Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Private Property in Legos

From TCSDaily:

Some Seattle school children are being told to be skeptical of private property rights. This lesson is being taught by banning Legos.

A ban was initiated at the Hilltop Children's Center in Seattle. According to an article in the winter 2006-07 issue of "Rethinking Schools" magazine, the teachers at the private school wanted their students to learn that private property ownership is evil.

According to the article, the students had been building an elaborate "Legotown," but it was accidentally demolished. The teachers decided its destruction was an opportunity to explore "the inequities of private ownership." According to the teachers, "Our intention was to promote a contrasting set of values: collectivity, collaboration, resource-sharing, and full democratic participation."

The children were allegedly incorporating into Legotown "their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys." These assumptions "mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society -- a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive."

They claimed as their role shaping the children's "social and political understandings of ownership and economic equity ... from a perspective of social justice."

So they first explored with the children the issue of ownership. Not all of the students shared the teachers' anathema to private property ownership. "If I buy it, I own it," one child is quoted saying. The teachers then explored with the students concepts of fairness, equity, power, and other issues over a period of several months.

At the end of that time, Legos returned to the classroom after the children agreed to several guiding principles framed by the teachers, including that "All structures are public structures" and "All structures will be standard sizes." The teachers quote the children:

"A house is good because it is a community house."

"We should have equal houses. They should be standard sizes."

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

Ben Barros

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I taught for 16 years in a small Catholic high school. Very early on in my tenure there we were doing "Global" exercises in faculty meetings which had us performing as groups who were missing one or more important piece (for example, scissors) we needed to construct a box from paper. The box had to be built to certain specifications. We had to negotiate with others (some of whom had everything: scissors, glue, paper, plans, rulers, etc.) Often a group would have to give up something it already had to bargain for a different component and hope the thing could be retrieved later. After we had displayed our handiwork the real reason for the exercise came out. The "greedy and powerful" always won and didn't have to "share" unless they wanted to. For the dimmer wits among us the leaders explained who, "for example," the greedy, powerful were and how they could detrimentally and disastrously affect others. You can probably guess how the USA was perceived. It was hoped that global awareness would be preached in all classrooms. Need I say my classroom was not one of them? It has been going on very subtly in schools for a long, long time.

Posted by: Beverly Hart | Nov 13, 2008 10:52:36 AM

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