My favorite analysis group, Long or Short Capital, has issued a "short" recommendation for the Seattle based Hilltop Children's Center. Their recommendation follows an article titled "Why We Banned Legos" on some site called "Rethinking Schools," in which a number of "educators" describe events, including a Hurricane Katrina of other children that wipes out Legotown, that led them to ban Lego (please note: the plural of Lego is Lego, "Legos" do not exist) from playtime at an after school program for 8 years olds, before imposing a set of universal rules for future Lego use.
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.
Aside from what should be rather an acute distaste on the part of parents for having their children used in a uncontrolled behavioral study and the anti-capitalist thread that ran through it, much of the discussion bears a disturbing likeness to certain works by Ayn Rand.
I think it useful to explore the practicality of the rules imposed by our novel Seattle think-tank in the real world and reflect generally on the lessons taught to the children described in the article.
Issues of fairness and equity also bubbled to the surface during the animated discussion about the removal of the Legos:
Lukas: "I think every house should be average, and not over-average like Drew's, which is huge."
Aidan: "But Drew is special."
Drew: "I'm the fire station, so I have to have room for four people."
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.]
Hell with the fire station, Drew you capitalist pig, you. Fair is fair! You'll get your 16 bumps and like it, buddy, or we'll call in the political officer.
All structures are public structures. Everyone can use all the Lego structures. But only the builder or people who have her or his permission are allowed to change a structure.
Lego people can be saved only by a "team" of kids, not by individuals.
All structures will be standard sizes.
Where else have I heard this?
Our unification of thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth.
We are one people.
With one will.
Our enemies shall talk themselves to death and we will bury them with their own confusion.
We shall prevail.