Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Let Go of My Lego

PsychoPhil posted about the anti-Lego teachers in Seattle. PsychoPhil doesn't hide his feelings about the issue.
You know, this whole thing is so idiotic I’m almost left speechless. Almost.
I was going to rip on a few more things in this article, but I just can’t stand it. I want to close the browser window its in and be done with it.
Unfortunately, neither PsychoPhil or I can adequately describe the utter stupidity and insanity of the teachers who couldn't stand Lego City.

The Anchoress posted on this in early March. But, PsychoPhil found an article where two of the teachers attempt to explain Why We Banned Legos." Keep in mind that schizophrenics of all shapes and sizes can "rationally" explain all their delusions. When working in mental health, I listened to schizophrenics provide details descriptions of how I could read their minds, radio waves affecting them and all the other usual stuff. Just because a couple of teachers sound "sane" doesn't mean they are.

The article begins:
Carl and Oliver,* both 8-year-olds in our after-school program, huddled over piles of Legos. They carefully assembled them to add to a sprawling collection of Lego houses, grocery stores, fish-and-chips stands, fire stations, and coffee shops.
A couple of paragraphs later:
Children dug through hefty-sized bins of Legos, sought "cool pieces," and bartered and exchanged until they established a collection of homes, shops, public facilities, and community meeting places. We carefully protected Legotown from errant balls and jump ropes, and watched it grow day by day.

After nearly two months of observing the children's Legotown construction, we decided to ban the Legos.
The teachers observe and document the important social, planning, and creative skills the children develop through spontaneous play involving Legos. The children understand well enough the various ingredients needed to make a community. What the children are doing and learning are skills and knowledge that only a few "toys" allow.

Legos, building blocks, Erector sets, Tinker Toys and such fertilize the creativity of children in ways that few other things can. They can experiment with design, learn basic engineering and construction principles. When using Legos in interactive play as the children described above, they also learn and develop a broad spectrum of social skills, negotiating, give and take, cooperative goal setting, perseverance (spending two months to build a Lego town shows a great deal of perseverance on the part of 8 year olds). All these are skills that their "upper-middle class" parents most likely used to become upper-middle class.

But the all seeing, all knowing, autocratic teachers decided this was all bad.
Then, tragedy struck Legotown and we saw an opportunity to take strong action.

Hilltop is housed in a church, and over a long weekend, some children in the congregation who were playing in our space accidentally demolished Legotown.
We met as a teaching staff later that day. We saw the decimation of Lego-town as an opportunity to launch a critical evaluation of Legotown and the inequities of private ownership and hierarchical authority on which it was founded. Our intention was to promote a contrasting set of values: collectivity, collaboration, resource-sharing, and full democratic participation.
"Full democratic participation?" Looks more like a dictatorial decision by the teachers. I fully recognize and believe that teachers should have the ultimate say so in their classrooms within reason. Let's just call it what it is, and it's not democratic participation.

The "inequities of private ownership and hierarchical authority"? This school, Hilltop in Seattle, is a very expensive PRIVATE school. Three months tuition can cost as much as an entire year at the parochial high school my oldest son attends. Plus, the teachers have no problem exercising their hierarchical authority.

Later, the teachers talk of a field trip in which they discuss such metaphysical questions as, "Does a farmer own her produce? Or does the consumer own it?" According to the quotes provided, the kids have this one figured out. I would certainly hope so. This seems a rather inane, simple question even for 8 year olds.

Later, the kids were allowed to return to "playing" with Legos but with the teachers rules: "Create teams of two or three people, decide as a team on some element of Pike Place Market that you'll build, and then start constructing." So the death of creativity and spontaneity begins.

When I was growing up we could play for hours on end with building blocks, Tinker Toys, etc. (I never had any Legos. Sniff, sniff.) We played football, baseball, basketball, tag, Kick the Can, etc without adult supervision. Now, it seems that adults feel the need to control every aspect of children's lives. But, many of the most important social and interpersonal skills are best learned through spontaneous activities and play. Adults are only needed to observe for a distance to prevent the minor possibilities of injuries or violence.

Too many adults have too many control issues.

"Hey, Teacher, leave those kids alone!" - Pink Floyd

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