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...we decided to ban the Legos.

Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
edited February 2008 in Debate and/or Discourse
This isn't what you may think.

http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/21_02/lego212.shtml

This is a pretty big, pretty complex and interesting article. I suggest that people read it. I have a lot of shit to cut and paste and say about it, which I have spoiled, but the discussion bits are at the very end.

Here's a couple of opinions on choice bits:
http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/02/banning-legos.html
In Legotown, the children had constructed a social system of power where a few people made the important decisions and the rest of the participants did the grunt work — much like the system in the trading game. We wanted children to critique the system at work in Legotown, not to critique the children at the top of the Legotown hierarchy. At the same time, we wanted them to see that the Legotown system was created by people, and, as such, could be challenged and reformulated. The children's reaction to the winners of the trading game was a big warning flag for us: We clearly had some repair work to do around relationships.
But that, of course, is the trouble with radical egalitarianism. It is ultimately driven by intense hostility towards "the children at the top of the Legotown hierarchy" rather than a dispassionate critique of "the system at work in Legotown." Challenging and reformulating Legotown means changing which kids are at the top of the Legotown hierarchy. Instead of kids who are good at building things with Legos, it will instead be the kids who please the teachers with their dedication to radical egalitarianism. And so it goes.

That's what one of the guys filling in for Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish had to say about the above article. I thought the entire thing was fascinating, and provided a number of interesting insights about how children act, the nature of power, politics, perceptions, etcetera.

My favorite part was this interesting interesting bit:
When the teaching staff met to reflect on the Lego trading game, we were struck by the ways the children had come face-to-face with the frustration, anger, and hopelessness that come with being on the outside of power and privilege. During the trading game, a couple of children simply gave up, while others waited passively for someone to give them valuable pieces. Drew said, "I stopped trading because the same people were winning. I just gave up." In the game, the children could experience what they'd not been able to acknowledge in Legotown: When people are shut out of participation in the power structure, they are disenfranchised — and angry, discouraged, and hurt.

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. Playing by the rules led to a few folks winning big and most folks falling further and further behind. The game created a classic case of cognitive disequilibrium: Either the system is skewed and unfair, or the winners played unfairly. To resolve this by deciding that the system is unfair would call everything into question; young children are committed to rules and rule-making as a way to organize a community, and it is wildly unsettling to acknowledge that rules can have built-in inequities. 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.


My
off-the-cuff commentary would be that this is a problem of seeing problems as individuals and specific groups, rather than as a systemic and/or memetic problem. I would go further and say that this is by no means something that's limited to children's perceptions. At the risk of sounding a little silly, I suggest that a lot of the visceral, Marxist-esq reactionism that has caused enormous social unrest and continues to echo against essentially any person or entity that is big and powerful is closely linked to this emotional reaction.
The punchline of the article is that they returned the Legos at the end, but with the following moral guidelines:
"What would be different if we bring the Legos back to the classroom? How could we make it different?" "What could we do if we fall into old habits with the Legos?" From our conversations, several themes emerged.
  • 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."
...and the following core guidelines:
  • 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.
Understanding the limitations of information (we aren't observing the classroom directly, only through this article, etc), here are a few discussion questions:

Should teachers/parents/power figures allow children to organize their own society as they were doing early on? Could and/or should other routs have been taken to curb the undesirable externalities from the project?

I begin to wonder if I could get away with making two threads on this one- One for a child-focused thread, and one for the possible/probable communism subject. I suppose if the thread needs to be split later, so be it.

Both aspects really interest me- I mean, should we instill these kinds of ideals in kids, only to have them eventually have to make their way in a society that is radically different?

It seems like such a system is only sustainable as long as you have genuinely benevolent and omnipotent agents of authority- the teachers. You could not get such agents in a society outside of the classroom, and to idealize that kind of social structure at a young age isn't going to have (as I understand the matter) healthy ramifications in the long term.

Beyond all that, any other observations or bloviations?

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Loren Michael on
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    devoirdevoir Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    I'm still reading through the article, but wow, the LEGO company would have a fit over the article and its use of the word Legos.

    devoir on
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    FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    edited February 2008
    My gut reaction to the story is sadness. Not for the kids of Hilltop, but for the millions of kids who don't get to go to schools like Hilltop, who will never experience the kind of education described; who will learn only that education is drudgery and that institutions are the antithesis of mental freedom.

    But I recognize that I'm reading my own biases into the textual Rorschach blot, because my own experience with pre-college education was so stifling and terrible.
    Should teachers/parents/power figures allow children to organize their own society as they were doing early on? Could and/or should other routs have been taken to curb the undesirable externalities from the project?

    Yes to the first question and no to the second. The entire point of their approach was to allow the children to figure things out for themselves, to see how these principles emerge organically from an uncontrolled or semi-uncontrolled system.
    I begin to wonder if I could get away with making two threads on this one- One for a child-focused thread, and one for the possible/probable communism subject. I suppose if the thread needs to be split later, so be it.

    I think the eventual settling on a communist-like system was a by-product of the limitations of the scenario. There was a finite amount of resources, no "wealth" could be created, but simultaneously there were no new participants entering or exiting the system, so there was little opportunity for social mobility. Also, despite all the wisdom we heard from the mouth of babes, they are just kids, without access to some of the more sophisticated arguments for and against communism... communism was simply the most accessible social system available to kids in that context.
    Both aspects really interest me- I mean, should we instill these kinds of ideals in kids, only to have them eventually have to make their way in a society that is radically different?

    Yes. I don't think the important lesson here was that everybody should be equal. I don't think that's what they're going to walk away with. Kids already have an innate sense of equality - try giving two kids two slices of pie sometime and watch them squabble over who got the bigger piece even if the difference is nigh-undetectable.

    No, what's remarkable - and this is the lesson I suspect will stay with these kids for a long, long time - is that rules are not concrete. They are not set in stone. And they are not necessarily followed in every case. Children of 8 receive the exact opposite message every single day: conform to a school schedule. Follow the school rules. Obey the teachers. Their lives are largely programmed for them, except for periods of free play (which are getting rarer and briefer as parents attempt to schedule their childrens' lives more and more).

    Teaching children to think critically about notions of authority, hierarchy, power, and law is an incredibly novel idea. Most kids don't start to seriously think about challenging power structures until their teens, and these kids are getting a head-start of a few years. I think that's remarkable.
    It seems like such a system is only sustainable as long as you have genuinely benevolent and omnipotent agents of authority- the teachers. You could not get such agents in a society outside of the classroom, and to idealize that kind of social structure at a young age isn't going to have (as I understand the matter) healthy ramifications in the long term.

    Thankfully, they have several years to come to terms with that inequity.

    Edit: and good god if this thread turns into a clusterfuck about the proper plural form of the word "Lego" I will personally physically and literally reach through the Internet and strangle somebody.

    Feral on
    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.

    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
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    KageraKagera Imitating the worst people. Since 2004Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    devoir wrote: »
    I'm still reading through the article, but wow, the LEGO company would have a fit over the article and its use of the word Legos.

    Seriously, even some people on the internet would be "ZOMG WTF IT'S LEGO blocks you FUCK".

    Me? I like people getting mad when I use legos instead of LEGO blocks.

    Kagera on
    My neck, my back, my FUPA and my crack.
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    ZsetrekZsetrek Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    Should teachers/parents/power figures allow children to organize their own society as they were doing early on?

    That's a loaded question. From a moral, psychological or sociological standpoint? I have a hard time seeing why children shouldn't be allowed to exercise their imaginations and social skills through the creation of mini-societies. The society would obviously have clearly delineated boundaries.
    Both aspects really interest me- I mean, should we instill these kinds of ideals in kids, only to have them eventually have to make their way in a society that is radically different?

    Our society isn't radically different. On a day-to-day basis most of us employ those kind of social structures in family and friendship groups - social groups where blatant competition is discouraged.

    EDIT: Legos, legos legos legos.

    Zsetrek on
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    Kane Red RobeKane Red Robe Master of Magic ArcanusRegistered User regular
    edited February 2008
    devoir wrote: »
    I'm still reading through the article, but wow, the LEGO company would have a fit over the article and its use of the word Legos.

    LEGO Bricks damnit! :x
    Edit:
    Kagera wrote: »
    devoir wrote: »
    I'm still reading through the article, but wow, the LEGO company would have a fit over the article and its use of the word Legos.

    Seriously, even some people on the internet would be "ZOMG WTF IT'S LEGO blocks you FUCK".

    Me? I like people getting mad when I use legos instead of LEGO blocks.
    Hahaha, well, to be fair I used to work for Lego. I'm not really that uptight about it, but I did twitch a bit while reading the article.

    Kane Red Robe on
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    gundam470gundam470 Drunk Gorilla CaliforniaRegistered User regular
    edited February 2008
    Zsetrek wrote: »
    Should teachers/parents/power figures allow children to organize their own society as they were doing early on?

    That's a loaded question. From a moral, psychological or sociological standpoint? I have a hard time seeing why children shouldn't be allowed to exercise their imaginations and social skills through the creation of mini-societies. The society would obviously have clearly delineated boundaries.
    Both aspects really interest me- I mean, should we instill these kinds of ideals in kids, only to have them eventually have to make their way in a society that is radically different?

    Our society isn't radically different. On a day-to-day basis most of us employ those kind of social structures in family and friendship groups - social groups where blatant competition is discouraged.

    EDIT: Legos, legos legos legos.

    Amongst our family and friends yes but I think we're talking about the power distribution in all other regards i.e. our jobs/governments/etc. which we would be hard pressed to call egalitarian. On a day to day basis we are also subject to wielding/yielding to power.

    gundam470 on
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    ZsetrekZsetrek Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    gundam470 wrote: »
    Amongst our family and friends yes but I think we're talking about the power distribution in all other regards i.e. our jobs/governments/etc. which we would be hard pressed to call egalitarian. On a day to day basis we are also subject to wielding/yielding to power.

    Granted - but socialisation is not a zero-sum game. School can teach children how to be better brothers/sisters/sons/daughters as well as better citizens. I just don't see how a few hours of egalitarian play a day is going to render kids unable to harmonize with wider society. After all, once the lego bricks go back in the box, they're back in the "real" world.

    Zsetrek on
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    FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    edited February 2008
    Zsetrek wrote: »
    gundam470 wrote: »
    Amongst our family and friends yes but I think we're talking about the power distribution in all other regards i.e. our jobs/governments/etc. which we would be hard pressed to call egalitarian. On a day to day basis we are also subject to wielding/yielding to power.

    Granted - but socialisation is not a zero-sum game. School can teach children how to be better brothers/sisters/sons/daughters as well as better citizens. I just don't see how a few hours of egalitarian play a day is going to render kids unable to harmonize with wider society. After all, once the lego bricks go back in the box, they're back in the "real" world.

    And as I mentioned before, kids already have an innate sense of egalitarianism, and they're exposed to egalitarianism every day because it's usually the most expedient way of distributing a finite amount of resources. It's somebody's birthday; so each kid gets one piece of pie. It's playtime; each child gets to choose one toy. It's lunchtime; each child gets one box of juice. Etc. (Maybe, in some scenarios, if everybody has received their alloted one, and there are extras, some kids might be able to go back for seconds, but still the primary value there is equality - everybody gets an equal base amount.)

    I simply don't think that egalitarianism is going to be the take-home lesson that these kids will carry away from this experience.

    Feral on
    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.

    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
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    devoirdevoir Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    The most fascinating thing I found was the observation of how 'wealth' affected people on both sides of the coin in terms of personal viewpoint, and also how it looked from the outside as a 'neutral' observer.

    The fact that the 'poor' saw the 'rich' far differently that they themselves did, despite what would appear to be genuine attempts to make things fair within the boundaries of the tasks given to them by the teachers. I mean, it's not a new concept, but to see it so definitively demonstrated by children in a situation that can have comparisons made to so many scenarios with 'adult' society, it makes me think moreso than any other aspect of the article.

    Reading parts of the article were a little gutwrenching, despite the fact that these children are obviously from very comfortable families, being exposed to 'unfair' situations like those in the initial scenario made me want to intervene. Stupid compassionate, child-protecting instincts.

    devoir on
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    fallaxdracofallaxdraco Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    I think it would be interesting to read a reaction to this article from a committed conservative. The teachers in the article drew parallels between the "ownership society" of legotown and our own capitalist society, and attempted to teach the children that both were unjust.

    From an economic conservative\laissez-faire capitalist viewpoint, were the "owners" of legotown to be commended for bullying and excluding the other children, or is this little society simply not really comparable to wider society at all?

    fallaxdraco on
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    Not SarastroNot Sarastro __BANNED USERS regular
    edited February 2008
    I'm quite sure that children absorb all this stuff at an early age.

    That is precisely why I would avoid this school like the plague. I don't want the particular views of the school or teacher willfully imposed on my children, any more than I want to willfully impose my own on them. I'd rather expose them to as large a random bag as possible, then let them make their own mind up when they get older. It has always been my impression that anyone who really wants to instill their view or values in someone else, really shouldn't be allowed to. Not only does their view tend towards the extreme (standard MO of zealots and evangalists), but if their view is so wonderful, surely people will come to it naturally and of their own accord? The logic doesn't work.

    Showing your children the wond'rus variety of life and letting them sort it out for themselves, it seems to me, is much more in tune with the "values of democracy and equality" than forcing fucking collective action solutions on them in kindergarten.

    Not Sarastro on
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    fallaxdracofallaxdraco Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    It seems to me that the reason the teachers see nothing wrong with indoctrinating the children in their political views is that they don't really feel that they are political views - they seem to treat them as moral ones, and feel they have a duty to make the children more moral.

    Apparently after school childcare programs in Seattle are the Left's version of the political indoctrination that goes on in the Sunday Schools of churches everywhere. Personally I just feel kind of detached from it - I guess parents have the right to indoctrinate their children in their politics, whatever they are? :/

    fallaxdraco on
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    Not SarastroNot Sarastro __BANNED USERS regular
    edited February 2008
    It seems to me that the reason the teachers see nothing wrong with indoctrinating the children in their political views is that they don't really feel that they are political views - they seem to treat them as moral ones, and feel they have a duty to make the children more moral.

    Well that would be the disturbing part. If I were being generous, I would say in the US it is a reaction of the left against the religious right doing the same thing (ie fight on their terms or die). If I were being less generous, and I pretty much always am, I would say it is rank hypocrisy which betrays the principles they claim to uphold.
    Feral wrote:
    My gut reaction to the story is sadness. Not for the kids of Hilltop, but for the millions of kids who don't get to go to schools like Hilltop, who will never experience the kind of education described; who will learn only that education is drudgery and that institutions are the antithesis of mental freedom.

    That is also interesting. Because I don't see for a second how this is promoting mental freedom. The kids are being railroaded into a predefined acceptable solution. Mental freedom would be, for better or worse, the law of the playground. It is likely to be nasty and brutal, but how many thinkers and artists have done great things precisely because of experiencing the playground as nasty and brutal?

    Not Sarastro on
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    fallaxdracofallaxdraco Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    It seems to me that the reason the teachers see nothing wrong with indoctrinating the children in their political views is that they don't really feel that they are political views - they seem to treat them as moral ones, and feel they have a duty to make the children more moral.

    Well that would be the disturbing part. If I were being generous, I would say in the US it is a reaction of the left against the religious right doing the same thing (ie fight on their terms or die). If I were being less generous, and I pretty much always am, I would say it is rank hypocrisy which betrays the principles they claim to uphold.

    Is it hypocrisy because the left condemns the right's putting religion in schools? If this was happening in the school itself I would agree with you 100%, but when I browsed the website of the teachers in question, it seemed to be an exclusive after-school private program that the parents specifically put their children in.

    Because of that it seems very similar to me to taking your children to sunday school for moral indoctrination, unless I'm completely missing your point and there are other principles they are betraying.

    This is the website I was looking at, found through a google search from information at the bottom of the article : http://www.hilltopcc.com/

    fallaxdraco on
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    Not SarastroNot Sarastro __BANNED USERS regular
    edited February 2008
    Is it hypocrisy because the left condemns the right's putting religion in schools? If this was happening in the school itself I would agree with you 100%, but when I browsed the website of the teachers in question, it seemed to be an exclusive after-school private program that the parents specifically put their children in.

    Because of that it seems very similar to me to taking your children to sunday school for moral indoctrination, unless I'm completely missing your point and there are other principles they are betraying.

    This is the website I was looking at, found through a google search from information at the bottom of the article : http://www.hilltopcc.com/

    Ah right, if it's an opt-in afterschool program that's fine.

    But yes, I still think it's kind of hypocritical if these people also criticise the sunday school way of doing things - not that we know either way. The objection was more to the idea that this should be rolled out in 9-5 classes.

    Not Sarastro on
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    ege02ege02 __BANNED USERS regular
    edited February 2008
    One of the things that was of interest to me was the various reactions the kids gave for being the underdogs in the game where the teachers assigned points to Legos after distributing them. Some succumbed to hopelessness and quit, some begged for pieces, others openly criticized the system, some of those blamed the "rich" kids and saw them as mean-spirited or accused them of cheating even though the scenario was the exact opposite.

    I agree with Feral: I think this sort of education should be given in schools. I think a Legotown-like experience benefits the kids way more than our current approach of making them sit in classrooms all day and teaching them that the best way to succeed is to follow instructions.

    ege02 on
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    Space CoyoteSpace Coyote Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    I'm disgusted that these children were allowed to develop their own ideas on sharing and cooperation, without being forewarned of the dangers of godless communism.

    Space Coyote on
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    AldoAldo Hippo Hooray Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    What I got out of this article is that small scale "communism" works. As long as you personally know the other members in your society you are more prone to share things equally with you.

    Example:

    1. Me and my friend order some fries and we notice that my friend has less mayonnaise than me. I tell him he can use some of my mayonnaise.

    2. I am ordering fries and the stranger next to has less mayonnaise than me. I shrug, finish up my meal and go back to whatever I am doing.

    Same with these kids; they care about the amount of bricks their peers have because they know them by name and maybe consider them friends. If a complete stranger would walk up to them asking for a few bricks they would probably be a whole lot less compassionate.

    Feral already pointed out some other reasons why this new equal distribution of Lego bricks would work in the small community of this after school program.

    Aldo on
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    Not SarastroNot Sarastro __BANNED USERS regular
    edited February 2008
    without being forewarned of the dangers of godless communism.

    They terk ar jerbs, dontchakno.

    Not Sarastro on
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    yalborapyalborap Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    Is it hypocrisy because the left condemns the right's putting religion in schools? If this was happening in the school itself I would agree with you 100%, but when I browsed the website of the teachers in question, it seemed to be an exclusive after-school private program that the parents specifically put their children in.

    Because of that it seems very similar to me to taking your children to sunday school for moral indoctrination, unless I'm completely missing your point and there are other principles they are betraying.

    This is the website I was looking at, found through a google search from information at the bottom of the article : http://www.hilltopcc.com/

    Ah right, if it's an opt-in afterschool program that's fine.

    But yes, I still think it's kind of hypocritical if these people also criticise the sunday school way of doing things - not that we know either way. The objection was more to the idea that this should be rolled out in 9-5 classes.

    The issue is, as others described, the current normal classes are teaching the "obey the rules god dammit" principle that says this stuff is set in stone and that one cannot change things and all that. While the final results of this particular experiment could be questioned, the idea of letting kids form their own micro-society and seeing what pops up IS something that should be encouraged, even if just for our own amusement.

    One thing I'd like to see is what would happen if they were able to introduce more change; Break it up into, say, four or five groups, and rotate kids from group to group while also introducing and removing random unused bricks. See if their opinions alter with the sudden shift, particularly if they're allowed to bring their individual structures with them as they rotate, and perhaps allow import/export of individual bricks. Would it just go lord of the flies on us, or would they form a democracy, or something entirely different?

    yalborap on
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    fallaxdracofallaxdraco Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    ege02 wrote: »
    One of the things that was of interest to me was the various reactions the kids gave for being the underdogs in the game where the teachers assigned points to Legos after distributing them. Some succumbed to hopelessness and quit, some begged for pieces, others openly criticized the system, some of those blamed the "rich" kids and saw them as mean-spirited or accused them of cheating even though the scenario was the exact opposite.

    I agree with Feral: I think this sort of education should be given in schools. I think a Legotown-like experience benefits the kids way more than our current approach of making them sit in classrooms all day and teaching them that the best way to succeed is to follow instructions.

    The part where they taught the children they were being unfair in blaming the "rich" kids of cheating when they verifiably weren't cheating seems like a valuable lesson to me - teach the children to look at the situation objectively.

    The part about teaching the children how "the system that rewards the haves is inherently corrupt" being taught in public schools seems kind of iffy to me, since it is a political\value judgment, albeit one I partially agree with. :P

    Particular political viewpoints should not be taught in public schools - at least not ones that disagree with a major political party. No one gets mad at the condemnation of fascism in history classes, for example. But having the public schools take sides in the political debate seems like a recipe for major trouble. I do agree that ANY sort of hands-on teaching is much better than spouting information out of a book at them, though.

    In THIS particular situation nothing was wrong - it was a private program. But in a public school having more solutions than just the liberal one might be in order.

    fallaxdraco on
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    Crimson KingCrimson King Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    To me, the most interesting thing about that article is that that the kids seemed naturally to fall into a pseudo-capitalist society, even when a pseudo-socialist one would make everyone more happy. I think parallels can be drawn between that and the way real societies tend to act. All we need are some omnipotent teacher-gods to come and educate us all on the merits of communism. Of course, the extremely limited and simplified nature of the pseudo-society makes it very hard to draw such parallels with accuracy, but whatever.

    Crimson King on
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    ege02ege02 __BANNED USERS regular
    edited February 2008
    To me, the most interesting thing about that article is that that the kids seemed naturally to fall into a pseudo-capitalist society, even when a pseudo-socialist one would make everyone more happy. I think parallels can be drawn between that and the way real societies tend to act. All we need are some omnipotent teacher-gods to come and educate us all on the merits of communism. Of course, the extremely limited and simplified nature of the pseudo-society makes it very hard to draw such parallels with accuracy, but whatever.

    They didn't naturally fall into a capitalist society.

    These are 5 to 9 year old kids. They have already been influenced by society; chances are they watch TV, they see things from their parents, and they are overall exposed to the workings of a capitalist society. So it's only normal that the system they came up with was capitalistic.

    If you ran the same experiment with kids in communist Russia, you'd probably have a communist Legotown.

    ege02 on
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    AldoAldo Hippo Hooray Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    ege02 wrote: »
    They didn't naturally fall into a capitalist society.

    These are 5 to 9 year old kids. They have already been influenced by society; chances are they watch TV, they see things from their parents, and they are overall exposed to the workings of a capitalist society. So it's only normal that the system they came up with was capitalistic.

    If you ran the same experiment with kids in communist Russia, you'd probably have a communist Legotown.
    All red bricks, a little gulag camp at the far side of town for lego dolls that disapproved... :D

    Aldo on
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    Crimson KingCrimson King Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    ege02 wrote: »
    To me, the most interesting thing about that article is that that the kids seemed naturally to fall into a pseudo-capitalist society, even when a pseudo-socialist one would make everyone more happy. I think parallels can be drawn between that and the way real societies tend to act. All we need are some omnipotent teacher-gods to come and educate us all on the merits of communism. Of course, the extremely limited and simplified nature of the pseudo-society makes it very hard to draw such parallels with accuracy, but whatever.

    They didn't naturally fall into a capitalist society.

    These are 5 to 9 year old kids. They have already been influenced by society; chances are they watch TV, they see things from their parents, and they are overall exposed to the workings of a capitalist society. So it's only normal that the system they came up with was capitalistic.

    If you ran the same experiment with kids in communist Russia, you'd probably have a communist Legotown.

    On reflection, you're probably right.

    Crimson King on
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    ViolentChemistryViolentChemistry __BANNED USERS regular
    edited February 2008
    ege02 wrote: »
    To me, the most interesting thing about that article is that that the kids seemed naturally to fall into a pseudo-capitalist society, even when a pseudo-socialist one would make everyone more happy. I think parallels can be drawn between that and the way real societies tend to act. All we need are some omnipotent teacher-gods to come and educate us all on the merits of communism. Of course, the extremely limited and simplified nature of the pseudo-society makes it very hard to draw such parallels with accuracy, but whatever.

    They didn't naturally fall into a capitalist society.

    These are 5 to 9 year old kids. They have already been influenced by society; chances are they watch TV, they see things from their parents, and they are overall exposed to the workings of a capitalist society. So it's only normal that the system they came up with was capitalistic.

    If you ran the same experiment with kids in communist Russia, you'd probably have a communist Legotown.

    And what if the experiment were done with kids who weren't privvy to their parents' finances? What, exacty, is going to be easier to come up with than "I have something you want and you have something I want so let's trade"?

    ViolentChemistry on
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    ViolentChemistryViolentChemistry __BANNED USERS regular
    edited February 2008
    I mean apart from "you have something I want, I have something you want, I'll just kill you and take all the loot".

    ViolentChemistry on
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    tbloxhamtbloxham Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    Of course, you know what was really interesting about this little thing that the teachers glossed over, or passed off as some kind of cruel mockery of the defeated children. It occurred when they played their lego points game, which was initially based on the arbitrary sharing of resources.


    We introduced the Lego trading game to the children by passing a bin of Legos around the circle, asking each child to choose 10 Legos; we didn't say anything about point values or how we'd use the bricks. Most children chose a mix of colored Lego bricks, though a few chose 10 of one color. Liam took all eight green Legos, explaining that green is his favorite color; this seemingly straightforward choice altered the outcome of the game.

    When everyone had their Legos, the teachers announced that each color had a point value: The more common the brick color, the fewer the points it was worth, while the scarcest brick color, green, was worth a whopping five points.


    The children were then given some time to trade bricks, and the winners would be allowed to make a new rule. The winners would be determined by who had the most points, and if it was a tie, both could make a rule.

    The teachers expected the children to create a self reinforcing system, where the 'rich' stayed rich and the poor were excluded from being able to win. However, this is what actually happened.

    Liam instituted this rule: "You have to trade at least one piece. That's a good rule because if you have a high score at the beginning, you wouldn't have to trade, and that's not fair."

    Kyla added this rule to the game: "If you have more than one green, you have to trade one of them."


    They then carried out a second round, which ended with three winners, and this discussion between the children...


    Drew: "Liam, you don't have to brag in people's faces."

    Carl: "The winner would stomp his feet and go ‘Yes' in the face of people. It felt kind of mean."

    Liam: "I was happy! I wasn't trying to stomp in people's faces."

    Carl: "I don't like that winners make new rules. People make rules that are only in their advantage. They could have written it simpler that said, ‘Only I win.'"

    Juliet: "Because they wanted to win and make other people feel bad."

    Kyla: "I wasn't trying to make other people feel bad. I felt bad when people felt bad, so I tried to make a rule that would make them feel better. It was fun to make up the rule — like a treat, to be one of only three people out of the whole group."


    The teachers then begin a bit of a diatribe about how the poor unfortunate green brickless children had been exposed to the brutal ravages of a system that didn't care about them, and they then passed this off as an example of abuse of power. Effectively stating that Drew, Carl and Juliet (low scorers) were right to be upset.

    However in a single round a capitalist system with no regulation for fairness and totally arbitrary distribution of initial power had....

    i) Rewarded the trading player (kyla) over the established expected victor (liam)
    ii) Instituted regulation to encourage competition and involvement (Kyla insists that everyone trades at least once)
    iii) Instituted regulation to begin even distribution of the most valuable and vital pieces(Liam, who holds all the greens cares that other people get to play)
    iv) Increased direct participation in decision making 50% due to the increased competition (at the end of round 2, Lukas had also increased his score to match that of the other winners)

    The teachers of course passed right over this, and focused on 'poor' Drew who had been disenfranchised from the start by his choice of bricks. However Drew is clearly an idiot, had he waited a few rounds, or formed a voting collective with a friend by pooling bricks he could easily have won the game but instead he sat out and refused to play. They even state how the system mirrors ours (which it vaguely does) and hilariously don't see how the system immediately created rules to discourage the very things which they seem to think are the natural state of a capitalist system (oppression of the poor). Drew and others complained that the winners had been making them feel bad, and the teachers agreed with them? Casting the winners as an oppressive regime, denying poor drew access to victory due to their involvement with the game.

    This is a classic example of ignoring the evidence of a test. Honestly all the teachers found here is that capitalism rewards participation, and that most successful capitalists do not exist in a vacuum. They are people like you and me who care about the other people involved in the system. If in the game, the winners had simply instituted greater rewards for winning and sat back to enjoy the proceeds (Liam had, for example stated "All winners can pick another person who has to make out with them) it might have been an example of their point working, but even with totally random resource distribution that didn't reward skills at all we still saw skilled people rise to the top, and the randomly rich taking steps to get other people involved in the game.

    These teachers are idiots, and their 'everyone must have prizes' mentality where winners are resented rather than respected and imitated is what leads to people being unable to excel. I bet that after all the building, original legotown which had been built to encourage and reward lego building skill had looked great, whereas New Legotown was a shambolic mish mash of poor design and shoddy parts distribution.

    The teachers here were the ones with the problematic system of values, not the children running legotown.

    tbloxham on
    "That is cool" - Abraham Lincoln
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    DrezDrez Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    I know this isn't the point of the thread, but those teachers seem absurdly full of themselves and their opinions.

    edit: I am, of course, not intimately familiar with this specific "Big Kid" program and how it is advertised to parents. I am, though, intimately familiar with other, similar child care systems and am best friends with a teacher of one. It seems to me like these teachers are acting highly inappropriately and are using this system to write sociological journals.

    Drez on
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    tbloxhamtbloxham Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    Drez wrote: »
    I know this isn't the point of the thread, but those teachers seem absurdly full of themselves and their opinions.

    Well, perhaps its an abbreviated way of putting it but thats kinda what I said too :)

    tbloxham on
    "That is cool" - Abraham Lincoln
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    Not SarastroNot Sarastro __BANNED USERS regular
    edited February 2008
    tbloxham speaks wise words, Sioux people should think on them and talk more.
    yalborap wrote: »
    The issue is, as others described, the current normal classes are teaching the "obey the rules god dammit" principle that says this stuff is set in stone and that one cannot change things and all that. While the final results of this particular experiment could be questioned, the idea of letting kids form their own micro-society and seeing what pops up IS something that should be encouraged, even if just for our own amusement.

    But we've been doing that for centuries. It's called a playground. Or indeed, anywhere else that kids aren't being obsessively controlled (rare nowadays, if the papers are to be believed, which I'm sure they're not)

    Not to say that the way most normal classes are run is particularly great, but the idea that kids 'need' to be encouraged to form their own little micro-society in a controlled atmosphere has more to do with what the adults want that atmophere to be, than allowing the kids to form their own social opinions.

    Not Sarastro on
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    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    tbloxham wrote: »
    This is a classic example of ignoring the evidence of a test. Honestly all the teachers found here is that capitalism rewards participation, and that most successful capitalists do not exist in a vacuum. They are people like you and me who care about the other people involved in the system. If in the game, the winners had simply instituted greater rewards for winning and sat back to enjoy the proceeds (Liam had, for example stated "All winners can pick another person who has to make out with them) it might have been an example of their point working, but even with totally random resource distribution that didn't reward skills at all we still saw skilled people rise to the top, and the randomly rich taking steps to get other people involved in the game.

    I agree completely. The problem here is that they had a group activity and expected certain results, and based their daily lesson plan on it. Then, when the results didn't match, they shoehorned the findings into the lesson they had written.

    Delzhand on
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    saggiosaggio Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    I don't see an issue with teaching kids critical thinking skills.

    saggio on
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    Not SarastroNot Sarastro __BANNED USERS regular
    edited February 2008
    Is that what they are aiming to do? I think there are less loaded methods.

    Not Sarastro on
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    DrezDrez Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    saggio wrote: »
    I don't see an issue with teaching kids critical thinking skills.

    From the article:
    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.

    Seems to me like the teachers are just masking their intentions with "critical thinking" lessons. And not masking them very well, as they explicitly state that they find capitalism unjust.

    So, I'll agree with you that there is nothing wrong with teaching kids critical thinking skills. But that is not the aim of these teachers. It may be a byproduct of what they are doing, but that isn't enough for me.

    Drez on
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    tbloxhamtbloxham Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    Indeed, if they had talked to the children about trying to justify why their system was the best one, or arranged for them to carry out an experiment with a different one with no preconceived notion of it being 'better' then they are doing something useful. Showing the children that they have the power to shape the way power is distributed in their society, and that simple existance is no argument for a system being the superior one, is a useful thing to show.

    However thats not what they did, they constructed a strawman capitolist system, gave it the worst possible inputs, and expected it to fail horrifyingly showing the children capitolism was bad. However it still worked, and started to correct for its failings! I bet if they'd run it another few rounds we'd have seen unions emerge between the poorer players to gain access to the voting table and a primitive democracy and scheme for control of power arise. Despite this, they didnt say "Wow, we're wrong, our smart children are actually great and people you'd want in charge in a society" they just totally ignored it and proceeded as if the result had not existed.

    What they have actually taught the children here is prejudice, in its most classic form.

    tbloxham on
    "That is cool" - Abraham Lincoln
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    Space CoyoteSpace Coyote Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    Drez wrote: »
    Seems to me like the teachers are just masking their intentions with "critical thinking" lessons. And not masking them very well, as they explicitly state that they find capitalism unjust.

    Not masking them at all, in fact. From the article:
    Our planning was guided by our goals for social justice learning, and by the pedagogy our school embraces, inspired by schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. In this approach, teachers offer children a provocation and listen carefully to the children's responses. These responses help teachers plan the next provocation to challenge or expand the children's theories, questions, and cognitive challenges.

    Space Coyote on
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    ElJeffeElJeffe Moderator, ClubPA mod
    edited February 2008
    What tbloxham said.

    ElJeffe on
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    MrMisterMrMister Jesus dying on the cross in pain? Morally better than us. One has to go "all in".Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    tbloxham wrote: »
    The teachers of course passed right over this, and focused on 'poor' Drew who had been disenfranchised from the start by his choice of bricks. However Drew is clearly an idiot

    Drew is between 5 and 9 years old.

    What the hell, man.

    MrMister on
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    Space CoyoteSpace Coyote Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    tbloxham wrote: »
    They (...) hilariously don't see how the system immediately created rules to discourage the very things which they seem to think are the natural state of a capitalist system (oppression of the poor). Drew and others complained that the winners had been making them feel bad, and the teachers agreed with them? Casting the winners as an oppressive regime, denying poor drew access to victory due to their involvement with the game.

    From the article:
    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.

    Space Coyote on
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