Mar 202007

Some Seattle schoolchildren are being taught the evils of private property and property rights by banning Legos. Here are some excerpts from this chilling (mostly pro-property rights) article:

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.”

By the way, this was at a private school, not a public school. The teachers explained their philosophy in great detail in their recent article, “Why We Banned Legos“. Here is what the children naively believed about the concept of “ownership” before the Lego incident:

  • 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

  • And after the “re-education”, they learned the following:

  • Collectivity is a good thing
  • Personal expression matters
  • Shared power is a valued goal
  • Moderation and equal access to resources are things to strive for

  • These principles were then concretized into the following rules for Lego play:

  • 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.

  • As the teachers happily noted:

    With these three agreements — which distilled months of social justice exploration into a few simple tenets of community use of resources — we returned the Legos to their place of honor in the classroom.

    The school is the Hilltop Children’s Center in Seattle. The two teachers who co-authored the article are Ann Pelo and Kendra Pelojoaquin. Ann Pelo’s e-mail address is: <>.

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