Rethinking Schools reports breathlessly:
As they watched their elementary-age students playing with Legos, Ann Pelo and Kendra Pelojoaquin saw some disturbing trends.
In the current issue they describe how some kids hoarded the “best” pieces, denied their classmates any access at all to the pretend town they were building, and displayed other undesirable behavior surrounding ownership and the social power it conveys.
So the teachers banned Legos, and worked with the kids to surface the issues raised by the ways they had been using the popular building blocks.
I notice they want $5 from me, or a $39.95 annual subscription, to read the article though. Is that social justice, I ask you?
TCS Daily is less enthusiastic:
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.”