vegging out while Legotown discovers the will to power and then they think it's cool they get to have a consciousness raising session. in the end it's about sitting around chatting with your cool coworkers while the kids discover power relationships by themselves and then they discover who has the real power...
posted by geos at 5:18 PM on April 3, 2007


If we were really proper Libertarians we'd now commense a hundred post debate about how terrible it is that people make jokes about Stalin and not Hitler and how awful it is that peopel just don't know that Stalin was as bad as, or in fact far worse than, Hitler.
posted by Artw at 5:20 PM on April 3, 2007


Haha, freebird - it's definately true that I empathize with the lego enthusiasts, given that I had my own massive lego city during my youth, which had its own now-incomprehensible set of social rules; for example, the lego people with "hair" instead of helmets were of higher status and thus were given the best buildings. I seriously have no idea why at this point.

As an addendum to the above: yes, it is highly likely that to some degree the ringleaders were excluding some children from playing with the legos as much as they would have liked to. And, given that the legos were a shared resource, the teachers should definately have stepped in to prevent the most egregious abuses - by perhaps making sure that there were enough bricks left in the common stockpile for kids who wanted to try building things, or making a rule that if you were making a new building you had to tear one of your old ones down - but these are just common sense rules.

On the other hand, does the value of the teaching about power structures outweigh the stifling of the lego enthusiasts' creativity? I actually do think that teaching about political structure and the nature of society is valuable even at that age, but the method they went about it was arbitratry and almost makes the case for the opposition about the heavy-handed nature of egalititarian social structures. You can't play with legos your way, only OUR way.

I'd like to think they could have left a loosely-regulated legotown while conducting these discussions about power, and then let the ringleaders make their own decisions about whether to change their lego society's rules. The teacher-mandated activity "make a collaborative recreation of a farmer's market" sounds so boring it's almost like a parody of of left-wing joylessness.
posted by Spacelegoman at 5:22 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Next project: Potato factory.
posted by Artw at 5:24 PM on April 3, 2007


Won't you take me to...
Lego Toooowwwwwwnnnn!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:27 PM on April 3, 2007


by the way, there was another solution to all of this ... at the end of the day, or, at the most, the end of the week, all the lego stuff is torn apart and put away for next time and everybody starts with a clean slate

but i guess that's too simple, isn't it?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:28 PM on April 3, 2007


pyramid termite - the fact that they don't do that does seem to be asking for this kind of trouble, yes. I wonder if they'd have to have gone to all the trouble of coming up wioth the Workers Lego Collective if they'd just set that as a policy to begin with.
posted by Artw at 5:32 PM on April 3, 2007


TEACHERS DO SILLY THING; PEOPLE OVERREACT; MEFI OVERREACTS TO BOTH SILLY THING AND OVERREACTION.
/cortex
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 5:33 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


by the way, there was another solution to all of this ... at the end of the day, or, at the most, the end of the week, all the lego stuff is torn apart and put away for next time and everybody starts with a clean slate


I thought that too but maybe the teachers didn't want to destroy the kid's ongoing creative experiment. You would hate to see something that took a ton of work just casually broken down. Then again that could be a lesson about the transitory nature of life or something.
posted by MikeMc at 5:33 PM on April 3, 2007


You would hate to see something that took a ton of work just casually broken down.

Sorry if this seems like over-emphasis, but THAT'S THE FUCKING POINT OF LEGO.
posted by Artw at 5:35 PM on April 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


(also anyone calling it Legos should be hung by the neck)
posted by Artw at 5:36 PM on April 3, 2007


(next to people who, I am told, glue the peices together when they are done)

Over-reaction is my name.
posted by Artw at 5:37 PM on April 3, 2007


THAT'S THE FUCKING POINT OF LEGO.

You got me there, thinking back, my older son son built a lot of Lego Star Wars stuff and they never stayed together more than week or so before they were broken down and incorporated into something else. I stand humbly corrected.
posted by MikeMc at 5:38 PM on April 3, 2007


by the way, there was another solution to all of this ... at the end of the day, or, at the most, the end of the week, all the lego stuff is torn apart and put away for next time and everybody starts with a clean slate

but i guess that's too simple, isn't it?


I'm late to this, but that's pretty much where I was at too, after reading the article. If the constructions, or whatever are to be torn down daily, then there's a greater chance that the kids would naturally cycle through them - with just about everybody having a chance at the lego's eventually.

(Y'know, society should work like that. Every Dec 31st, the NYSE should be liquidated and all the shares distributed by national lottery to all adults, then see who grows their fortune back by December. ;) )

Then again, it's kind of cool when you can build something that hangs around and you can refine it. I think my Lego & Meccano cycles ran to about a week to 10 days, before i tired of what i was making.

But anyway... Seattle teachers overthink things. And if the Nat'l Review is unhappy with the way daycares are run, maybe they can foot the bill to have their best and brightest straighten them out.

And Lego's are still cool.
posted by Artful Codger at 6:04 PM on April 3, 2007


Kudos to these Seattle teachers. I WISH my nine-year-old could have some questioning experiences like these in school. Here in Michigan, they have some role-playing game where students act as bankers, police, merchants, etc., "learning" how to be citizens. Interestingly, they're not taught to question how that society works, or whether it's fair, or how it should be changed. Apparently, that would socialist, or communist, or some other boogeymen.

Absalom is right. I teach high school, and by the time they get to me, students aren't really able to question the rules and mores of society. They've been indoctrinated and enculturated to perceive the way things are as being the way they should be. Too close to the forest to see the trees, and all that.


So, again, kudos to these teachers for not merely sweeping up the Legos (I'll never say Lego as plural, prescriptivists be damned!), admonishing the kids with a polite "share and play nice," and instead making these kids reflect, examine, and define what power is, who gets it, how they get it, and how they should question it. That's education.
posted by John of Michigan at 6:17 PM on April 3, 2007


One thing that hasn't been mentioned in this discussion is how the children who were very enthusiastic about the legos in the beginning had their ability to be creative circumscribed by the teachers' nagging and interference.

I was thinking the same thing Spacelegoman. I make a living as designer/illustrator. I discovered my creative ability at the age of about seven,when the neighbor kid came out to play brandishing a snazzy new Mighty Thor Comic Book. Thanks to my limited seven year old income, and my Mother's rigid anti-foolishness policies, the chances of procuring comic books on my own were slim. So in a flash of seven year old inspiration, i liberated some typing paper and a pen from my mother (maybe she thought I was gonna write my congressman or something) and set about drawing my own comic book. I don't know if it was innate talent or pure white hot envy, but I managed to turn out two pages of "pretty damn good for a seven year old" artwork. And just like that, I had a new favorite thing in the world ever. Had someone come along that day and taught us some sort of everyone gets a comic book lesson, who knows what I would have ended up doing with my life. I'd probably have ended up in some other much more lucrative profession. Like Professional Hobo or Hedge fund manager. Damn you Mighty Thor!

I'm hoping that there were some kids in that class who didn't give a damn about "cool pieces" or standard building size rules, or pretty much anything else besides building whatever they damn well pleased with whatever legos they could get their hands on.

I don't think the teachers were completely off base, but there were probably a few simpler solutions and lessons to be taught. I would have reacted to the destruction of Legotown by appointing one of the less intelligent kids head of KiddieFEMA and made the rest of the kids stand in buckets of water while withholding their snacks.
posted by billyfleetwood at 6:19 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]




These teachers deserve the mockery.

Mock, mock, mock.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:48 PM on April 3, 2007


"Yes, I read the whole article and the experiment, to me, seems flawed at the outset. Kids don't need moralizing, they need to play and work things out for themselves."

Yeah, that works fine until "Kill the pig, drink its blood!"

"Actually it sounds more like they taught the kids to run a collective, Comrade."

Because the mutual self-interest is always bad and scary, Randroid.

"If that's the case I should tell the little girl on the late night commercials, you know the one standing in the mud puddle, the one I could save for just pennies a day, to fuck off."

Well, honestly, the same amount of resources, allocated in ways they'd make a difference, would do more to allieviate the root causes of poverty. But you already knew that, right? You were just being post-ironic.

"I'd rather have my kids go somewhere where the teachers interacted instead of indoctrinated."

Then you're a moron. Sorry, but every interaction takes place in a context that establishes norms, and either reinforces or questions them. There is no freedom from indoctrination.

"urning it into some boring socialist society for the kids sucks. Socialism isn't even fun for adults who try it, so why would eight-year-olds?"

But the "capitalism" model wasn't fun for the kids outside of a minority.

"But I don't like the fact that the teachers were so fixed in a rather extreme ideology and am unwilling to chalk up the children embracing that ideology in the end to mere coincidence."

Rather extreme ideology? You mean democracy? This was mild ideology. This was not decrying trade unionism or exhorting corpratism, or fuck, encouraging racist genetic theories. Christ, it's like being stuck in an Indiana state legislature caucus in here, what with the vast political ignorance and the willingness to stand on knee-jerk anti-communism alone.

"It's quite possible that alot of kids didn't want to play with the legos - some may have favoured more physical activities, or were only mildly/fleetingly interested and made a basic house and then abandoned it from boredom... but the "ringleaders" of the lego group derived continued pleasure from their work. They were engaged in creative play while learning how to negotiate and manage limited resources."

Ah, the "Perhaps they CHOOSE to be poor!" horseshit. From the article, which, if you'd like to dispute basic facts rather than theory, seemed to indicate that a majority of the students had an interest.

"and yeah, that's just what this is ... enforced mediocrity "

Oh, bullshit. Spare us your third-rate Harrison Bergeron. It's enforced mediocrity to ensure an equal access to resources? Because no one can do great things with very little? That sort of thinking went out with De Tocqueville.

"On the other hand, does the value of the teaching about power structures outweigh the stifling of the lego enthusiasts' creativity? I actually do think that teaching about political structure and the nature of society is valuable even at that age, but the method they went about it was arbitratry and almost makes the case for the opposition about the heavy-handed nature of egalititarian social structures. You can't play with legos your way, only OUR way."

That's retarded on such a profound way regarding both art and politics. They do play with the legos their way, just not your way. That doesn't necessitate harm to creativity, or we'd only have rich artists.
posted by klangklangston at 6:51 PM on April 3, 2007 [7 favorites]


That's it atrazine, thanks. What a fucking story.
posted by freebird at 6:54 PM on April 3, 2007


Legos Legos Legos Legos.
posted by ken_zoan at 6:57 PM on April 3, 2007


From the article:

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.

From klangklangston:

the willingness to stand on knee-jerk anti-communism alone.

I will now steal ruthlessly from Clive James and say:

This horseshit about a class-based, capitalistic society will always be attractive to the kind of romantic who believes that he is being oppressed by global capitalism when he maxes out his credit card.
posted by frogan at 7:13 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Careful guys., If we don't chill out someone will come and take our thread away.
posted by Wonderwoman at 7:19 PM on April 3, 2007


klangklang is pissed. Legos = SERIOUS BUSINESS :-(
posted by Spacelegoman at 7:25 PM on April 3, 2007


Spare us your third-rate Harrison Bergeron.

just because you're unlikely to ever be affected by such a regime doesn't mean the rest of us can be unconcerned

It's enforced mediocrity to ensure an equal access to resources?

they had equal access and soon came up with a system that was unequal ... they only came up with an equal access solution because it was imposed on them by the teachers, who withheld the legos until the kids came up with a system the teachers liked

Because no one can do great things with very little?

let me know when they build the taj mahal

i like my solution of just tearing the stuff down at the end of the day, or week ... of course, one probably couldn't get an article printed about that in an educational journal
posted by pyramid termite at 7:28 PM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Holy christ on a cracker! I thought Cambridge 02138 was bad. They practically instituted the no losers in kids soccer BS. Does anyone wonder why kids grow up to be so maladjusted whiners? You have to give kids the opportunity to learn the pecking order, play cops and robbers, play cowboys and indians, win and lose at games. By the time these kids reach highschool they will be so fucked up that we'll have a dozen Columbines. Kids need to learn how to control their emotions. If they live their childhoods doped up on the quasi psychobabble these kids are being fed there's no hope. Check Please!
posted by Gungho at 7:41 PM on April 3, 2007


"What power looks like": Did any of the kids draw a picture of their teachers taking away their Legos?
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 7:43 PM on April 3, 2007


This thread has been great for two things: 1) the absolute freakin' hilarity of people in America associating identical houses with communism (take an archaeology class guys: capitalism + mass production has made (North) America one of the most standardized material cultures in the history of humanity); and 2) reminding why I like and respect klangklangston.
posted by carmen at 7:50 PM on April 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


"This horseshit about a class-based, capitalistic society will always be attractive to the kind of romantic who believes that he is being oppressed by global capitalism when he maxes out his credit card."

So, we don't have a class-based society? And it doesn't enforce its norms through state-sanctioned violence? And capitalism is moral?
Glib replies will always be attractive to those who benefit more from swallowing horseshit than from thinking much about it. How's that horseshit taste, Frogan?

"just because you're unlikely to ever be affected by such a regime doesn't mean the rest of us can be unconcerned"

Oh, please. You're fighting against the handicapper general here on the internet?

"they had equal access and soon came up with a system that was unequal ... they only came up with an equal access solution because it was imposed on them by the teachers, who withheld the legos until the kids came up with a system the teachers liked"

They didn't have equal access— it was controlled by the bigger kids. Were you late to Reading Rainbow?

"let me know when they build the taj mahal"

I assume you're referring to the one in Vegas, as feudalism built the one in India.
But you're not so retarded as to posit that access to resources predicts the quality of art, are you? Because it seems like you're being that retarded, and I just want to make sure.
posted by klangklangston at 7:59 PM on April 3, 2007


"- did you miss that the kids debated and made these rules?"
--I doubt the kids would have made any of these rules had they not been prompted by the staff.
Although I found myself somewhere in the middle of the two extremes that this article seems to have generated, I do wonder what the teachers would have done if the children had come up with an "invisible hand" theory of Lego bricks and toys, i.e. that it was obvious that a child who built the best things would acquire the best pieces, and that it was really only fair that those who wisely exploited their abilities and the pieces at hand had the nicest structures in legotown.

I mean, it seems as possible that the kids came up with the collectivist conclusion, right? Would the teachers have supported the Adam Smith rule, if the collective kids had expressed their preference for a pure capitalism?

And for the record, the proper nomenclature is "Lego bricks and toys," it is neither lego nor legos nor legoes.
posted by illovich at 8:04 PM on April 3, 2007


There's lots of really funny stuff in this thread, but this made me laugh the most:

They taught them how to share from each according to their ability, and to each according to their needs. And then they taught them that the State will exert eminent domain over Legoville and destroy it if the workers get out of line.

What do capitalist states do when the workers "get out of line", by which you apparently mean break the prevailing rules about property ownership?
posted by stammer at 8:06 PM on April 3, 2007


This has been an amazing thread. We've learned:

1. Hippies are bad.
2. If you try to think about what kids are learning from play, you are a hippie.
3. If you try to influence the outcome of aforementioned learning, you are Joseph Stalin and/or the bad architect from The Fountainhead. Plus also still a hippie.
4. It is astonishing that people write stilted prose in online journals devoted to issues of pedagogy and social justice. They should be condemned for their humorlessness and lack of style.
5. Also, they are hippies.
6. Children should be dumped into 12' x12' bins, or other handy spaces, in groups of 6-8 for playtime. The stronger children will do an excellent job of creating a "pecking order" into which the younger will learn to fit.
7. HIPPIES!
posted by BT at 8:13 PM on April 3, 2007 [7 favorites]


the moral of this story is that it's easy to amuse idiots with a stupid puppet show
posted by perianwyr at 8:30 PM on April 3, 2007


You know, I prefer hippie chicks with their au natural look than the Paris Hilton clones floating about these days. Maybe lose the patulli oil...

Sorry, where were we?
posted by maxwelton at 8:31 PM on April 3, 2007


Ugh. The minute all the adults started butting in and making a huge production of Legotown would have been the minute I lost interest in the whole thing, regardless of what ideology they were pushing or where I was in the pecking order. I hope these kids have unstructured, less-supervised playtime as well, because if someone is always hovering around to tell them they're playing wrong, they will grow into more stunted adults than evil, capitalist Legotown could have produced on its own.
posted by Drop Daedalus at 9:18 PM on April 3, 2007


Sorry, where were we?

We were complaining that teachers were teaching kids to think.

I prefer the original '95% of the kids get a shantytown, 5% get mansions' ruleset myself. This would have helped the kids get ready for the real world.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:36 PM on April 3, 2007


ALL HIPPIES DIE
posted by homunculus at 9:40 PM on April 3, 2007


When I was about 10, the same problem arose in my TAG room. We got a huge set of legos, I was thrilled as I had inherited mine from my sister and most of them were stuck together with grape juice. At first I got to play but pretty soon all the cool pieces started disappearing. The boys were hoarding them. A few of them would work together on one project, such as a cool car, and then stash the car and all the pieces they wanted to use in some hiding place. If you found the stashed stuff, it was an unwritten rule that those legos belonged to them and you had better leave it alone. Even though I really wanted to play, I never questioned those legos were theirs and I soon stopped playing with legos altogether.

The same process happened a few years later when the TAG room acquired it's first computer. By the time high school rolled around, the computers in the library were seen as belonging to that same group of boys and I, as a girl without the requisite computer experience gained in TAG, was seen as an interloper taking up time on a machine that would be put to better use by one of those lego stealing thugs.

It's not as if you set aside your toys some time in 4th grade and decide to start learning about life. Our roles and belief systems are formed through play. When you play house, the moms, dads, and kids are all acted in ways that the children think those roles are filled. If children aren't guided by adults on occasion, we'd have a flippin' Lord of the Flies on our hands!

Do you think an 8 year old in Sunday school can completely comprehend the difference between their religion and the one taught at the church down the street? The reason why that child is there is to begin learning the answers and thinking about them. If someone had helped us understand how we could all play with the legos using a system we had devised ourselves, we might have been better able to regulate similar scarce resources latter in life and I wouldn't have missed out on learning programming in high school. Boohoo, feel sorry for me.
posted by Foam Pants at 10:07 PM on April 3, 2007


You can't say "you can't play" on This American Life (Act 3).
posted by cytherea at 10:16 PM on April 3, 2007


Klangklangston appears to be one fo the exceptionally few people in this thread who has (a) read the article and (b) understands it.

That or a bad case of debilitating mental retardation has struck MetaFilter. Because FFS, what the teachers did was great teaching.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:18 PM on April 3, 2007


Until I read what klangklangston was writing, I sincerely thought someone had replaced MeFi with Slashdot. It was rather disturbing, in fact.

In the end, I think the kids could have come up with a better system, but it's the one they chose!

If I ever had kids, I'd definitely want them to be exposed to this sort of thing. There's nothing wrong with teaching kids through play. They weren't being indoctrinated, they were learning from an experience they were (mostly) creating themselves.

Maybe it helps that I went to a Montessori preschool. If I'd never been exposed to anything but the almost universally stifling public schools I attended I'd probably lash out at situations such as the one described in the article, too.

BTW, here's a hint..that John J. Fuckwad fellow is trolling, in the finest Internet tradition. It appears a great many people in this thread fell for it.
posted by wierdo at 11:59 PM on April 3, 2007


Until I read what klangklangston was writing, I sincerely thought someone had replaced MeFi with Slashdot.

In Societ Legostan, teachers build you!
posted by Artw at 12:13 AM on April 4, 2007


What are these people, communists? I'm all for encouraging cooperation, but this is the most asinine thing I've ever read!
posted by MythMaker at 12:16 AM on April 4, 2007


Mythmaker - shh! Didn't you hear? Anyone who mocks this as the act of self righteous fun-haters who suck the joy from a simple childs activity hasn't understood the article.
posted by Artw at 12:24 AM on April 4, 2007


"Anyone who mocks this as the act of self righteous fun-haters who suck the joy from a simple childs activity hasn't understood the article."

Like five fresh fish, I'm certain that everyone who disagrees with me either didn't read the article or didn't understand it. Furthermore, I'm also certain that everyone who agrees with me, or has no opinion on the matter, also either didn't read the article or didn't understand it. I'm the only person who both read it and understood it. This is because I'm much smarter than the rest of you. Doesn't the fact that all of my opinions are correct demonstrate this unambiguously? If you disagree, you either didn't read this comment or you didn't understand it.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:31 AM on April 4, 2007 [6 favorites]


Response to “Why We Banned Legos”

The article “Why We Banned Legos,” written by two teachers at Hilltop Children’s Center and published in the Winter 2006/07 edition of Rethinking Schools, has generated much interest. We encourage thoughtful dialogue about education, and appreciate the opportunity presented to talk about our school’s innovative and successful model of inquiry-based learning and our commitment to anti-bias work.

Hilltop Children’s Center has been in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood for more than 30 years. During this time, Hilltop has become a model learning center guiding professional tours for early childhood and school-age child care providers from throughout the U.S. and Canada. We are committed to an emergent curriculum approach and to the principles of anti-bias work.

What is emergent curriculum?

At Hilltop, we don’t plan our curriculum weeks or months in advance, as is typical in most child care programs. Instead, we grow curriculum in collaboration with children and their families. This approach is child-centered and inquiry-based. We observe children and take cues from them, providing stimuli and provocation to encourage exploration, analysis and reflection.

Hilltop is a community of inquiry in which teachers, children and families learn with and from one another in the context of deep, respectful relationships. This educational approach provides fertile ground for risk-taking and the kind of collaborative work that helps all of us contribute to our community, without deeply compromising our own well being.

At Hilltop we do not have a final product in mind or a preconceived notion of how a curriculum investigation will unfold. We trust the inquiry and reflection process, in which children are offered the opportunity to explore their assumptions and theories, to provide us with an understanding of what next steps to offer children in the investigative process.

In this process children become powerful researchers and problem solvers that know how to agree and disagree without hurting themselves or others. Rather than working in isolation, children get to experience a diversity of ideas and perspectives that inform their rich collaborations.
posted by lacus at 12:46 AM on April 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, I've finally gotten through the whole thread (whew!). I understand the points being made by many who supported what these teachers did, and I'm sympathetic (I'm a leftie myself) but it seems to me that the lesson they are teaching is misleading when it comes to these kids dealing with real life.

We *don't* live in a communist country, and we *don't* all have equal access to resources. I think that the teachers should have made sure that anyone who wanted to participate was allowed to participate, but children, even at an early age, ought to learn about reality, which is that some people lead, some people follow. Some people care about things more, and so they put more effort into those things, and some people care about things less.

I believe in equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. By trying to force these kids into an equality of outcome, they stifle the innovation and creativity of the kids who really care about what they are doing.

If one or two of them are, effectively, the Lego "leaders," i.e. they came up with the initial idea, and designed the underlying concept, then why not let them continue to lead. There can be a democratic election, if you so desire, but, as an article here recently pointed out, there is no such thing as a leadless society. All their indoctrination was doing was showing the kids who were really into it that they aren't allowed to be so into it.
posted by MythMaker at 12:50 AM on April 4, 2007


er, leaderless
posted by MythMaker at 1:58 AM on April 4, 2007


In a utopian libertarian society, the middle-class kids would've held down the poor kids while the rich kids shat on them.

Life ain't fair.
posted by dirigibleman at 2:01 AM on April 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


This article illustrates perfectly the idea that there is a fixed quantity of wealth which can be divided up in a number of ways. It is the idea which underlies all socialist economic principles, and is profoundly untrue.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 2:44 AM on April 4, 2007


They didn't have equal access

you moron ... the legos are sitting all there in a box or a tub or whatever ... they don't jump out at any one particular kid do they? ... some of the kids weren't tied down in their chairs were they?

they had equal access ... because of personalities, interest and other factors they did not end up with equal results

But you're not so retarded as to posit that access to resources predicts the quality of art, are you?

here's a cardboard box and a pair of rubberbands ... i expect a stellar performance of beethoven's symphonies

i'll make it easy ... you can hit the rubber bands with anything you like

ps - my main argument - that this little exercise prepares the kiddies for life in modern corporate suburban america, not soviet russia, flew completely over everyone's head, didn't it?

they're not programming these kids to question the world and how it runs, they're programming them to conform to it

but then, you're probably also under the delusion that you and the ideas you represent are not part of the establishment these days

one law for the lion and the lamb is tyranny
posted by pyramid termite at 4:47 AM on April 4, 2007


But I try to keep an open mind,

Haha NRO April Fools!!!
posted by rxrfrx at 5:18 AM on April 4, 2007


A few thoughts:

1. Free market types: By your own theory, don't live in hippie towns and send your kids to hippie schools. You have choices, courtesy of the market. Problem solved.

2. Anything ... ANYTHING that cause kids to question authority and the status quo is a damn good thing.

3. And now, some words from Uncle Bob:

Well, I wus lookin' everywhere for them gol-darned Reds.
I got up in the mornin' 'n' looked under my bed,
Looked in the sink, behind the door,
Looked in the glove compartment of my car.
Couldn't find 'em . . .

I wus lookin' high an' low for them Reds everywhere,
I wus lookin' in the sink an' underneath the chair.
I looked way up my chimney hole,
I even looked deep inside my toilet bowl.
They got away . . .

Well, I wus sittin' home alone an' started to sweat,
Figured they wus in my T.V. set.
Peeked behind the picture frame,
Got a shock from my feet, hittin' right up in the brain.
Them Reds caused it!
I know they did . . . them hard-core ones.

Well, I quit my job so I could work alone,
Then I changed my name to Sherlock Holmes.
Followed some clues from my detective bag
And discovered they wus red stripes on the American flag!
That ol' Betty Ross . . .

Well, I investigated all the books in the library,
Ninety percent of 'em gotta be burned away.
I investigated all the people that I knowed,
Ninety-eight percent of them gotta go.
The other two percent are fellow Birchers . . . just like me.

Now Eisenhower, he's a Russian spy,
Lincoln, Jefferson and that Roosevelt guy.
To my knowledge there's just one man
That's really a true American: George Lincoln Rockwell.
I know for a fact he hates Commies cus he picketed the movie Exodus.

Well, I fin'ly started thinkin' straight
When I run outa things to investigate.
Couldn't imagine doin' anything else,
So now I'm sittin' home investigatin' myself!
Hope I don't find out anything . . . hmm, great God!
posted by a_day_late at 5:28 AM on April 4, 2007


weirdo said:

I sincerely thought someone had replaced MeFi with Slashdot. It was rather disturbing, in fact.

That's funny, because I thought I had stumbled onto a Rush Limbuagh message board...
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:20 AM on April 4, 2007


"but it seems to me that the lesson they are teaching is misleading when it comes to these kids dealing with real life.

We *don't* live in a communist country, and we *don't* all have equal access to resources. I think that the teachers should have made sure that anyone who wanted to participate was allowed to participate, but children, even at an early age, ought to learn about reality, which is that some people lead, some people follow."

When you're looking for evidence of being a tool, reread this statement. Feel free to modify it to things like "Kids need to learn about the real world. That's why the boys have trucks and the girls have dolls." The kids both learned about the real world, and tried some solutions to a situation that the kids (and the teachers) felt was unjust. Whether those solutions succeed or fail is also a learning experience.

There's a famous social science experiment that is repeated every few years, in which adults are asked to set the rules for, essentially, a lottery, where a certain amount of money is distributed among the group. In the 50s and 60s, these adults would vote to have most of the shares equal, with one or two larger slightly. In more recent repetitions, people are voting to have one or two large shares, and then counting on luck to be the ones who get them. Even adults act against their own interest, whereas these kids are being taught to reformulate a system to utilize mutual self-interest. All of the cries of "communism" are both indicative of the vast disservice Americans get in political education and the bizarro legacy of the cold war.


"you moron ... the legos are sitting all there in a box or a tub or whatever ... they don't jump out at any one particular kid do they? ... some of the kids weren't tied down in their chairs were they?

they had equal access ... because of personalities, interest and other factors they did not end up with equal results"

Really? Hey, so, we all must have equal access to resources, it's just that personality, interest and other factors keep me from having all the diamonds I want.
Oh, you say that sometimes power structures, even informal ones, regulate access to resources in a way that isn't based on need or capability? Why didn't you say so? I thought you were a fucking retard for a moment.

"here's a cardboard box and a pair of rubberbands ... i expect a stellar performance of beethoven's symphonies

i'll make it easy ... you can hit the rubber bands with anything you like"
How about I play a Banjo instead? Or is that limiting my creativity?
Hey, if materials are the determiner of quality, Versailles must be the signle greatest artwork ever! And why don't more architects build solely with platinum bricks? It must only be because nasty collectivism has limited their access, not because resources aren't correlated with the success of the piece. And Jesus, you must hate poetry, since that hardly takes any money to make at all!
So, the answer was "Yes, I am that fucking retarded." It's OK, I know that if you just had a little more money, your arguments wouldn't be so incredibly stupid.

"ps - my main argument - that this little exercise prepares the kiddies for life in modern corporate suburban america, not soviet russia, flew completely over everyone's head, didn't it?"

No, it was such a combination of tautology and horseshit that everyone felt they'd be doing you a kindness by ignoring it.
Since you insist— Between the alternatives of teaching the children some critical thinking skills and teaching them none, teaching them some is better even if they are children of privilege. The argument that these are "establishment" ideals makes me wonder where you live, as my establishment tends to do things like push for tax cuts for the richest and encourage policies that reinforce social stratification. Is your president some sort of crusader for equality and egalitarianism? I didn't realize you were posting from the Bizarro Homeworld. You am brilliant! Hello, genius!
posted by klangklangston at 6:58 AM on April 4, 2007


The kids should have been required to build a Palace of Soviets out of legos, complete with a benevolent Lenin gazing out over the classroom.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:21 AM on April 4, 2007


Really? Hey, so, we all must have equal access to resources

no ... they had equal access to LEGOS ... are you incapable of responding or understanding a simple statement of fact?

So, the answer was "Yes, I am that fucking retarded."

the question was "is it possible to get klangklangston so wound up and frothing that he can lose all coherency and spew out half-digested ideas and half-assed insults like a fool?"

why does anyone bother to talk to you at all? ... all you do is insult people, spew moronic opinions, and act like a 12 year old asshole ...

grow up, will you?
posted by pyramid termite at 7:24 AM on April 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Two kids enter, one kid leaves. Who runs Legotown?
posted by MikeMc at 7:27 AM on April 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh my sweet Christ, y'all a bunch of fucking morons.

When you're looking for evidence of being a tool, reread this statement

I thought you were a fucking retard for a moment.

No, it was such a combination of tautology and horseshit that everyone felt they'd be doing you a kindness by ignoring it.

Were you late to Reading Rainbow?

Because it seems like you're being that retarded, and I just want to make sure.

Looks like that "Students Educating Each other about Discrimination" education really did wonders for you, klang. You have absorbed the concepts of group harmony and respect. Kudos, sir!
posted by pardonyou? at 7:45 AM on April 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


"no ... they had equal access to LEGOS ... are you incapable of responding or understanding a simple statement of fact?"

I see, the problem here seems to be that you're selectively illiterate. Y Kant Pyramid Read?

"why does anyone bother to talk to you at all? ... all you do is insult people, spew moronic opinions, and act like a 12 year old asshole ..."

I've tried to describe the problem with those irony pills you take, pyramid, but then you've gone and given yourself an overdose.

"Looks like that "Students Educating Each other about Discrimination" education really did wonders for you, klang. You have absorbed the concepts of group harmony and respect. Kudos, sir!"

I think you mistake the purpose of SEED, sir. But as you also mistook the point of the article, and responded with yet another hackneyed Lenin snark, I doubt that I should expect any great epiphanies.
posted by klangklangston at 7:58 AM on April 4, 2007


I think you mistake the purpose of SEED, sir.

That's right, the "D" stands for Discrimination, not Douchebaggery so you'll have to excuse Klang if he's incapable of recognizing it. But then again, I'm just a moron...
posted by MikeMc at 8:06 AM on April 4, 2007


Christ on a pogo stick.

The teachers were faced with three choices:

1. Continue the status quo, in which a few powerful kids monopolize the lego and other children who wish to participate are cut out.

2. Arbitrarily set new rules, forcing the children to toe the line the teachers want and making no one particularly happy.

3. Help the children come to a new, fair system of lego sharing. The children take responsibility for their classroom society, ownership of the problem, and even learn a little in the process.

It was an example of damn fine teaching. And to judge by the reaction in this thread, the USA is in trouble. Unless you're so lucky as to have a benevolent dictator reform your society, you're never going to resolve your problems. And, lordy, does the USA have problems by nearly every measure of civilized, modern society.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:44 AM on April 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


But as you also mistook the point of the article, and responded with yet another hackneyed Lenin snark, I doubt that I should expect any great epiphanies.

No, I got it. I was just making a funny. I don't think the teachers are "communists," or were promoting communist views. I just think they're ninnies so enamored with their concepts of Utopia that they force inane restrictions on 8-year-olds playing with blocks.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:59 AM on April 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


So, we don't have a class-based society?

No, we don't. Anyone can better themselves. If you don't believe this, I feel sorry that you feel trapped in a box of your own making.

And it doesn't enforce its norms through state-sanctioned violence?

No, it doesn't. We have laws. Want to change those laws? Call a congressman.

Yeesh, it wasn't that long ago that someone on the street told Dick Cheney to go fuck himself. You can go view it on YouTube. Today I read that Thailand blocked access to YouTube because there was a video making fun of their government. So tell me more about enforcing norms.

And capitalism is moral?

Yes, it is. And it's better than anything else out there.

Glib replies will always be attractive to those who benefit more from swallowing horseshit than from thinking much about it.

Glib? Stop sucking on the Tom Cruise vocabulary pipe.

How's that horseshit taste, Frogan?

Tastes like the American Dream.

Here's a final little bon mot to chew on ...

Some of you are arguing for more rules about Legos.
posted by frogan at 9:46 AM on April 4, 2007


It's funny that the National Review article headline screams "Banning Legos" when in fact the teachers did no such thing. Why should I even bother reading the actual article when the author comes right out of the gate with the hysterical inaccuracies?

The teachers' viewpoints were definitely to the left of my own, but I still think what they did was pretty cool. It sounds like they really made the kids think, which is sadly rare in the American classroom. If the free market is so great, surely it can stand up to some critical examination, right?
posted by 912 Greens at 10:00 AM on April 4, 2007


It's funny that the National Review article headline screams "Banning Legos" when in fact the teachers did no such thing. Why should I even bother reading the actual article when the author comes right out of the gate with the hysterical inaccuracies?

Actually...the title of the Rethinking Schools article is: "Why We Banned Legos". So, you can see where there might be some confusion.
posted by MikeMc at 10:13 AM on April 4, 2007


Actually...the title of the Rethinking Schools article is: "Why We Banned Legos". So, you can see where there might be some confusion.

Yeah, I just noticed that. Those damn commies need to work on using more specific vocabulary.
posted by 912 Greens at 10:17 AM on April 4, 2007


"No, we don't. Anyone can better themselves. If you don't believe this, I feel sorry that you feel trapped in a box of your own making."

Yeah, that's well-supported by both social research and years of political research. If Horatio Alger can do it, we all can!

"No, it doesn't. We have laws. Want to change those laws? Call a congressman."

What happens if you break those laws? Is there no societally-legitimized forceful response? Please do join us again when you know what the fuck you're talking about. Perhaps your congressman can explain it in more detail.

"Yes, it is. And it's better than anything else out there."

No, actually, capitalism is generally regarded as explicitly amoral. If a dollar can be made by clubbing orphans to death with Das Capital, that dollar will be made if unrestrained by outside social forces. Christ, haven't you even read The Wealth of Nations? Even Adam Smith concedes the need to mitigate capitalism through external morality.

"Some of you are arguing for more rules about Legos."

No. Some of us are arguing for making transparent rules that already exist, and questioning those rules.
posted by klangklangston at 10:21 AM on April 4, 2007


Interesting thread. MeFi is made up generally of left wing tech related folks. This thread kinda splits that into its two component parts.

The "Leftist Nerds" don't want anyone coming between kids and their legos.
The "Nerdy Leftists" want equitable resource distribution.

I'm more of a centrist. A "Lerdy Neftist". So I'd be cool with letting the kids just play with their legos, and also cool with what actually happened in this case. Makes me a bit of an outcast in this discussion.

912 Greens : "It's funny that the National Review article headline screams 'Banning Legos' when in fact the teachers did no such thing. Why should I even bother reading the actual article when the author comes right out of the gate with the hysterical inaccuracies? "

Well, the teachers entitled their own article "Why We Banned Legos", even though they didn't, so "hysterically inaccurate headlines" seem to be the order of the day. Indeed, they're something that bring the left and right together!
posted by Bugbread at 10:29 AM on April 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


What a surprise that MeFi is of the collective opinion that might makes right, and that learning to share is communism. No wonder America is seriously fucked up.
posted by dayvin at 10:55 AM on April 4, 2007


Dayvin nails it.

Metafilter is NOT a raging hotbed of libertarian thought, instead the situation here is that the use of the title "Why we banned legos" is hugely inflamatory to nerds. Couple that with the fact that the solution they eventually come up with is pretty commie (and therefore A) funny and B) sounds no fun at all) and you get this thread.

Also we seem to have a bit of an influx of people with no sense of humour whatsoever into the thread of late, telling us we should all be very ashamed. That's never going to make anyone happy.

Oh, BTW, my neice who is completely wonderful apart from maybe her rules-lawyering habit? It turns out SHE GOES TO THAT SCHOOL. Ulp.
posted by Artw at 11:04 AM on April 4, 2007


And by Dayvin nails it I mean bugbread

Dayvin, I'm sorry, but no, you're just being a self righteous prig.
posted by Artw at 11:06 AM on April 4, 2007


"hysterically inaccurate headlines" seem to be the order of the day. Indeed, they're something that bring the left and right together!

Well, I can't argue with that. Though now I'm wondering if there was actually a reason that the teachers used "banned" in the first place (other than to piss off nerds). Maybe it was a bit tongue-in-cheek? Wait, I forgot, liberals have no sense of humor.

Anyway, what I think a lot of people in this thread are not getting is that the politics of the Lego experiment are secondary to the skillful and passionate teaching that took place along the way. These teachers were not indoctrinating anyone. They were making the kids question their assumptions and think critically. That's why the politics don't matter: the kids are learning to think in a way that will help them choose their own values and beliefs in way that's both rational and humane.

I'm curious to know how the Lego laws work out. I wonder if there will be updates....
posted by 912 Greens at 11:27 AM on April 4, 2007


the politics of the Lego experiment are secondary to the skillful and passionate teaching that took place along the way

+1 Insightful/Agrees-with-me
posted by freebird at 12:34 PM on April 4, 2007


Well, reading between klang, pyramid and others shitting all over each other, I'd like to suggest something.

I doubt that many people here are disapproving of the idea of letting kids make their own rules. I'm certainly not. I think kids are phenomenally more competent than we adults give them credit for and any chance to get them to reason from first principles should be taken gleefully. I would much rather have these teachers teach my kids than Joe And Jane Average Public School Teachers. They did a fine thing, one that should be commended and emulated.

That doesn't mean there isn't room for criticism. I find it astonishing, nay inconceivable that eight year olds, all by themselves, came up with a social system that so exquisitely aligns with that espoused by their teachers and parents. That makes me a little less enthusiastic. If the kids had come up with a socialist societal model in a less politically unified environment I would be shocked and far less suspicious.

The other thing that turns me off is what I mentioned earlier. The teachers seemed to bypass the very real and very real-world-important topic of perceptions and reactions to power and inequality in favor of eliminating (or attempting to eliminate) that inequality, and they did so by opaquely exercising their unimpeachable authority.

I would have liked to have seen some examination and discussion of that power dynamic. Instead of trying to eliminate imbalances, what about balancing them? What about setting up similar arrangements with things other than Lego with other children 'in power', so everyone can experience both sides? What about that whole democracy thing, electing leaders, term-limits (also known a taking turns)? What about examining and shining some light on the emotional effects that power imbalances have and finding ways of dealing with them? Instead of leaving it at "the people in power are mean" I would have loved to see the roles reversed and those statements reevaluated.

Any examination of society's rules and norms is fantastic for an educational environment and I applaud the thought, but the bottom line is I don't think the teachers were objective enough. I feel that their own prejudices interfered with and colored the outcome and that that possibility was not taken seriously, and the tone and wording of the article itself reinforced this. In other words, I felt like this teaching technique would be far more valuable if the teachers had not had a horse in the race, otherwise all you've done is teach the kids to adapt to whatever their authority figures feel is best.

On preview: 912 Greens I don't think it's so obvious that the kids were learning any such thing. Sure, there was some fantastic teaching, but in the end the solution that was adopted was astonishingly similar to the political choices of the teachers and probably parents. That raises some red flags for me, and clearly for others. I agree in spirit though, if more teachers taught like this we'd all be better off. I just think we can do even better is all.
posted by Skorgu at 1:28 PM on April 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


In the 50s and 60s, these adults would vote to have most of the shares equal, with one or two larger slightly. In more recent repetitions, people are voting to have one or two large shares, and then counting on luck to be the ones who get them. Even adults act against their own interest

Your example only supports your conclusion if the utility vs. wealth curve is concave, which is by no means an established truth.

Legos, Legos, Legos, Legos. When the revolution comes, prescriptivists will be first against the wall, and that wall will be made out of Legos.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:48 PM on April 4, 2007


Sure, there was some fantastic teaching, but in the end the solution that was adopted was astonishingly similar to the political choices of the teachers and probably parents.

yes, and the resultant legoville was astonishingly similar to the soulless and unchanging suburbs we've built for the last 50 years in this country

Some of you are arguing for more rules about Legos.

yeah, they are ... and they don't even notice that instead of providing an alternative to american society, they've actually produced a microcosm of it

it doesn't surprise me that a lot of people don't see this, or deny it

most fish can't explain water too well, either
posted by pyramid termite at 2:52 PM on April 4, 2007


klang- Why do you end up name calling and ad hominem attacks?

You called me a tool, when I never said anything insulting to you. Quite the contrary:

I understand the points being made by many who supported what these teachers did, and I'm sympathetic


Can't we have a civilized discussion about this without name calling? As has already been pointed out, this is hardly a good example of someone trying to level out the power structure between individuals. Attacking someone with name calling when you disagree with their opinion leaves something to be desired.

I, and clearly many others on here, believe that the teachers overreacted, and that their position on this isn't helpful to the children. You disagree. Can't we at least be civil?
posted by MythMaker at 4:34 PM on April 4, 2007


I can't speak for anyone else, but my objection isn't really the teachers concerns about their idea of fairness, nor do I really object to the outcome. What rubs me the wrong way is the self-absorbed earnestness of the teachers. Everything about the article struck me as being about their oh-so-noble concern about social equity and their oh-so-noble attempt to teach this to these kids. It's about them, not the kids. I don't want those kinds of people teaching children.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:03 PM on April 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


"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."
I hate to be skeptical that an 8-year old actually said this, but I am.

Not because the kid uses the phrase "public use" but because the argument that it answers seems to be more a parody of business/capitalist arguments for getting unfair access to resources than an actual exchange children would have.

A facet of this that I'm surprised that the non-lefties in the discussion have not seemed to have emphasized is that pre-intervention, the children were playing naturally in a naive capitalist model, and had a natural intuition about western ideas of property ("If I buy it, I own it/If I receive it as a gift, I own it/If I make it myself, I own it/If I own it, I make the rules about it).

My inner capitalist also points out a suspicious bit, as it may reflect biases of the teachers (who's leftist/collectivist ideals are fairly clear, let's at least admit):
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.
Not to egg the objectivist faction on, but it sounds at least plausible to me that legotown became more contentious after a small number of kids made it and other kids wanted to play after their work had established legotown, and were left out because resources had already been exhausted.

Obviously, I wasn't there and since I only have one report to base it on, I won't assert that my version is true... but there is enough language that makes me suspicious that this may have involved the worst nightmare of the capitalist: that they will toil for their own enrichment, only to have a mob take what they've made (after it's built) for the enrichment of the mob.

Of course, we're talking about school and no forced redistribution of wealth, and I think many who have lauded the eagerness of the teachers to teach are quite correct that this school sounds preferable to many... but still, I think as a parent I would want an honest discussion about how these rules came to be, and would want to be very sure that my children hadn't been gently coerced into what seems to be faily radical collectivism.

I mean seriously.
Lukas: "I think that houses should only be as big as 16 bumps one way, and 16 bumps the other way. That would be fair." ["Bumps" are the small circles on top of Lego bricks.]
....
"We should have equal houses. They should be standard sizes.... We should all just have the same number of pieces, like 15 or 28 pieces."
....
All structures will be standard sizes.
I'm for social justice as much as... well, more than a lot of people are anyway. But on the other hand, crap like "All structures will be standard sizes" was out of style before the Soviet Union was gone, comrades.
posted by illovich at 6:55 PM on April 4, 2007


Huh. I was going to say that the only shame is that these privileged kids get this extremely expensive and resource-intensive education, while poor kids have to skip gym and music class.

And y'all are worried about forced collectivism for a group of 8-year-olds who play together? Oh well. Different priorities and educational beliefs, I suppose.

What rubs me the wrong way is the self-absorbed earnestness of the teachers. Everything about the article struck me as being about their oh-so-noble concern about social equity and their oh-so-noble attempt to teach this to these kids. It's about them, not the kids.

Yeah, all those other teachers out there are totally selfless. All they care about are the kids. /snark
posted by mrgrimm at 7:57 AM on April 5, 2007


"Yeah, all those other teachers out there are totally selfless. All they care about are the kids. /snark"

I agree, there's lots of other bad teachers. But there's a certain sort of (often young) person who is ostensibly idealist and wants to make the world a better place and who wants to help other people and who is utterly obsessed with themselves with regard to these things. They're performing in front of a mirror, in a way. That the kids happened to be available for them to demonstrate their good intentions, sensitivity, and commitment is just a means to and end that isn't really about those kids.

Now this isn't necessarily the case with these teachers. But many things in that article gave me that impression.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:03 AM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


only be as big as 16 bumps

This was the kids' own solution. They developed it, andthey learned something in doing so. Too, they're very likely to learn something in implementing their solution, ie. that "16 bumps" as a measure of fairness sucks.

Sure beats having arbitrary rules laid down by annoying adults.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:23 PM on April 5, 2007


five fresh fish writes "Sure beats having arbitrary rules laid down by annoying adults."

Well, see, there's kinda the rub. They started with rules made by the kids. The teachers didn't like them, so they kept revising the rules until the teachers did.
posted by Bugbread at 5:43 AM on April 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


I just re-read the article. I can not see any place where you would get the impression the teachers kept revising the rules. Please identify the passage that supports your statement.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:49 PM on April 6, 2007


I can not see any place where you would get the impression the teachers kept revising the rules.

he said the KIDS kept revising the rules
posted by pyramid termite at 6:03 PM on April 6, 2007


five fresh fish : "I can not see any place where you would get the impression the teachers kept revising the rules. Please identify the passage that supports your statement."

Sorry, my grammar was unclear. "They" means "the kids". The kids played according to rules the kids had set. The teachers didn't like the results of those rules, so the teachers had the kids revise those rules until, eventually, the kids had come up with rules that the teachers liked, at which point the teachers stopped having the kids revise the rules.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not on of the "this is awful, the teachers suck" people. I'm right in the middle, where having the kids play as they want seems fine to me, and using the problems as an opportunity to think about ownership et al also seems fine to me. But there is, from the kids' point of view, a bit of an element of "arbitrary decision making by adults", in the sense that the adults were deciding which kid-created-rules to accept and which to continue "investigation and discussion" of.
posted by Bugbread at 6:06 PM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ah.

I should think if the kids were to make the rules wholly unguided/unquestioned by the teachers, they'd soon end up in a Lord of the Flies scene.

I don't actually see where the teachers themselves revised the rules; rather, they challenged the students to think through their rules and their consequences.

And regardless, it would seem that it all fits nicely under the scope of "teaching" in any case. Excellent teaching, afaict.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:48 PM on April 6, 2007


Only excellent teaching if you're planning on having the kids grow up on a commune, IMHO.

If you want those kids to grow up and go into investment banking, on the other hand, they're going to be real confused.
posted by MythMaker at 10:34 AM on April 7, 2007


If you want those kids to grow up and go into investment banking, on the other hand, they're going to be real confused.

from what? ... identical cubicles? ... generic desks? ... mix and match computers? ... hell, there's probably more individuality in your average commune than your average investment office

these kids are getting an excellent start for corporate america
posted by pyramid termite at 3:35 PM on April 7, 2007


I think that teachers trying to actually teach children something about the real world is admirable. I don't necessarily agree with taking Legotown away, but I agree with it more than having yet another generation of children who are raised to think only of themselves, and never learn anything about how to live in a world with others. I am aware that I'm in the minority, here.
posted by nikksioux at 3:46 PM on April 7, 2007


there's probably more individuality in your average commune than your average investment office

I'll keep that in mind the next time I want to have a steak, drive an SUV and watch TV in my commune. What's that? I can't do those things? Against the commune rules? Funny, there's a vegan working in my investment banking office and we don't seem to care...?

Hmm, which is the one with the high individuality quotient again?
posted by frogan at 4:08 PM on April 7, 2007


The only commune I'm vaguely familiar with is Zendik Farm. The only investment bank I'm vaguely familiar with is Goldman Sachs. From what I know of the two, they're actually about equal on the individuality front.
posted by Bugbread at 4:24 PM on April 7, 2007


I'll keep that in mind the next time I want to have a steak, drive an SUV and watch TV in my commune.

oh, you utterly original rebel, you ... don't let the neighbors find out about your daring unconventional lifestyle - they might die of shock
posted by pyramid termite at 7:54 PM on April 7, 2007


My point with the investment bank comment wasn't about individuality. It was about ownership of capital, wealth and property.

Those kids went in, improved the Legos, and, if they were, say, an oil company and the Legos were the bottom of the sea, that act of improvement would give them certain ownership rights over that property that wouldn't be vested in them if they hadn't improved it.

The kids will grow up not understanding that property is not communal. You try to go up to an investment bank and tell them that their ownership of all kinds of things isn't fair and equitable, and that their property ought to be seized and redistributed so that everyone gets an equal piece of property, see how well that flies.

I'm all for encouraging social equality, but blinding children to the realities of capitalism does them a disservice. When they get out into the real world and see that it does not work that way, and that a small group of people hold most of the power, they are in for a rude awakening.

Better to open their eyes to the way things really are. Then they can do what they can to make things better. But pretending that communism flies in the U.S. isn't very realistic.
posted by MythMaker at 9:49 PM on April 7, 2007


MythMaker - easy now. It's exactly that gind of smug Gordon Gecko style "greed is good" gibberish, and more than that the fact that you;re over thinking things now, that could have me siding with the hippies.
posted by Artw at 10:34 PM on April 7, 2007


the next time I want to have a steak, drive an SUV and watch TV in my commune.

Oh my, I hope you won't be doing those three things at the same time. You'll not only be doing more than your personal share of harm to the environment with your silly gas-guzzler, but you'll also almost certainly wind up in some sort of traffic accident that could endanger others.

And by the way, where is your commune? I'm gonna try to stay away from there.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:15 PM on April 7, 2007


oh, you utterly original rebel, you ... don't let the neighbors find out about your daring unconventional lifestyle - they might die of shock

My point, in case you missed it, was that your experience with the average peace-and-love commune will be as close-minded in its own way as the most conformist cubicle farm you can imagine. But what if I like a porterhouse steak now and again? Heaven (sorry, Gaia Earth Mother) help you eradicate those unclean, non-vegan thoughts ...

The funniest thing about this whole exercise is that the Seattle Weekly has a column called Ask an Uptight Seattleite, a sarcastic advice column as written by an fair-trade espresso-swilling, Utne Reader-toting uptight Seattleite. The whole Lego essay could've sprang right from these pages. Only the Lego thing was real.
posted by frogan at 11:30 PM on April 7, 2007


I'm not saying greed is good! Maybe I'm not expressing myself clearly...

I believe that the majority of the people in this country do not believe in, or follow communist-style philosophy. Our political and economic system do not support communist-style property rights.

Therefore, to raise children to think that the way the world works is through communism does them a disservice. That's all my point was.

It's better to familiarize them with how things actually are, so that they might better be able to adjust to the reality of the marketplace, than it is to put fairy tales in their heads.

I say this from personal experience. I'm an artist, not particularly a capitalist at all, frankly.

It was a rude awakening for me to discover, well into adulthood, the realities of capitalism. It would have been better to have been prepared.

That's all my point was.
posted by MythMaker at 12:42 AM on April 8, 2007


frogan My point, in case you missed it, was that your experience with the average peace-and-love commune will be as close-minded in its own way as the most conformist cubicle farm you can imagine.

and my point is that you're arguing that what you consume and own in a consumer society makes you an individual

mythmaker The kids will grow up not understanding that property is not communal.

so when i buy shares in a company, i'm not acting communally with other people? ... isn't investment banking based on the whole idea that groups of people can invest as a community?

this communal vs individual thing is way too simplistic

When they get out into the real world and see that it does not work that way, and that a small group of people hold most of the power, they are in for a rude awakening.

a small group of people like a couple of teachers?

is there a difference between teachers approving a legoville that must have houses of 16 bumps and a zoning board approving a subdivision that must have 1/2 acre lots?

what i find most frustrating about these teachers is that they actually think they're helping the kids create an alternative to american thinking on community and property ... the ideas they pay lip service to may be different ... but the results are oddly similar to what we already have

a few years ago, a friend of mine had a car port in front of her house destroyed in a thunderstorm ... when she wanted to replace it, she discovered that car ports were against the zoning code in that neighborhood and her old one had been grandfathered in, and she would have to get a variance to get a new one ... to get that variance, she not only had to pay the city a fee of a couple of hundred bucks, but she had to go to each and everyone of her neighbors and get them to sign a piece of paper saying they didn't mind her putting up a new one

how different is that from the rules that the kids were encouraged to make for legotown?

it's amazing to me that we are actually taught we live in a capitalistic, individualistic society when so many of our daily actions are constrained communally with the intention of making people conform ... it's amazing to me, once again, that these teachers think they're offering an alternative to that
posted by pyramid termite at 3:21 AM on April 8, 2007


so when i buy shares in a company, i'm not acting communally with other people?

Yes, but the government doesn't just take those shares away from you unilaterally, and say everybody in the country gets an equal number of them. That's what happens when countries have communist revolutions.

In this country, if the leaders want to take your private property away from you, it's immanent domain, and they have to pay you fair market value.

I didn't see that the teachers paid the kids when they took their work away from them.

A couple kids worked hard to build their own city, and the teachers didn't respect that. They ought to be allowed to express themselves creatively without it being taken away from them.
posted by MythMaker at 11:10 AM on April 8, 2007


Eminent domain.

Brief points to avoid calling everyone retarded again— Reform of existing structures begins with questioning existing structures. The reason why I mentioned being a tool is because "that's the way it is, that's what they should be taught" only makes sense if the status quo is the best possible power structure, and if it is, allowing the students to question it and formulate alternatives will still be a valuable lesson. You're making a fallacious argument that seems to be poorly-considered.

Second off, rallying against "conforming" is something most people get over after high school. Any system should be evaluated qua system, against the goals of that system. Instead of railing against some boogieman of conformity, and the strawmen of communes, consider what the benefits of those choices would be. Further, extreme individuality is, frankly, juvenile bullshit, and the superficial existence of some level of democratically-created conformity is not a reason to stand against this as a teaching exercise unless you're going to argue for extreme individual anarchy.

Further, I get the feeling that I'm the only person here with extensive experience with cooperative organizations, from grocery stores to art spaces, to being on the board of a 350-unit housing cooperative. The question of conformity versus individuality is directly orthagonal to the organizing principles of a corporation, and attempts to conflate the two are at best straw men and at worst fairly moronic examples of either ignorance or disingenuity.

Oh, and MythMaker, the philosopher you're looking for is John Locke. But remember that this country had a fairly large dose of Rousseau to temper Locke upon our founding, and that there's a reason for it. Read the second treatise on government, which deals with the appropriation of the common (through mixing labor with resources), and then take the second step and read criticisms of Locke. Or read him in an academic class, so that you can think critically about his ideas and both their practicality and consequences.
posted by klangklangston at 12:35 PM on April 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


and my point is that you're arguing that what you consume and own in a consumer society makes you an individual

Wow, did you get that from the movie Reality Bites, or are you channeling Ethan Hawke's character yourself?
posted by frogan at 2:46 PM on April 8, 2007


In this country, if the leaders want to take your private property away from you, it's immanent domain, and they have to pay you fair market value.

Not true. See Kelo. "Fair Market Value" is now a myth.

I didn't see that the teachers paid the kids when they took their work away from them.

Not true. RTFA.

A couple kids worked hard to build their own city, and the teachers didn't respect that. They ought to be allowed to express themselves creatively without it being taken away from them.

Not true. RTFA.

You are really not any good at this.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:08 PM on April 8, 2007


Klang - could you be a little more condescending? Of course I've studied Locke.

Okay, you're a communist, and have worked in communal organizations. So, that informs your perspective.

I work in an environment surrounded by capitalists. If I didn't understand the underlying dynamics of capitalism, and understand what the nature of those power dynamics were, I wouldn't be capable of working in this kind of environment.

And I'm hardly arguing that this is the best of all possible worlds.

However, short of armed revolution, I think it is highly unlikely that, during our lifetimes, that the U.S. will stop being a capitalist country. Ergo, if you want children to be successful in the system as it exists currently, they need to understand that model.

That was all my point ever was.

Now, perhaps you advocate violent overthrow of the government, including seizing the assets of all corporations, and then sharing them with all the population of the U.S.

If so, then I'm not sure we can have a civil conversation about this. I think property rights are pretty important. Plus, I'm a pacifist, and I think that a violent revolution won't bring about more peace.

five fresh fish -

Let me use another way to express this, more in internet terms.

There were, according to the article, a total of 8 kids who thought up and made Legotown.

"A group of about eight children conceived and launched Legotown."

What if this were, say, Second Life, and these 8 were adults, and had built a town. Would it be okay with you if Linden Labs arbitrarily said they had to share their holdings with everyone else equally?

These kids were creators, leaders. They iniated the project, had stakes in it, were the defining creative force behind it, and allowed others to participate.

"When you say that some kids ‘gave' pieces to other kids, that sounds like there are some kids who have most of the power in Legotown — power to decide what pieces kids can use and where they can build." Kendra's comment sparked an outcry by Lukas and Carl, two central figures in Legotown:

Carl: "We didn't ‘give' the pieces, we found and shared them."

Lukas: "It's like giving to charity."

Carl: "I don't agree with using words like ‘gave.' Because when someone wants to move in, we find them a platform and bricks and we build them a house and find them windows and a door."

...

Our suggestions were met with deep resistance. Children denied any explicit or unfair power, making comments like "Some-body's got to be in charge or there would be chaos," and "The little kids ask me because I'm good at Legos." They viewed their power as passive leadership, benignly granted, arising from mastery and long experience with Legos, as well as from their social status in the group.

The reality in human relations is that some people, leaders, those who iniate, have power, however these teachers, who are not iniators, i.e. entrepreneurs, but rather employees, have huge problems with this fact of human power.

Drew: "Sometimes I like power and sometimes I don't. I like to be in power because I feel free. Most people like to do it, you can tell people what to do and it feels good."

Drew's comment startled us with its raw truth. He was a member of the Legotown inner circle, and had been quite resistant to acknowledging the power he held in that role.


They say this because they think to have power is inherently a negative thing. I would disagree.

Then they create an arbitrary game where they trade around blocks, which, in their mind replicated capitalism, but doesn't really. Monopoly recreates it far better.

Then, after months of their communist indoctrination,

* Collectivity is a good thing:

"You get to build and you have a lot of fun and people get to build onto your structure with you, and it doesn't have to be the same way as when you left it.... A house is good because it is a community house."


* Shared power is a valued goal:

"It's important to have the same amount of power as other people over your building. And it's important to have the same priorities."

"Before, it was the older kids who had the power because they used Legos most. Little kids have more rights now than they used to and older kids have half the rights."


* Moderation and equal access to resources are things to strive for:

"We should have equal houses. They should be standard sizes.... We should all just have the same number of pieces, like 15 or 28 pieces."


etc. etc.

Now, five fresh fish, I suppose that you think that they didn't take the children's work away from them, because the diorama had already been partially destroyed.

However, if they had allowed the kids to continue as they were doing, I suspect that it would have gone back to a similar status quo as it was before.

Why shouldn't the industrious, self starting creative types be allowed to express themselves? Why must they be shoehorned into forced collectivism?

Shouldn't humans be allowed to pursue their creative enterprises without being forced to share? It's like saying, well Hollywood makes too big a percentage of the films in the U.S., and therefore all that money needs to be shared equally with every single person in the country that wants to make a movie.

It's just not going to happen. Not in the capitalist world we live in.
posted by MythMaker at 10:44 AM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Okay, you're a communist, and have worked in communal organizations. So, that informs your perspective.

it's not informed enough, though ... those organizations or ones like it have been around for decades and have had a minimal impact on our society and culture

three possible conclusions - they've had little impact because americans don't want to do things that way ... or, they've had little impact because socially, they're not all that different when practiced by americans ... or, perhaps, not everyone in those organizations really wants to change anything

Hilltop is located in an affluent Seattle neighborhood, and, with only a few exceptions, the staff and families are white; the families are upper-middle class and socially liberal.

notice that the collectivism and the leveling of power being practiced don't include any actual poor people

it's just a game they play to feel good about themselves ... it's not like it's a real alternative that will have an impact on society, because they might actually have to give up something for that
posted by pyramid termite at 1:28 PM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


klang -

Not to get personal, but something else I might observe is that you're a student. I'm all for the ideals and idealism of academia, but I think you'll find when you're out in the real world for awhile, and working, and dealing with people that don't share your ideology, that understanding how capitalism actually functions would be more helpful to your career.

I'm saying this as an artist, as someone who isn't necessarily all that sympathetic to capitalism himself. But, no matter how much you want it to be different, the country we live in is capitalist, and unless you'd like to be broke, you'll have to come to grips with that, IMHO.
posted by MythMaker at 5:06 PM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


the country we live in is capitalist, and unless you'd like to be broke, you'll have to come to grips with that, IMHO.

Or he can just never come to grips with it, and be broke, like me!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:31 PM on April 9, 2007


"Klang - could you be a little more condescending? Of course I've studied Locke.

Okay, you're a communist, and have worked in communal organizations. So, that informs your perspective."

Could I be more condescending? Well, I'm about to be.
I tried to avoid coming back because I didn't want to call people who were otherwise fine, decent sorts, retarded again.
But you're a retard on this issue. Sorry, that's the sum of it.

I'm not a communist. And I have worked with cooperatives. But your false dichotomy between your anarcho-capitalism and communism shows a dramatic political naivety and gives your opinions the appearance of never having gotten beyond a book jacket. Of course my experience informs my position, but it's not like I've existed in some magical land where I've never had to deal with capitalism, and it's not like cooperatives exist outside of the capitalist model— they're based on mutual self-interest. To not understand that makes you politically and economically retarded, to the extent that you probably should stay out of discussions on things of this ilk. Or rather, you can be allowed back into the discussion when you stop using communism as a blanket boogieman for any socialist thought, and are able to distinguish gradations in socialism.

"it's not informed enough, though ... those organizations or ones like it have been around for decades and have had a minimal impact on our society and culture"

And here's where you're retarded, pyramid— Cooperatives have had a huge impact on people's lives around this country, and have for hundred of years. They're an effective corporate model from credit unions to housing co-ops, from insurance pools to grocery stores. Essentially, they exist as internally egalitarian shareholder democracies, and are voluntary at that. They function well as businesses (inside capitalism) and have nothing to do with the conformity bullshit you keep spewing (for example, the outdoor outfitters MEC are a co-op). The housing co-op association includes thousands of people who are home owners, who have banded together for mutual benefit. But claiming that co-ops have had no impact is like claiming that unions (worker co-operatives) have had no impact— it's fundamentally ignorant and fucking retarded.

"Not to get personal, but something else I might observe is that you're a student. I'm all for the ideals and idealism of academia, but I think you'll find when you're out in the real world for awhile, and working, and dealing with people that don't share your ideology, that understanding how capitalism actually functions would be more helpful to your career."

Yeah, I'm the condescending one. Hey, guess what— I sit on the board of a multi-million dollar non-profit that very much exists in the real world, and happens to be a co-operative. Further, while I'm a student, I'm a non-traditional one. I'm a bit older, and have been taking real money for real work for, well, about 14 years now (over half my life). So forgive me if I don't take advice on the "real world" from some artist who fundamentally fails the necessity of questioning and critically examining the political and economic structures that we engage in, especially when the ultimate answer is "Well, that's how things are. If you understood them, you wouldn't try to change that." That's a fucking retarded world view and one that seems to only be espoused by people who benefit from the status quo.
No, I'd guess that my more salient personal experience here is growing up poor, seeing the injustice of poverty, especially when combined with racism and sexism, and knowing what real fucking work looks like. We can't all be photoshop dilettantes, so long as we're looking to personal experience.
posted by klangklangston at 10:53 PM on April 9, 2007


Here's the deal: If you overthink the lego, as a symbol of the fascist oligarchy, as a tool for communist indoctirnation, as the keystone in passing down you randian philosophy, then you're kind of a dick.

That is all.
posted by Artw at 11:22 PM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


(Oh, and MythMaker— The Lockian interpretation of these kids mixing their labor with common goods fails the prerequisite to justification for state protection in that the resources must be so abundant that taking them does not diminish the ability of others to take "as much and as good" for themselves. Or, in total, the Lockian objection here [and on Earth in general] is that it is a finite system, and therefore the people wishing to use the resources must negotiate a contract with all, or be aware that there is no "state" to protect their private property, and thus exist in a state of war. If there is no official state, only actors with different power levels, then the teachers were equally able to enter the system and ultimately their actions were equally just. In fact, in the hyper-liberal conception held under Hobbes, the teachers are a necessity, and are using their authority to prevent further conflict as is necessary under the covenant as they exist as proxy sovereigns.
You'd have a better argument if you wanted to proceed from Rousseau's General Will, as it expresses itself as prosperity and the city was prospering, which gives the tautological proof to the children's actions reflecting the general will of the class. But as the General Will, to anyone who has studied it, is such a goddamned buggered concept to try to derive anything from, and as it's equally easy to use Rousseau to argue against privately held property [as the property ownership itself enslaves the freedom that every man should hold dear].

Or— that's why I get to be condescending toward your third-rate Locke.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:30 PM on April 9, 2007


Wow, Klang, you seem very angry. I'm sorry that you grew up poor and now have resentments against capitalism.

Two things. One, while I use Photoshop, certainly (among dozens of other programs), I'd hardly call myself a dilettante. I'm a working film maker in Hollywood, and let me tell you, my usual 10 to 12 hour days most certainly are real work.

And it's only been by understanding the profit motivation of studios and producers and I've been able to survive in this town. And I'm doing pretty good. But it's very much through very hard work.

Also, I'm not trying to make an argument based on 17th century philosophers, you're the one who keeps bringing them up.

I'm arguing that these kids have the right to do their creative work without it being co-opted (to borrow a term ;) by their teachers. I think the teachers should have kept their noses out of it. You disagree. So be it.

And please refrain from name calling. You've now referred to both myself and pyramid termite as retarded. Can't we at least be civil? Others have been, IMHO, far more civil to you than visa versa.

I just don't think that Lego blocks represent the subjugation of the underclass. I know you do, and I respect your right to hold your position. Please respect that other people can have a differing position from you without our being retarded or tools.
posted by MythMaker at 11:59 PM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Do you believe that communism is catching on in the United States? Do you see much evidence of it as more than a pretty minority belief?

I don't, frankly.

Now socialism, the U.S. could use more of that. Universal health care, free university education for all, family benefits, housing for the poor. I support all those things.

But communism, like we had in the FPP, is about community sharing of property. You own nothing youself, all property is under the control of the ruling party. Or, if the state somehow actually withered away, by some kind of vote, I suppose.

Do you want a vote to determine whether or not you can live in your house?

In Cuba, for example, your housing is assigned by the government. That's what it means for all property to be held in common.

Am I to understand that you'd like to see the elimination of private property, and for everyone to be given the same unit of stuff from the government? Because that's the natural extension of the thinking in this article. They were encouraging the kids to think of private property as something that's held jointly, and that they weren't allowed to accumulate more property than anyone else.

Now, if you could, theoretically, indoctrinate all the children in the country with this belief, and if you ignored the reality of human nature, then maybe you'd end up with your utopia.

But since it's impossible to indoctrinate most students in the U.S., since the culture is so pro-capitalistic, it means those indoctrinated kids will be at a serious disadvantage when they go out into the working world.

They won't be able to understand the nature of the dance of capitalism. People work for each other in a giant circle: clients, vendors, independent contractor, consumer. There's a game being played within the economy, and it's necessary to play that game, with the other actors in the economy, to thrive in this country.

Now, there are all kinds of ways to do this, as an employee, an independent contractor, an owner, on the board of directors... Hell, you can participate in the economy for a non-profit or a co-op. That's the beauty of the system. Ultimately, capitalism is about the free choice of how to live your life. Hate what you're doing? Quit your job. Better than, say, feudalism. Or slavery.

Now, you have to bear responsibility for quitting that job, and the hardship of finding a new job, keeping a roof over your head and food on the table. And, I believe that when people stumble, the rest of us should help that person out. An ethical society shouldn't have homelessness, for instance.

Sure, capitalism is unfair, and rewards the people at the tippy top with unfair amounts of power and capital. I'm all for increased taxation of the very rich, and careful regulation of industries that have rampant abuse, i.e. energy.

But communism isn't the answer. And, quite frankly, that's what these teachers were indoctrinating the children with.

That's the underlying objection I'm making. It's got nothing to do with John Locke.
posted by MythMaker at 2:02 AM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


You've now referred to both myself and pyramid termite as retarded.

when he's spent 20-25 more years in the real world, he's going to be just as "retarded" as we are

by the way klang, calling people retarded is offensive to people in the special needs community

by the way, klang, my daughter happens to be in that community, although she is not what you would so ignorantly label as "retarded"

by the way, klang, you can claim all the intellectual, social and political points and experiences you want, but you're still going to sound like an asshole when you use bigoted language like "you're retarded"

it surprises me that an enlightened co-op board member and leading light of the cooperative movement in the people's republic of ann arbor thinks such prejudiced and hurtful language is alright

come to think of it, judging from my experiences in the people's republic of berkeley, it doesn't surprise me a bit
posted by pyramid termite at 5:09 AM on April 10, 2007


I now hate you all as much as I hate hippies, you boring, boring people.
posted by Artw at 6:25 AM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


"I now hate you all as much as I hate hippies, you boring, boring people."

Hmmm. Maybe you should head over to BoringBoring.com
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:59 AM on April 10, 2007


klang just thinks that the only prerequisite to being an Opinion Editor is that you have one.
posted by frogan at 3:57 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


« Older Rock Stars, Guitars n' More   |   "..." (I'm miming it) Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments