Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Everything You Needed to Know About Communism You Could have Learned From Lego's

To quote Dave Barry, I swear I am not making this up. It seems "Lego Time" turned into a lesson on Lenin and Marx. And let me say upfront, if my kids were in that class, I'd have yanked them out of there so fast heads would spin, preferably the teachers. Funny how they can impose THESE values on the kids, but others are legally prevented from even being mentioned in schools. Here is a capsule, which I found on the Mises site:

From Legotown to Communist Utopia
Jeffery Tucker

A commentator on this blog draws our attention to this piece on the site Rethinking Schools. It is called "Why We Banned Legos." It is indeed an amazing piece of work, a perfect distillation of the romantic attachment that bourgeois educators in a prosperous society have for a communist ideal they have never experienced or seen or, apparently, read about.

In the short version, the teachers allowed the children in an after-school program to build a massive and growing Legotown. As kids will do, they students tended to homestead certain pieces and structures, and then barter them. Eventually resentments over who owns what emerge, and, after some inadvertent destruction of some buildings took place, conflicts arose.

The teachers then used the occasion to teach a lesson straight from old-time communist ideology, bringing the kids around to the view that all structures must be public structures, that nothing can be owned but by groups, and that all structures will be standard sizes.

It is an engaging if very alarming read! I would be curious to know to what extent the kids absorb the "lesson" they were given, or, if their heart of hearts, they really do miss the excitement and beauty of the real Legotown.

In any case, reading this piece, you can understand how it is that Castro's resignation has unleashed mind-boggling statements about the glories of the society he created, and its "immense achievements in terms of healthcare, poverty reduction and education."

The link to the article is here. Now you really need to read and follow the piece. Early on:

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

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

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

Never was a fan of Eminent Domain. It "was not fair" to use the "cool pieces" for a private house or structure, but for public use, it was OK. It seemed there was hope for the kids:

Children dug through hefty-sized bins of Legos, sought "cool pieces," and bartered and exchanged until they established a collection of homes, shops, public facilities, and community meeting places.

Barter and exchange. Sems to me to be the cornerstone of a free economy. After all the piece one kids values may mean nothing to the kid that has it and worth a trade. He may want it more than the pieces he has. I remember learning about trade with baseball cards.

Legotown grew and grew. Space and lego pieces grew scarce (and more valuable and desirable):

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

Kids being kids, tragedy struck. I remember making huge Lego layouts and playing Godzilla (rahr, rahr) or some other freak force and destroying my towns and meek residents. Loads of fun. Despite the article saying it was an "accident", I kinda like to think some kid played Godzilla like I use to and smashed that town to bits. So now, like Katrina, devastation leads to rebuilding:

When the children discovered the decimated Legotown, they reacted with shock and grief. Children moaned and fell to their knees to inspect the damage; many were near tears. The builders were devastated, and the other children were deeply sympathetic. We gathered as a full group to talk about what had happened; at one point in the conversation, Kendra suggested a big cleanup of the loose Legos on the floor. The Legotown builders were fierce in their opposition. They explained that particular children "owned" those pieces and it would be unfair to put them back in the bins where other children might use them. As we talked, the issues of ownership and power that had been hidden became explicit to the whole group.

We met as a teaching staff later that day. We saw the decimation of Lego-town as an opportunity to launch a critical evaluation of Legotown and the inequities of private ownership and hierarchical authority on which it was founded. Our intention was to promote a contrasting set of values: collectivity, collaboration, resource-sharing, and full democratic participation.

Again, who are they to decide WHAT VALUES will be taught? What separates "social" values from "religious"? The next part of the article goes on to say "how" Legotown was rebuilt, the new "rules" the kids had to abide by in rebuilding Legotown. The missed good opportunities to teach how the free market works. They decided to turn it into a lovefest, everybody shares, everybody happy, everybody wins. It is one of my biggest complaints about AYSO and youth soccer in the States, where "everybody" hasd to get a chance to play, and "everybody" wins, you can't have a losing team because it leads to hurt feelings. Kids need to learn the reality of life, and the sooner the better.

Here are "the themes" the teachers and kids learned from each other in the "new, better" Legotown:

  • 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."

  • Personal expression matters:

"It's important that the little Lego plastic person has some identity. Lego houses might be all the same except for the people. A kid should have their own Lego character to live in the house so it makes the house different."

  • 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."

You wanna know why things are so f'd up just look at who and what they are teaching kids today. Yes, in playtime it may have made for a wonderful solution, but in the real world history has shown us it is a failed experiment.

1 comment:

Ms Calabaza said...

Great post, Daniel.

I'm going to link it tomorrow on my blog.