Part 5: Why We Banned Legos (p.258)
Children and authoritarianism
Examples to Explain Point:
Exclusion of some children from using the Legos
Unfair rule over which Legos can be used
In an after school day program, a situation that began as a learning project turned out to be a dramatic tug-of-war between children over power and ownership.
The dilemma began subtly as children worked together to build a Legotown. As resources grew increasingly scarce, some children took the lead and began excluding others from participating. These leaders also took control over the rationing and ownership rights of “cool” pieces.
One day, and outside group of children that rented the school over the weekend, destroyed the village “accidentally”. The following Monday when the program’s children returned, they were devastated. Some children suggested taking the loose pieces, throwing them into a bin and collectively rebuilding. The leaders however, did not like this idea because “cool” pieces would be thrown into the communal bin. This was a problem because they felt the “cool” pieces belonged to them because they had used them in buildings that they built themselves.
In response, teachers confiscated the Legos until an agreement was made. I thought it was interesting that the teachers did not face authoritarianism with more authoritarianism by dishing our new rules for the Legos. Instead, they let the children decide democratically what should be done.
The children discussed the issue for months. I found it interesting that some of the children suggested giving the other children the “cool” pieces, or letting them use them. Other children argued that when stated that way, it’s obvious that some children in Legotown still have more power than others.
Other children suggested that each house be required to be a specific size. Others in protest of this argued that special buildings like the firehouse need more Legos because they need to be bigger.
In the following days the children discussed power. They explored its meaning, benefits, and dangers.
Teachers then conducted an experiment where they chose 2 leaders at random to develop rules for a Lego trading system game. The game was designed to be unjust. Children with the most points were allowed to make the rules for the game. In this exercise the children got to experience what it was like to be a leader and to be a follower. They were able to experience the frustration and helplessness that accompanies being a follower, and the joy and control that comes from being a leader.
This experiment led to a collaboration of laws that the children made concerning the Legos:
- · If I buy it, I own it
- · If I receive it as a gift, I own it
- · If I make it myself, I own it
- · If it has my name on it, I own it
- · If I own it, I make the rules about it
The teachers suggested bringing the Legos back into the classroom if the children could all agree on some set rules. The rules they set forth are as follows:
- 1. All structures are public structures and anyone can use it. Only the builder has the right to change the building.
- 2. Lego people can only be “saved” by a group of people not by one person
- 3. All structures will be a standard size. Kids won’t build structures that are dramatically bigger than others.