David Thompson
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August 06, 2007

Comments

Dan Collins

Where once Legotown stood, now there is nothing but a giant asshole.

Dan Collins

Also, they forgot to mention the tyranny of the orthogony.

Stuck-record

Maybe, to stop the children's 'pesky' creativity, the Hilltop Centre re-programmers should use their Lego bricks to build a scale model of the Berlin Wall -- cutting straight across the classroom.

That'll teach 'em.

AntiCitizenOne

They should just ban the teachers from owning property.

Is it called "The Modern School"?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Modern_Parents

David

Setting aside the staggering arrogance of the staff, what’s most interesting to me is the tacit assumption that the children’s sense of territory and property is some heinous artificial construct, rather than an innate tendency of human beings.

I’m reminded of the words of Frank Zappa:

“In every language, the first word after ‘Mama!’ that every kid learns to say is ‘Mine!’ A system that doesn't allow ownership, that doesn't allow you to say ‘Mine!’ when you grow up, has - to put it mildly - a fatal design flaw.”

Matt M

"Into their coffee shops and houses..."

Coffee shops?

Lego was all about James Bond style structures and shoddy Thunderbirds imitations when I were a lad. The only point of building a normal house was to then crash equally ill-made lego vehicles into it.

David

Tsk. I’m sure you were oppressing something or other. But fear not. Lego will eventually produce a Collectivist Wonderland Lego Set, the buildings of which will be of exactly equal size. And the use of which we be equally disappointing to each child.

AntiCitizenOne

Matt M,

I still remember my most crash tested lego car. Lego was a fantastic tool for people interested in learning engineering.

When I do software engineering, I mentally picture bolting together algorithms much like building a physical lego model.

Dr.Dawg

"What's remarkable here isn't the children's grasp of ownership, territoriality and basic capitalism, all of which are pretty much innate to human beings."

"Innate?" Really? Have the genes been identified yet? Shouldn't be hard: Roma, Sinti, Bedouins and Irish Travellers lack the gene for territoriality; the one for ownership is missing from a number of non-European societies; and, as for "basic capitalism," David offers us the teleology of Karl Marx, if truncated. It took 200,000 or so years for homo sapiens sapiens to work its way up, inevitably, it seems, to the capitalist system. Did Lucy of Olduvai have even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?

Personally, I never got into so-called "cooperative games." But I'm quite willing to blame my upbringing, not my DNA.

Laughing At Moonbats

I wonder what Pelo and "Pelojoaquin" would say if someone wandered into the classroom and helped himself to the contents of their purses. What could they say? Those purses are "collectively owned", right?

I assume the classroom itself is "collectively owned", so they'd have no problem with a group of homeless people showing up with their sleeping bags and making themselves at home?

David

Dr Dawg,

You jest, I hope. Unless, of course, you actually don’t think notions of property, trade and territory (however limited or portable) are pretty much innate to the human condition? I’m tempted to ask the obvious question: Have you met any human beings? And the almost as obvious question: Can I move into your home and take all of your stuff?

Laughing At Moonbats

Dr. Dawg: try barging into a Bedouin's tent, or a Roma's caravan, without permission and you'll find that their territoriality works just fine, thanks.

Horace Dunn

It's well worth reading Rethinking School's leader column written in response to criticisms of the Lego article.

http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/21_04/edit214.shtml

This makes it clear that the aims of the Rethinking School crowd don't stop at encouraging anti-capitalist and pro-collectivist thinking. Can you guess what other topics teachers should be introducing into the classroom? And what are the attitudes that should be encouraged in their little charges? Go on, have a guess.

Dr.Dawg

David and LAM:

Surely you've got past the notion that, in a collective, my toothbrush is also yours. Marx was clear on the distinction between personal and private property. So should you be. I know that nearly everything gets commodified these days, including human emotions and human remains, but not my razor, nor the contents of my fridge, nor my bed.

Kevin Donnelly

Good link. I love the way educators and academics use the terms "conservative" and "right wing" as terms of abuse and then expect everyone else to see that as proof of their unbiased stance.

Laughing At Moonbats

Marx was clear on the distinction between personal and private property.

There are millions of Ukrainian kulaks who might disagree, but they're not able to say much about it, are they?

The only thing that's "clear" is that Marx had absolutely no understanding of human nature, and that attempting to build a Marxist state produces slavery, starvation, and mass murder. Every time.

David

Dr Dawg,

Methinks I detect an almost religious devotion to malign and discredited gods. As I suggested earlier, the fact that some people take their territory around with them is entirely beside the point. And the fact that people with severely limited space tend to develop heightened proprieties regarding whatever space they have again suggests an innate function, not some heinous social construction. Your reliance on Marx does you no credit and, if anything, underlines a fundamental flaw of quasi-Marxist belief, which generally denies the possibility that capitalism is, broadly speaking, much more conducive to human nature than the alternative it proposes.

Dr.Dawg

Horace:

Thanks for the link. I knew there had to be more to it, and it's an excellent response. I enjoyed the idiot who equated the teachers to "Islamofascists." Demonization is such a wonderful substitute for thinking, isn't it?

Dr.Dawg

David:

The essentialist notion of "human nature" seems quaint to me. It always seems to be aligned with the politics of the person who uses the term. :)

David

Horace,

Yes, I did raise an eyebrow when I read the comments on the Iraq war. One wonders if this too will be “discussed” with the under-tens in an equally dispassionate way. I also noted the claim that these “anti-bias” teaching methods “call into question existing cultural patterns and systems of ownership and control that are at the root of today's crises.” Perhaps Professor Rosling might be invited to their “discussions” to offer a different view?

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/08/end-not-yet-nig.html

Somehow, I guess not.

David

Dr Dawg,

“The essentialist notion of ‘human nature’ seems quaint to me.”

I’m sure it does. And your practiced missing of the point is faintly amusing to us. :)

Horace Dunn

In the past "progressive" school-teachers would twitter on about how important it was to enable every child to realise his or her own potential. It was about individuality, creativity and non-conformity. The progressives educationalist lamented the stifling and inhuman influence of all those rules on developing minds.

This lot are at least open – indeed aggressively so – about their true desire to impose systems of thought on their charges. Their duty is to use their influence on children in order to create a society different from the one “that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive”. Well there’s honesty for you. It’s all about rules and compliance after all.

Dr.Dawg

What point is that? One that you have supported with evidence, or one merely asserted? I raised several examples of other cultures in which territoriality, "basic capitalism" and property don't exist per se. I brought up the important distinction between personal and private property that is being obfuscated on this thread. With the greatest respect, all I've seen in response is spluttering re-assertions.

I thought the link provided by Horace gave a pretty good account of what really happened at the school in question. Yes, they pose an ideological alternative, and get the kids thinking about it. Horrors! They might grow up to be cultural critics!

Dr.Dawg

Horace:

"This lot are at least open – indeed aggressively so – about their true desire to impose systems of thought on their charges. Their duty is to use their influence on children in order to create a society different from the one “that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive”."

Whereas the regular school system uses its influence to mold conformity and unthinking acceptance of the unmarked dominant ideolo--whoops, I of course mean the natural order of things.

The teachers are trying to get the kids to think, which appears threatening to some here. But not to worry--that's only a few hours a week, compared to many more hours of telly, parents, the newspapers and in general the social values in which they are immersed on a daily basis. They'll turn out all right, never fear.

David

Dr Dawg,

Fretting about “essentialism” as “quaint” is a way of missing the obvious point that, however loosely one defines human nature, there are nevertheless tendencies that are, so far as one can tell, common to the species across vast stretches of time and in a very wide range of situations. (I scarcely need to point out that the denial of human nature - however one defines it or some part thereof - is very often aligned with the politics of the person doing the denying.) And we’re not discussing the quoted blog reactions to the Lego saga; we’re discussing the saga itself, its stated rationale, and its implications. I did take care to use the participants’ own words wherever possible.

“What point is that?”

Setting aside momentarily the peculiarities of the beliefs in question, I suppose a key point being missed is this: Do you think this is an appropriate way for the Hilltop staff to behave, and do you think their personal beliefs, loaded as they are, should be imprinted in this way on the children in their care? Were they, in fact, “eliminating bias”?

Dr.Dawg

David:

I think our last messages crossed cyber-paths. Just let me note that the kids are being asked to think, not being brainwashed, the latter, as you know, requiring weeks or even months of isolation, imprisonment, and ill-treatment.

Why the notion of thinking about alternatives has everyone's knickers in a twist, I cannot fathom. If your "human nature" is solidly in place, then there's really nothing to worry about.

David

Dr Dawg,

“The kids are being asked to think…”

Yes, of course they are. And that would be your practiced missing of the point.

Doesn’t it strike you as even slightly curious that the children should eventually (and after the removal of their favoured toy) have arrived at the proposals listed above, which happen – quite remarkably – to reflect the obvious preferences of the leftwing staff? Would a similar degree of “critical” and “anti-bias” thought be directed towards the favoured politics of the staff and their willingness to share them with children in their care? Will the children be encouraged to ruminate at length on whether Lego was more fun to play with before the new rules were imposed? Will they, I wonder, be encouraged to ponder whether days of careful building work entitles one to something?

Dr.Dawg

David:

Again with respect, I believe that it is you who keeps missing the point. Rather than unthinkingly pass on/approve of certain modes of behaviour that you, for one, thinks is "innate," the teachers got the kids to step back and reflect and discuss them. That the kids came up with new proposals no doubt is due in part to the teachers' positions--it would be naive to think otherwise--but is it not even a possibility that the kids participated as actors in that eventual outcome?

Moreover--and here's the main point, at least in my opinion--this series of events isn't taking place in a vacuum, or a North Korean attitude readjustment camp. It's going on in a society whose dominant values are a sea in which these kids swim. At least now they have the opportunity to make "the natural order of things" conscious, and see the possibility of alternatives. That's good pedagogy in my book. Unthinking transmission of "the natural order of things" is not. Either way, ideological preferences are being expressed. But at least in the instant case, the kids actually have alternatives placed before them.

AntiCitizenOne

The kids aren't being asked to think at all. They are being prevented from playing with a educational toy that highlights the fallacies that leftist faith revolves around.

Apart from not understanding
money,
comparative advantage,
time,
productivity,
limitations on economy of scale,
human nature,
property and
reciprocity

Marx did understand Envy, but as you can see basing a society on envy leads to slavery etc.

David

Dr Dawg,

If one redefines one’s terms sufficiently, not least regarding “bias” and “social justice”, then I’m sure one might regard the behaviour of the staff as reasonable. But that would, I think, require a measure of ideological distortion roughly equal to that of the staff themselves.

I repeat my questions: Do days of careful building work entitle one to something? And, by apparently assuming that such efforts do not, were the staff, in fact, “eliminating bias”?

Cambias

From which we deduce that "Dr. Dawg" does not have any children of his own, or at least doesn't spend much time observing them.

Dawg: try this experiment. Find a two-year-old. Give the two-year-old a toy, and say "this is yours." Now tell the two-year-old to give it to another two-year-old. Now count how many adults with crowbars it takes to pry the first two-year-old's fingers off the toy.

Dr.Dawg

ACO:

As it turns out, Lego was not banned for long. Horace's link sets out the chronology.

David:

I'm making a sincere effort to wrestle with your questions, and not to misunderstand them. They appear to have been added to your earlier comment, but perhaps it's my eyes that are at fault--I didn't see the following in your note earlier, so I was not evading them:

"Will the children be encouraged to ruminate at length on whether Lego was more fun to play with before the new rules were imposed? Will they, I wonder, be encouraged to ponder whether days of careful building work entitles one to something?"

And then, in your last comment, "[W]ere the staff, in fact, 'eliminating bias'?"

On the first question, the kids will do their own ruminating, now that the issue has been problematiz--that is, placed before them. They may, indeed, decide that the former approach was the better one. Or not. Again, were the new rules bluntly "imposed," meaning that the kids had no agency, or were they arrived at after discussion (taking into account, of course, the power relations between the teachers and the kids, even in a progressive school)?

On the question of entitlement, I really am at a loss. I'd have to say, "Sometimes yes, sometimes no." I frankly don't understand your usage of "entitlement," and I'm not playing dumb. Should we enjoy the fruits of our productive labour, including the surplus value thus created? Why, yes. :) Should the months of careful planning by al-Qaeda entitle them to something other than a fair trial? I'd have to say No. Perhaps I'm (inadvertently) missing the point here: perhaps you could clarify.

On your last question, we might find more grounds for agreement. I don't believe that absence of "bias" is possible, any more than I accept the nugatory concept of "objective reality." So, no, I don't think the staff 'eliminated bias.' But I note in their article for which Horace provided the link that they make no such claim. A straw man, perhaps?

Dr.Dawg

Cambias:

The earlier argument was that the kids were demonstrating "innate" capitalist behaviour. Please note that I have already drawn attention to the distinction to be made between personal and private property. In any case, the issue of whether the Lego in question was "personal" or "private" is interesting: I would argue that it wasn't, strictly speaking, the children's property at all. Their earlier behaviour, however, resembled that of people with respect to their personal property. My toothbrush, as noted, is mine, and I'll make that point strongly if someone else tries to use it. Doesn't speak to innateness, or "basic capitalism" or anything of the kind.

David

Dr Dawg,

Well, I suppose much of this hinges on how one feels about a person’s efforts and ingenuity counting for something in related decision making. Specifically, should the children who did the bulk of the building and invention – and who arguably made “Legotown” interesting to others – have some say in how the project develops? And are they entitled to a level of consideration that might not necessarily be extended to those with no particular interest in “Legotown”, or in Lego generally? By apparently rejecting the idea of such entitlement, it seems the staff was pursuing a political bias of its own. One which would, I think, jar with the proprieties of quite a few children, and one or two adults.

“My toothbrush, as noted, is mine, and I'll make that point strongly if someone else tries to use it. Doesn't speak to innateness, or ‘basic capitalism’ or anything of the kind.”

Ah, but I think it very much does.

steveaz

Dawg, and gang,
The Laws of Thermodynmics, especially the Law of Conservation of Energy, drive all homeotherms' evolution and societies. Hoarding, patronage, territoriality and defense of property are just some of the natural, predictable results.

I am always amazed at this convergence of PoMo Lefitsts with fundamentalist Religionists. Both need to divorce Mankind from his Biotic context in order for their respective faiths to hold.

Kevin Donnelly

Dr Dawg: Just let me note that the kids are being asked to think

Dr Dawg, I'm not sure that is the case here. They were asked to explore socialist scenarios, and the teachers got stressed when the children didn't play ball.

Dr Dawg: Whereas the regular school system uses its influence to mold conformity and unthinking acceptance of the unmarked dominant ideolo--whoops, I of course mean the natural order of things.

It's rather insulting for you to insinuate that non-socialist teachers ("regular school system", I guess), like myself, being uninterested in your ideology, don't get children to think critically or independently. That's rubbish. I don't see these teachers asking children to be independent, I see them wanting the children to accept their worldview and designing activities accordingly. That's not good pedagogy. That's terrible pedagogy.

Incidentally, in a socialist system, would you be keen for teachers to try and challenge socialist norms, and get children to play capitalist games, with a view to them thinking more sympathetically towards capitalism? Or would you want a socialist system to be consistent and conformist?

Dr.Dawg

Steveas:

Wow. And here I thought that sociobiology was the ultimate in reductionism. You've got it down to the Laws of Thermodynamics! (I'm aware of Leslie White's neo-evolutionary model of human society, although I'm not sure that he goes as far as you do: but he's not without his critics in any case.) Perhaps we need to drill down into quantum-level explanations. Indeed, I believe that some intrepid souls have done just that with respect to the vexed question of free will.

David:

My concern about my toothbrush isn't necessarily pre-cultural--after all, there are the ceaseless admonistions we receive as children, our acceptance of the germ theory and so on.

Kevin:

I don't get the impression that the teachers were "stressed." Did I miss something?

"I don't see these teachers asking children to be independent, I see them wanting the children to accept their worldview and designing activities accordingly. That's not good pedagogy. That's terrible pedagogy."

I find this not a little ironic. Obviously this worldview concerns you, and I would bet that you wouldn't want to expose your charges to it. Better to accept the natural order of things. I mean, I don't want to be overly presumptuous, so perhaps you could tell me whether you encourage your pupils/students to question notions like property, capitalism, power-relations and so on.

In a socialist system, I hope teachers would encourage kids to put everything up for scrutiny and challenge, and have the debates.

Dr.Dawg

Sorry, that's "steveaz."

Kevin Donnelly

Dr Dawg: I find this not a little ironic. Obviously this worldview concerns you, and I would bet that you wouldn't want to expose your charges to it. Better to accept the natural order of things. I mean, I don't want to be overly presumptuous, so perhaps you could tell me whether you encourage your pupils/students to question notions like property, capitalism, power-relations and so on.


I get them to question as much as I can, as far as it is relevant, without expecting them to come up with the "right" answers, writing outraged magazine articles when they don't, and then whinging about my own ideology being heartlessly marginalized by this brutal world of ours and of course the war in Iraq. I don't mind what my pupils say as long as it is lucid, intelligent and unpretentious. I also don't withdraw things from the classroom that don't fit my worldview, or I'd have furiously chucked out everything by Michael Rosen ages ago.

Dr, socialism doesn't concern me per se. Promoting it under the guise of being unbiased does. I don't think any school system should be used as a stalking horse by ideologues who know they have total control of that system but are still cheesed off because people don't agree with them. Still, I guess it proves they're not doing a very good job of promoting socialism. Maybe they should try harder.

David

Dr Dawg,

“In a socialist system, I hope teachers would encourage kids to put everything up for scrutiny and challenge, and have the debates.”

[ Wipes tear from eye ] That you would hope for such a thing, apparently in all seriousness, says more than perhaps you realise.

That the Hilltop staff regard a capitalist society as “unjust and oppressive”, yet don’t regard their own implicit quasi-Marxist alternative as much moreso says much of what one needs to know about the people concerned and their grip on reality. That the publication in which their articles appeared disdains “correct answers” in schooling pretty much ices the cake.

Dr.Dawg

Kevin:

I think you're caricaturing the teachers' practice and their arguments. I don't find their article "outraged" in the least. Indeed, it was measured--far more so, I warrant, than the comments on FauxNews, not to mention the charges of being "fascists" and "Islamists" and so on.

As already noted, the teachers didn't use the word "biased" or "unbiased" that I can find--but I'm willing to stand corrected on that point. On the more general issue, everyone is an ideologue, consciously or (more invidiously) unconsciously. But the dominant ideology is never an ideology--it's the natural order.

Kevin Donnelly

Uh...I should qualify one of my previous comments by saying that actually I do care if my pupils don't get the right answers in maths and that. I was thinking history, politics, etc. I'm quite keen on spelling but I don't let it stop the mass production of creative writing and the private ownership thereof. And I do get my older pupils to study left and right interpretations of history and critique them. Collectively, of course.

Dr.Dawg

David:

"That the publication in which their articles appeared disdains “correct answers” in schooling pretty much ices the cake. "

Now I'm thoroughly confused. Some commenters here are upset that the teachers have "imposed" what Kevin referred to as "right answers." (Outrageous. Marxist ideologues!) And now we find that the school in question eschews the very notion of "correct answers." (Outrageous. Postmodernists!) They can't win--posing alternatives to the "natural order" does, assuredly, carry with it some risk.

For the record, David, my notion of socialism is in part precisely what I set out. I'm sorry I caused you grief.

Kevin Donnelly

Dr Dawg: Now I'm thoroughly confused. Some commenters here are upset that the teachers have "imposed" what Kevin referred to as "right answers." (Outrageous. Marxist ideologues!) And now we find that the school in question eschews the very notion of "correct answers." (Outrageous. Postmodernists!)

Tut, tut, Dr. You know precisely what is meant. And I don't find it that odd that teachers who disdain correctness in maths, spelling and any kind of factual knowledge (in so far as it is culturally determined blah blah) are quite keen for people to adopt their politics. It fits with my experience.

Dr.Dawg

Kevin:

I think you're wandering. Did these teachers support mathematical and spelling anarchy? I see no evidence of that. But, not to get too Aristotelian about it, the teachers either imposed "truth" or they didn't. Commenters here would have it both ways--damned if they do, damned if they don't.

David

Dr Dawg,

“That the publication in which their articles appeared disdains ‘correct answers’ in schooling pretty much ices the cake.”

“Now I'm thoroughly confused.”

I thought you might appreciate the irony. What I suspect the authors mean is they dislike answers (and behaviour, and indeed facts) that refute their theories and beliefs. This is, I think, a signature of the postmodern left. There are no “correct” answers, except of course their own, which are “correct” because they wish them to be. It is, I fear, an article of faith, or possibly derangement. Hence my amusement at your confidence in Socialist impartiality.

rightwingprof

I trust "gene" is being used metaphorically.

"Roma, Sinti, Bedouins and Irish Travellers lack the gene for territoriality"

Uh, no. Their territory is wherever they happen to be. Try trespassing on a Bedouin camp, and see how many bullets you get in your derriere.

"the one for ownership is missing from a number of non-European societies"

You cannot name one single human society that has not revolved around the concept of ownership. Not one has ever existed. Not one.

"It took 200,000 or so years for homo sapiens sapiens to work its way up, inevitably, it seems, to the capitalist system."

Uh, no, but thanks for playing. I see you've taken too many of those anthropology classes, based on no data at all.

And finally:

"I raised several examples of other cultures in which territoriality, "basic capitalism" and property don't exist per se."

No, you have not. In every one of those societies, territoriality, property, and capitalism are alive and well.


Kevin Donnelly

Dr: I think you're wandering. Did these teachers support mathematical and spelling anarchy? I see no evidence of that.

No idea. Isn't that what is usually meant by a school which doesn't like "correct" answers? In any case being good at maths is clearly the result of cultural conditioning in a numbers-oriented capitalist system where we all function as just numbers and "correct" spelling (cah!) is surely the worst kind of middle class exclusivity, privileging the decisions of ancient grammarians over the more relevant non-hierarchical based and democratic spellings of young people today.

AntiCitizenOne

> In every one of those societies, territoriality, property, and capitalism are alive and well.

Perhaps there was a society without territoriality, property, and reciprocal benefit... Of course its absence from this era would mean they were failed societies.

Just like other the USSR and Chinese communism have imploded in fact.

David

As Kevin has suggested, the disdain for objective standards in, say, spelling or arithmetic very often goes hand in hand with an ideological obstinacy and an urge to impose one’s politics on others wherever possible. It’s rather incoherent, I grant you, but we’re not talking about people who are particularly troubled by such things. It is, as I said, largely a matter of faith, or personal psychodrama.

Dr.Dawg

David:

If I disliked answers, behaviour and "facts" that claim to refute my positions on things, I would be a nasty old grump who never ventures outdoors. On the contrary, despite the impression that I might have given to you and those here, I am, in fact, a relatively cheerful, happy-go-lucky sort of person. For example, I enjoy the discussions here.

I didn't get the impression from the article that Horace pointed us to that the teachers in question were nasty old grumps either. They gave every impression of being far more thoughtful, as earlier noted, than the assorted bloggers and FauxNews commentators who have been buzzing like mosquitoes since the story broke.

There are no "correct" answers about human behaviour. (The various maths are self-defining, so in that context there are certainly propositions that can be shown to jibe with its axioms or not, and propositions that are neither right or wrong if I understand Gödel correctly. Spelling is just a convention.) And the notion of "Socialist impartiality" is just as risible as "liberal impartiality" or "conservative impartiality." Good pedagogy doesn't entail "impartiality." It does, however, entail allowing people to think for themselves.

Kevin Donnelly

Dr Dawg: It does, however, entail allowing people to think for themselves.


which the teachers did not want, which is why they did not write an article saying "the kids turned out capitalist and that's fine by us". They wanted a set of outcomes. They make that quite clear. Good pedagogy does indeed entail impartiality, if by that we mean we do not promote our own worldview to our charges, while bad pedagogy does indeed involve trying to get children to agree with us. As these teachers want.

Dr.Dawg

rightwingprof:

If "territory" is wherever people happen to be, then we aren't talking about territory at all. We're talking about personal space. Territory can be bought, sold, annexed, etc. It's just playing with words to claim that the Roma have "territory."

Again, if you play with the word "ownership" you can make it apply just about anywhere. But if you mean "individual ownership", then you are clearly unaware of most societies and cultures that have existed on planet Earth. If you can clarify this point, then so shall I, with numerous examples.

I don't understand your "thanks for playing" concept. The argument initially advanced by David was that "basic capitalist behaviour" is "innate." I think my response is appropriate in that context.

Finally, if Roma and Sinti and Bedouins are "capitalists," according to you, then, once again, you're playing with words. I don't mind a little postmodernist playfulness, and I know all about floating signifiers, but even I have my limits. :)

David

Dr Dawg,

“If I disliked answers, behaviour…”

It isn’t always about you, matey. :)

“…and ‘facts’…”

Or maybe it is. :)

“I enjoy the discussions here.”

I’m glad. That’s the idea.

“I didn’t get the impression… that the teachers in question were nasty old grumps.”

Ideological obstinacy, habitual unrealism and personal psychodrama can take many colourful forms. These posts and threads include a veritable feast of such material. I’m documenting it for future generations. Big-hearted fool that I am.

Dr.Dawg

David:

First, an apology--somehow I had missed the "anti-bias work" stuff in the several articles I have now consumed. I go back to my earlier agreement with you, if on different premises: there is no such thing as absence of bias. However, it is indeed possible to discover and analyze particular biases.

In the event, the kids did work around to "outcomes" that were closer to what the teachers thought than was their earlier behaviour. So there was no frustration or stress or anger or anything else emanating from the pedagogues in question. In fact, I continue to note how measured their actual writings are, in comparison with those of their critics--present company excepted, of course.

David

Dr Dawg,

“In the event, the kids did work around to ‘outcomes’ that were closer to what the teachers thought than was their earlier behaviour.”

Given the bizarre outcome and its remarkable consonance with the teachers’ (equally bizarre) personal politics, one has to wonder just how freely that was done.

“So there was no frustration or stress or anger or anything else emanating from the pedagogues in question.”

We’re not discussing the teacher’s temperament or stress levels. We’re discussing the inappropriateness of their actions and their presumption, however politely it was expressed.

“I continue to note how measured their actual writings are, in comparison with those of their critics - present company excepted, of course.”

We’re not measuring their writings against those of the particular blog critics *they’ve* selected. We’re measuring them against basic moral proprieties and standards of argument. I find them wanting and delusional.

But, alas, I must away. Please carry on amongst yourselves.

[ wheels jukebox into room and heads out for food ]

http://fp.ignatz.plus.com/kingswingers.mp3

melk

Dr Dawg:There are no "correct" answers about human behaviour. (The various maths are self-defining, so in that context there are certainly propositions that can be shown to jibe with its axioms or not, and propositions that are neither right or wrong if I understand Gödel correctly. Spelling is just a convention.)

Let's not get too carried away. Calculus and Newtonian mechanics sent both Western and Soviet rockets to the correct orbits. But Lysenko led to famine. And Godel's famous theorem,like fanciful misunderstandings of Quantum theory, often leads to false analogies. Spelling may just be a convention but misspelling makes one look stupid, which is why Dr Dawg checks his spelling.

AntiCitizenOne

Gödel might have said there's no "truth" that does not rest on unprovable axioms...

HOWEVER it is possible to prove stuff wrong.

The evidence points to multiple failings of marxist theory.

Herbert Deutsch

Am I wrong to assume that the authors of this article would obect to hiring and firing teachers based on merit? :-)

Kevin Donnelly

Mr Deutsch: Am I wrong to assume that the authors of this article would obect to hiring and firing teachers based on merit? :-)

Certainly. Merit would be an ideological, specifically a capitalist, construct. Unless of course merit were redefined to mean "recognises the importance of social justice teaching".

Dr.Dawg

"Unless of course merit were redefined to mean 'recognizes the importance of social justice teaching'."

Which of course can be done badly or done well. Merit may be a conventional concept, but it's no less "real" for that.

Horace Dunn

Dr Dawg

I’d just like to respond to a few of the points you made (David – sorry for such a long comment, but I was busy this afternoon and feel hard-done-by that I missed all the fun)

You said: Thanks for the link. I knew there had to be more to it, and it's an excellent response. I enjoyed the idiot who equated the teachers to "Islamofascists." Demonization is such a wonderful substitute for thinking, isn't it?

I agree with you that the people they quote do themselves no favours, but despite the fact that the article flushed some weirdoes out of the woodwork, it doesn’t follow that the article is any more sensible. I’ll admit to thinking, though, that the woman who wrote “Ya'll are just plain NUTS!" has pretty much hit the nail on the head.


You said: I raised several examples of other cultures in which territoriality, "basic capitalism" and property don't exist per se.

No you didn’t. I know little about Sinti, but the other groups you mention I can say something about.

I’ve worked quite extensively with Roma people in countries of the former Yugoslavia. It was quite plain that their attitude towards property and territory were broadly similar to my own, and to that of most people I know. I’ve encountered a number of Bedouins as well. They drive a hard bargain, I can tell you. As for Irish Travellers, I mostly encountered those as a young man at horse fairs, where they went to trade. In fact my brother once bought a magnificent big-rumped skewbald from a Traveller. A year later he passed on the skewbald to another Traveller in part-exchange for a motor-bike.


You said: The teachers are trying to get the kids to think, which appears threatening to some here. But not to worry--that's only a few hours a week, compared to many more hours of telly, parents, the newspapers and in general the social values in which they are immersed on a daily basis. They'll turn out all right, never fear.

Well, let’s hope they do turn out all right. I don’t think that anyone here feels threatened by the idea that the children should be encouraged to think. The problem is that the teachers in question are not saying “you should think for yourselves”. Rather they are saying “you must think like us”. As Kevin Donnelly said: that’s terrible pedagogy.


You said: I didn't get the impression from the article that Horace pointed us to that the teachers in question were nasty old grumps either. They gave every impression of being far more thoughtful, as earlier noted, than the assorted bloggers and FauxNews commentators who have been buzzing like mosquitoes since the story broke.

Since we’re dealing with impressions, here’s mine. I thought they sounded smug, snobbish and illiberal. As for the nasty commenters, see my remark above. They certainly picked some stinkers for inclusion in the article. I wonder, though, how many balanced, courteous and fair minded comments they received, and why they chose not to share them.

Cambias

A simple thought experiment for Dr. Dawg:

If you read that teachers at a school were witholding Legos until the children agreed to live by "Christian values" would you think the teachers were a) worthy pedagogues instilling a valuable moral lesson, or b) a bunch of narrow-minded God-botherers trying to brainwash kids into swallowing their hogwash?

Be honest in your answer.

David

Horace,

“I was busy this afternoon and feel hard-done-by that I missed all the fun.”

Yes, we give good thread.

Perhaps this boils down to whether one can seriously reconcile the teachers’ claims about “commitment to social justice [and] anti-bias teaching” with their overt attempt to challenge “assumptions that mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society — a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive.” Given these claims are made by people who so strongly disapprove of “private ownership and hierarchical authority”, and who define their terms rather curiously, I feel some scepticism is in order.

Dr.Dawg

Cambias:


"If you read that teachers at a school were witholding Legos until the children agreed to live by "Christian values" would you think the teachers were a) worthy pedagogues instilling a valuable moral lesson, or b) a bunch of narrow-minded God-botherers trying to brainwash kids into swallowing their hogwash?

Be honest in your answer."

I think I've been honest in all of my answers thus far. The answer in this case is (b). But it's a straw man, because the teachers in question were not brainwashing anyone, nor attempting to do so--they were getting kids to question their earlier assumptions. Reading the longer article about the methodology, it's clear, at least to me, that the kids were active participants, not soft wax being stamped. My knowledge of "Christian education" is that thinking for oneself is discouraged: Jesus is the Answer.

Horace:

"You said: I raised several examples of other cultures in which territoriality, "basic capitalism" and property don't exist per se.

No you didn’t. I know little about Sinti, but the other groups you mention I can say something about."

In that connection (Bedouins, Irish Travellers, etc.) I was referring specifically to territoriality. But your counter-examples do not point to the notion of individual private property, nor of "basic capitalist behaviour." Bargaining/bartering went on long before capitalism. Exchange-value didn't suddenly come into being after the overthrow of feudalism.

I don't think the kids were being force-fed. They were being asked to challenge basic behaviours and assumptions. How many mainstream pedagogues would risk such a thing? The PTA (or its British equivalent) would have their necks.

Vitruvius

Lego people argue about utopian castles.
Meccano people build working trebuchets.

Cambias

Glad you're honest, Dr. Dawg. Now, if it's wrong for Christian right-wing fanatics to impose their ideas on impressionable young minds, isn't what these teachers did equally wrong?

Dr.Dawg

Cambias:

I think I have already covered that point. There is a marked pedagogical difference between imposing the authority of the Lord (see, for example, http://www.christianacademylou.org/System/philosophy.html) and encouraging kids to think for themselves. The teachers in the latter case didn't tell the kids what to think--they urged them to think. That's a rather significant difference.

Horace Dunn

Dr Dawg

"Bargaining/bartering went on long before capitalism"

That's the point, though, isn't it? No-one sat down in the British Library and came up with Capitalism as a system. Kingsley Amis said something along the lines of - Capitalism isn't really an -ism, it's just what people do. I know from experience that Roma, Bedouins and Irish Travellers "do" Capitalism in that sense. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's innate (though I wouldn't be surprised if it were) but it's surely a mistake not to accept that notions of ownership, and activity that leads to transferring ownership of particular goods and services for mutual gain are not universal. As has been pointed out in this thread, when systems are imposed that deny people's rights to that ownership and activity the results are, to say the least, damaging.

old blockhead

By the way, Dr. Dawg, there isn't a society in the world without some concept of private ownership and that includes all the ones you mentioned. I think your view of these various peoples has strong overtones of Disney and Kevin Costner.

The only 'societies' without ownership were not really societies as we understand them, but 'bands', collections of hunters and gatherers who worked in groups of about 30. But even they had a concept of the right to use the land.

The Bedouin, for example, have a clear understanding of their 'right-to-sole-usage' of lands for their animals, and their animals are most certainly their capital - and are indeed owned, not collectively, but within families.

The self-identification of the individual as differentiated from the Other is a basic psychological reality and denied by the leveling down of socialist collectivism.
The extension of the individual into that individual's private property is an innate psychological aspect of our species. And don't get into the reductionism of 'where's the gene for this'?

Private property, and the ownership of this private property goes along with actions of responsibility for and protection of this property. It is the case that when private property is denied and is instead made common - then, no-one cares for that property and it falls into decay.

The teachers in question were indeed brainwashing the children - and no, brainwashing doesn't have to be defined as 'isolate etc; the authority of the adults, the teachers, and their 'teaching' is quite enough to instill in the children's minds that ONE perspective is 'good' and another is 'bad'. Most certainly the teachers weren't allowing the children to 'think for themselves' but were 'socially engineering' their thoughts. When they thought for themselves, they were setting up private ownership.

Of course, since I totally disagree with the axioms of socialism, then, I'll disagree with your support for it. No need to expand on any of it.

Horace Dunn

Dr Dawg

"The teachers in the latter case didn't tell the kids what to think--they urged them to think. That's a rather significant difference."

Of course, you are right to point out that this isn't a case of brain-washing or coercion. Nonetheless, the teachers involved were quite clear that the result they wanted to achieve was to have the children in their charge dispense with ideas that they - the teachers - considered "unjust and oppressive". That was their overt aim.

When you questioned Kevin Donnelly about his approach to teaching, he said:

"I get them to question as much as I can, as far as it is relevant, without expecting them to come up with the "right" answers, writing outraged magazine articles when they don't, and then whinging about my own ideology being heartlessly marginalized by this brutal world of ours and of course the war in Iraq. I don't mind what my pupils say as long as it is lucid, intelligent and unpretentious. I also don't withdraw things from the classroom that don't fit my worldview, or I'd have furiously chucked out everything by Michael Rosen ages ago."

Now surely you can't favour the approach of the bunch at Hilltop Children's Center over this? Can you?


Dr.Dawg

Horace:

"[I]t's surely a mistake not to accept that notions of ownership, and activity that leads to transferring ownership of particular goods and services for mutual gain are not universal." I assume you mean "universal," not "not universal."

Until the systematic exploitation of workers for gain was in place, that is, industrial capitalism (pace Amis, that was a distinct period in Western history, and a new means of production), there were certainly prevailing notions that could be called ownership--control over property and its disposition--but they didn't entail selling one's labour power to another in order to survive. Rather, what they sold or traded was the product of their own labour--artifacts, food, etc. Nor did all societies or cultures have a notion of individual property other than personal property.

old blockhead

Again, Dr. Dawg - you are wrong in your Disneyesque view of 'the way it was'.

First - all societies had clear understandings of private ownership, not of personal items such as that hapless toothbursh, but private ownership of land and land rights, ownership of animals, of seeds, of grain, of the produce of one's work.

As for 'selling their labour' - that's found only in very large populations. That's an entirely different issue and enables the individual who sells his labour to move off the 'family farm', and using just his wits and brawn, earn a living elsewhere. Selling one's labour off the farm, rather than keeping it bonded to the farm, enabled the dev't of towns, of specialized non-farm tasks such as printing, house and ship building, study of chemicals, medicine etc etc.

Selling one's labour/wit freed people from that 'slavery' to the direct exchange of the farm. It was an enormous act of freedom. Of course, you'll disagree. Oh well.

Horace Dunn

Dr Dawg

Thanks for deciphering my dodgy syntax for me.

Ah yes, the "systematic exploitation of workers". You forgot to add that the wheels of capitalism are oiled by the blood of those same poor workers. If we were discussing the position of workers 100 years ago, I'd have some time for your rhetoric. But please. Really.

It doesn't change my basic point. The lego teachers found the children's approach to ownership and territory unacceptable. You said that this was fine since such an approach was questionable. You were taken up on this, and you replied that there are certain cultures (you gave us four examples) that did not subscribe to this mindset. If you think that Roma, Bedouin or Irish Traveller children (possibly Sinti as well) would not have played with the lego in the same way, then you don't know children. The only difference might be that the parents of such children would be not be so indulgent of these tiresome ideologues posing as teachers as the predominately white, middle class parents that, we are told on the website, send their children to Hilltop.

Kevin Donnelly

Uh...I thought I'd re-interject to point out that I'm not the Australian Kevin Donnelly who is a right wing educationalist (and hence deserves to hang etc, etc); he's written loads of angry articles and books but I'm just some clown in a southern English school with a deliberately naive approach to ideology.

Dr Dawg said: Until the systematic exploitation of workers for gain was in place....

Freedom for Tooting!

Dr.Dawg

old b.:

I suggest that my anthropological knowledge might extend just a bit further than yours. If one plays with the notion of "ownership," one can make it fit just about anywhere. But if we stay on track here, and talk about singular, individual private property, that is not universal in the least. The Bedouins "own" on an extended family, not a personal basis. Samoan village plantations are run collectively, and I've been there to see for myself. Native people in Canada did not have singular, private ownership of lands and their fauna and flora. Maasai did not until recently have a notion of private ownership (http://www.maasai-association.org/maasai.html).

I could waste much bandwidth stating the obvious: that the rest of the world did not run on innate (read "European") principles. Much of it still doesn't, especially the so-called Fourth World.

As for the notion of a closed individual differentiation from the group, that is not a transcultural universal. Indeed, one people pointed out to me a couple of years back (and I'm trying to chase down the name and reference) doesn't even have a word for the first person singular. And there is lots of space in between (see, for example, John Beattie's review article in Africa, "Representations of the self in traditional Africa," v.50:3 (1980).

Finally, I differentiate (but I'm not going to do so again) between private property and personal property.

Horace:

Of course that was their aim. But the kids were active participants, as I mentioned before. And, given the sheer quantity of opposing ideas around, they now have the equipment actually to reflect and to choose. Kevin, with respect, caricatures what the teachers did, what they believed, and what they said about it all afterwards. They didn't go for "right" answers, they didn't "whinge," their article was not "outraged." The net result of their intervention will be reflection and choice. I am sure that the kids in Kevin's classroom are treated with courtesy and respect; but are they really encouraged to become aware of and critique "the natural order?"

Dr.Dawg

old b.:

"First - all societies had clear understandings of private ownership, not of personal items such as that hapless toothbrush, but private ownership of land and land rights, ownership of animals, of seeds, of grain, of the produce of one's work."

NOT on an individual basis! Your knowledge of other cultures seems a tad incomplete to me.

Horace:

"If you think that Roma, Bedouin or Irish Traveller children (possibly Sinti as well) would not have played with the lego in the same way, then you don't know children."

Well, I have a couple. Have you seen kids in other cultures play? Is there some kind of universal here that's escaped the notice of anthropologists? Might be a paper in it.

Incidentally, I really *was* talking about the situation of the worker about 100 years ago, or 150--the introduction of industrial capitalism. Today we need to look at global systems, and Third World blood.

Kevin:

Don't worry. I'd never heard of your namesake. But I don't hold with that Tooting stuff. I was once a proud member of the Judean People's Liberation Front (M-L). Come to think of it, I may have been the only member. :)

Vitruvius

Maybe we can get Prof. Rosling to include a measure of people who have a word for the first person singular in his next release of Gapminder.

Dr.Dawg

Horace:

"If you think that Roma, Bedouin or Irish Traveller children (possibly Sinti as well) would not have played with the lego in the same way, then you don't know children."

It's the end of the day for me, and I was unduly snarky. Apologies. I don't know whether there is or is not a transcultural universal about the play of children, although I suspect not. But the whole process of socialization is in any case supposed to move the kids from childhood to maturity. This inevitably means something other than approaching two-year-old hellions as equals.

Personally, I don't think that all kids left on their own would revert to a Lord of the Flies-type regime. But their behaviour, in any culture, is likely to be different from that of the grown-ups. That's where pedagogy, of one sort or another, comes into play.

Now, in our society, if the choice is between an uncritical acceptance of power, competition and exclusion, vs. a more cooperative way of getting on, my obvious bias is in favour of the latter. But the point here is that the teachers and their young charges are not operating on the moon. So the position espoused by the teachers (and later, to some degree, the kids, I gather) is not the only one to which the kids will be exposed. (Indeed, and to be perfectly blunt, I think that the teachers are pissing into the wind. But that's my middle-aged pessimism coming through.) In any case, the outrage over this is completely over the top, in my opinion. That was what brought me into this discussion, and where I should probably leave it.

Horace Dunn

Dr Dawg

OK. So you agree that "that was their aim", but you're not willing to accept that this was wrong because "the kids were active participants". Yet, when Cambias asked you whether you would be bothered in a similar situation where "Christian values" replaced the values that the Hilltop teachers wanted to instil, you objected. You reasoned that imposing the word of the Lord was incompatible with getting the children to think for themselves. But this was not what Cambias was suggesting. He merely asked whether encouraging children to operate according to Christian values was acceptable to you. This does not have to mean you'll-burn-in-hell-unless-you-comply. It means approaching life in a way that Jesus taught. So why should this particular system of thought (which was if nothing else peaceable and loving) be objectionable if used as a way to get children thinking? Or should these lego games be limited to promoting Marxist ideologies as an alternative to the status quo?

Horace Dunn

Dr Dawg

There's no reason at all to apologise. You weren't being in the least bit snarky. Quite the contrary: you've been good-humoured and courteous throughout which is quite a feat given the fact that you have been assailed on all sides. I think it's very important not to hang around all the time with people who agree with you. I'd do it more often myself if it weren't so exhausting.

I agree with you that the outrage over this is over the top, though I would contend that that over-the-top outrage was not much in evidence in this thread (while it blustered away somewhere out there). On this thread at least I feel, there were some very valid concerns expressed about the approach the Hilltop teachers adopted. They were worth discussing.

Thank you and sleep well.

old blockhead

Well, Dr. Dawg, you don't know what I know or don't know about anthropological issues, so, your assertion of my incompetence remains - your assertion.

I'll stick to my point. All societies have a clear understanding of private, non collective ownership. Don't try to slither out of the point of this discussion - which is about the denial of private ownership and the insistence on communal ownership- by introducing whether it's individual only private ownership or family private ownership.

The notion is that such private ownership is EXCLUSIVE, unshared and most certainly not collective ownership - whether by an individual or by a family. And all societies have that.

And don't slither into yet another fallacy, an 'either-or' where children on their own will be 'lord of the flies' adversarial. The topic is the concept and importance of individual identity, the private self-ownership of that identity and of that identity's interactions with its environment. It is important that such an identity remain in the control of the individual and not be handed over to the authoritarian philosopher-kings of the Commune. If you do that, the individual is removed from critical responsibility and can only operate by rules.

Samoan gardens are run by extended families, which own the rights to that land and its produce.

You haven't commented on the fact that freeing the worker, by financially evaluating his labour of 'brawn and brain' was an enormous step of freedom for the individual. Are you trying to change the subject again - with your 'globalization' and 'third world blood'? I'm in favor of globalization and it's hardly active on 'third world blood'. I suggest you take a look at Rosling's lecture.

The fact is, psychological consciousness requires a self-awareness and an ability to differentiate the self from the Other. Therefore, the Subject is vital in all cultures. This is a 'transcultural universal' because it is not cultural but psychological. All children will become aware of 'Me' and "not Me' and that includes the extensions of both 'Me' and 'Not Me' (toys, clothing, people).

I think those children were treated with smug arrogance by the 'educators', who assumed that their ideology was 'superior' and proceeded to embed that ideology in the children. The children were most certainly not enabled to think for themselves; they were treated to a blatant act of propaganda for one and only one ideology.

Now, if they were provided with critical thinking skills - then, they'd be able to think for themselves. But, having an authority figure tell them 'the best way'...is ..heh..patriarchal domination.

Dr.Dawg

o.b.:

Last post tonight. But to argue that collective ownership by an extended family is "private" in the European sense is plain silly. And in the case (for example) of Maori customary land, it belongs to the iwi (tribe) or hapu (sub-tribe). My late partner had shares in Maori customary land: she couldn't sell them, she couldn't sell the land, in fact couldn't point to a part of the land that was "hers" or even "her family's." Maori customary land is held collectively. And that's one of a host of examples, including land tenure on Canadian Native reserves. You simply don't know what you're talking about.

"It is important that such an identity remain in the control of the individual and not be handed over to the authoritarian philosopher-kings of the Commune."

Talk about either-or. That "identity" is actually quite fluid: do take a look at that African reference I cited. In any case, my point about the Lord of the Flies (which I explicitly discounted as a possibility) had nothing to do with "individual" vs. "Commune," but with the unsocialized child and the need for pedagogy to accomplish that socialization.

I suggest you take a look at the operation of the global system and the massive human cost of it, before enlisting some authority to attempt to make your case for you.

Vitruvius

But what about looking at the global system and the massive human benefit from it?

old blockhead

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2670820702819322251

Dr. Dawg - take a look at the above lecture by Rosling, suggested by vitruvius, on the massive beneficial changes wrought by globalization. I know it won't change your opinions, but...

No, you are quite wrong, and your anecdotal data doesn't change the fact - that private ownership is indeed a fact in non-industrial societies. Your view of private ownership confines it to that which can be sold; but that is an invalid definition.

Private ownership means confined to singular use by an individual or family or clan - ie, that the use of that land, for example, is not communal, but private to that individual, family or clan. The fact that the land can be sold - is a late view of land tenure but doesn't affect private ownership of that land.
Private ownership refers not only to the land, but also to water rights, to the animals, to the grain harvests, etc.

The animals and grain, of course, are privately owned by an individual, family or clan; they are not the collective property of the tribe - and are used, for example, as 'money' in bride price dowries etc.

The reserve system is a corrupted land system and not the same as in pre-reserve times.

With regard to the children - the point is that the pedagogy or socialization was biased in promoting one ideology (socialism) and ignoring basic psychology. Private ownership is an important component of responsibility.

I think it's been made quite clear in various socialist and public housing communes that communal 'ownership' is essentially non-ownership - and the land, the residences, the goods that are communally 'owned' are treated with indifference and rapidly destroyed. Private ownership, on the other hand, results in care, commitment and upkeep of the properties and goods. Basic human psychology.

Kevin Donnelly

Dr Dawg: I am sure that the kids in Kevin's classroom are treated with courtesy and respect; but are they really encouraged to become aware of and critique "the natural order?"

I guess you'll never know. It could just be that I get them to critique socialist fantasies _as well_ and that for me, being questioning does not mean wanting the left answers or being committed over and above the independence of thought of my pupils to "social justice teaching". You have still failed to acknowledge the deliberate political indoctrination of these teachers and your best justification has been, effectively, "well you indoctrinate them too, unless you do x y and z" which is nonsense, ignorant and vaguely offensive (I've always wanted to be offended).

David

Kevin,

As Horace said: “The teachers involved were quite clear that the result they wanted to achieve was to have the children in their charge dispense with ideas that they - the teachers - considered ‘unjust and oppressive’. That was their overt aim.”

This rather calls into question the teachers’ much paraded “anti-bias” credentials. This is a common sleight of hand among ideologues of all shades – to redefine basic terms (“social justice” etc) until they serve a chosen line but bear little relationship to reality, principle or logic. To equate “social justice” with hard-line Socialism requires something rather different from unbiased “critical enquiry.” It requires a leap of faith, or sheer bloody-mindedness. (See earlier discussions about Joseph Harker and his unilateral redefinition of racism.) And the contrast between your approach and that of the Hilltop staff is, I think, worth pondering.

Once one strips away the supposed heroism of challenging the status quo or “fighting the power” (albeit with a much nastier and more authoritarian version), the intended bias – and the willingness to impress it upon youngsters – becomes harder to miss. And harder to excuse.

Given the tendentious (and delusional) definitions used by the staff in their own prepared statements, I think we can assume that similar lapses may well have taken place in their unrehearsed dealings with the children. To see the actions of the Hilltop staff as encouraging children to think “without bias” itself requires bias and wishful thinking. One would have to approve of the outcome in order not to mind how it was arrived at.

georges

Woah, I go away for a couple of days and miss all the fun.

Does anyone remember the "Modern Parents" in VIZ? I think this is what we may be dealing with in Legoland.

However, before we turn the whole thread into a celebration of Capitalism, can I point out that the modern corporation is far from a product of nature. Capitalist societies give corporations legal rights that they do not give to individual humans. It was not always thus.

Interestingly, my own young son - with no prompting from me - came up with an extreme form of communism all on his own. He said he thought it was bad that most people wound up doing work they didn't like. He suggested we pay everyone the same money, regardless of which job they did. And maybe everyone should have to take turns doing the bad jobs, like cleaning toilets. He didn't propose re-education camps or such...

I notice someone brought up the example of educators teaching kids "Christian" principles. Well, the teachings of Jesus are extremely anti-Capitalist (eg "take no thought for the morrow"). No modern society could function by strict adherence to the teachings of Jesus. It's the same with Muhammad. Strictly, Islam forbids any "time value of money". But no banking or investment system in a modern economy can do without the "time value of money". Sharia-compliant mortgages basically play word-games to soothe the consciences of borrowers, but at root, the "time value of money" still determines the banking approach.

Kevin Donnelly

georges:Does anyone remember the "Modern Parents" in VIZ? I think this is what we may be dealing with in Legoland.

Cressida and Malcolm Wright-Pratt and their long suffering children Tarquin and Guinevere. Eg -

Cressida: "Oh, Tarquin, you know we don't believe in competitive sports."
Malcolm: [holding hand up with index finger self righteously extended]"Football is a symbolic enactment of male violence."

Not that I have a copy of Viz by my computer for reading when the ancient dial-up stops working or anything...

Stuck-record

A lot of this fascinating discussion has centred on ownership, capitalism, territoriality and property. I'd like to suggest another angle to explore: creativity.

As a professional artist, it seems to me that these teachers, like many Marxist-influenced thinkers, completely disregard the inherent possessiveness that is a prime moving force in creativity. You may want to share or sell your artwork/creation when it is finished, but not while you're in the process of making it.

According to the author's original article, in Rethinking Schools, there was an original group of eight children who took the basic raw materials of the Lego blocks and, in my opinion, 'added value'. They effectively made something out of nothing. They saw potential, where the other children did not. They must have been very proud of their achievement. Evidently, the teachers were not.

From their intellectual (and physical) efforts this core group of eight children created something that was exciting enough that other children wanted to become involved in. This is a creative achievement which goes completely unrecognised by the teachers, who instead see it as a naked, capitalistic land-grab. So, in the spirit of 'equality' they take advantage of an accident which destroys the original creation, to begin again: how very YEAR ZERO of them. One wonders if the accident hadn't happened, would it have been necessary to engineer it? The town would have had to be destroyed in order to be saved :-)

The process by which the teachers then manipulate the children to achieve the Marxist paradise they desire is laughably transparent. It's this kind of thing that gives social sciences such a bad name. As Dr Dawg rightly point out, we are all bundles of prejudices and biases. It is, however, possible to try to be self-aware enough to admit to those prejudices and biases; something which the authors of this article are simply incapable of.

So, after the children's re-alignment, the town is rebuilt. We're not allowed to see what the original Lego town looked like, but, having done drawing classes with children I can imagine it was bizarre, individualistic, creative, exciting and just downright weird. Who knows what might have been created if it was left to run, unfettered by ideology.

Never mind. At least we have the workers Paradise of NEW Lego town. Which sounds, er... great?
"We should all have equal houses. They should be standard sizes... should all have just the same number of pieces, like 15 or 28 pieces."
"Lego houses might well be 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."

Brilliant. Creativity stifled: uniformity enforced. Marxist Paradise.

TDK

When reading the discussion on Lego cities it reminded me of the teaching my children receive regarding Fair Trade. They are asked to list the contributory parties who brought an item (eg. coffee) to their homes; they then take the total retail cost and are ask to divide it between the contributors. They are then shown the real distribution and asked to discuss the "fairness". Not surprisingly in the absence of any further knowledge, the children invariably choose equal distribution of the elements of cost.

Now I have no objection to children being asked to be critical of the way things are, but in order to be critical one might be expected to have a basic understanding of how things work. That is to say I would expect children to be exposed to both a defence of free trade as well as a critique. They certainly don't get anything that might be recognised as the former. They certainly never go into enough depth to explore the likely consequences of compelling a different distribution.

Let me be clear here. I'm not saying that Fair Trade is right or wrong; I'm saying that a person who concludes in favour of Fair Trade without being cognisant of the argument in favour of Free Trade cannot be said to have thought critically.

And it's not sufficient to say that children are exposed to a defence through the wider culture. That must be demonstrated not assumed.

The other thought that occurs is that all of us live in mixed economies. If it's fine to for teachers to question the orthodoxy then why is that questioning always built upon the presupposition of increasing collectivisation rather than decreasing it. Why are the utopian dreams of Socialism more valid than those of say Ayn Rand? Both provide criticisms of the current order of things.

Dr.Dawg

The main discussion, I think, has been had, and my thanks to everyone for a good one. But on the fascinating little side-track about private property, I think the discussion is far from over.

Old B. made the claim somewhere in this thread that "not one" people has ever had collective or communal ownership of property, but, rather, private property. Over the course of the discussion, it emerged that "private" was being redefined as we went along: it didn't mean individual ownership, and it didn't mean the ability to sell or trade what you "owned."

The gnat that I am straining at, though, was the charge of adducing "anecdotal evidence." The original claim, remember, had been of an absolute nature. One anecdote to the contrary is sufficient falsify that claim, based as it is upon a dubious psychologism. O.B. rejected the Samoan example, because "private" could, in his lexicon, refer to the plantations held by the aiga (extended families). So I provided the example of Maori customary land tenure. That led to the "anecdotal" comment. I raised the Native reserve system in Canada; O.B.'s response was that it had been "corrupted." Talk about (to use his word) "slithering."

One more example, and then I think my point (that O.B.'s blanket statement doesn't stand) is made. The Dene people regard a large part of the Northern Canadian wilderness as theirs--in particular, the animals that inhabit it. The land is seen as a vast storehouse for the Dene. It is assuredly not divided up by clan. Moreoever, even when an animal is caught, that doesn't necessarily mean that the hunter now "owns" the carcase. Reference: Michael Asch, "Wildlife: Defining the Animals the Dene Hunt and the Settlement of Aboriginal Rights Claims"Canadian Public Policy / Analyse de Politiques, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Jun., 1989), pp. 205-219.

Again, everyone, thanks. Much to mull over.

TDK

Interesting comments on the Bedouin.

Of course not all Arabs are nomads. Over the past 10,000 years many settled in villages, towns and cities and whether or not they collectivised property as nomads, they didn't as city dwellers. Which begs the question as to what came first - prosperity or the recognition of property rights? Is collective ownership a barrier to prosperity and general societal advancement?

Untoward

Dr Dawg: You raise the example of Bedouins and nomadic peoples in an effort to demonstrate that the territorial impulse is not one that is inherent to humanity, yet this merely reveals a poor understanding of example you use.

The nomadic tradition is not one that is based on a different set of assumptions or beliefs of that regarding property and capitalism. Indeed both traditions are expressions of the lame fundamental human impulse: to exploit resources in a way that confers the greatest benefit to the individual. Whilst in agricultural societies this impulse finds its fullest expression in property - of managing and cultivating a defined portion land for personal benefit, this is a consequence of their environment. Nomadic pastoral cultures, being concentrated in regions where economic resources are thinly spread, instead express this insult in seasonal migration to ensure resources are not depleted beyond recover (much in the same way an agriculturalist will employ a fallow field) and to adapt to seasonal changes.

However, contrary to what you suggest, nomads do not lack territorialism or a concept of ownership regading resources: seasonal grazing rights are established and disputes will typically be settled via conflict (either physical or through the tribal judicial system), enforcing the territorial claims of one group over those of another. The fundamental unit of social groupings withing nomadic cultures (like in agricultural societies) is the family, and in times of scarcity these disputes will involve individual families vying for the rights to exploit a particular portion of a given resource. When scarcity occurs, such as in the case of the drought that caused such a decline in the numbers of nomadic bedouins, the individual will relinquish his or her nomadic lifestyle and adopt another that offers to cater to his or her needs (such as, again in the case of the Bedouins, migrating to the nearest cities and agricultural areas).

This belies the naive image of nomadic pastoral societies as some kind of non-territorial commune engaging in some co-operative utopia -indeed, they are closer to capitalist societies in their motivations (survival and personal benefit) and practices than some who romanticise them would care to admit.

For historical examples one need only look to the Hunnish and Mongolian invasions. Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun both recognised that uniting the tribes of their respective peoples offered them a chance for expansion, extorsion, conquest and command of resources in areas that allowed more profitable agricultural and trade practices to thrive, notions that obviously appealed to the tribes enough for them to unite under such a cause. Both invasions established empires (as opposed to happy smiley proto-soviet collectives) and fiercy defended their (and I emphasise the "their") new found acquisitions against interlopers and aggressors.

What's perhaps even more astonishing is that Attila and Genghis didn't even need a childhood of playing with lego to get this idea.

AntiCitizenOne

Lego art
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=O-tkqpHnxTI

steveaz

As to the "innateness" of Capitalism, I refer to Capitalism as Mankind's Kreb's Cycle. It IS our species' metabolic system.

This conclusion calls into serious question the priorities of those academics who continue to criticize Capitalism.

An E. coli bacteria would not waste time bemoaning its adenosine phosphorylation cycle. And a daisy's expanding leaf-cells don't sit around decrying salt-pumps, turgidity and osmosis. And so, why do cells (individuals) in human society continue to waste so much time pinching and probing at Capitalism?

Like fussy toddlers at the beach: it appears they're so busy cursing the wave, that they're forgetting to ride it!

old blockhead

untoward - exactly. I suggest that Dr. Dawg's view of the indigeneous is naive and, as I said, 'Disneyfied'.

Dr. Dawg, I most certainly did not redefine 'private' as we went along; I maintained right from the start that private ownership, as differentiated from non-ownership or 'communal use' can be held by individuals, families and clans. I also was clear that it had nothing to do with 'selling it' but involved private usage of it.

Your insistence on a narrow view of private, as pertaining only to the individual and as necessarily involving the ability to 'buy and sell' that land is, may I say, a capitalist view of property.

What I have maintained right from the start is that all societies all over the world - except for the small bands of hunters and gatherers (in groups of about 30) have a clear understanding of private property. This private property involves the rights of an individual, family or clan to the exclusive use of that property.

There is no such thing as communal or non-private ownership of these goods. That would be economically disastrous. If one clan has the rights to use a particular land, then, it is responsible for its care. If everyone has such rights, then, the land base is stripped of its benefits by over use and lack of management.

The Dene are hunters and gatherers and USE the land within the exclusive rights of different families. That usage is private and exclusive.

You mentioned the Maori. I'll point you to Andrew Vayda's outline of Maori warfare -and lifestyle. The clan or 'hapu' had private control of its food sources and did not share this base.And a war victory meant that the defeated people's goods were claimed by the victor, and his person as slave. The slaves were individually owned. And the captives' territory became the prooperty of the victor. Hmm. See ed. Paul Bohannan Law and Warfare.

Your notion of an 'idealistic era' of communal goodwill is, I suggest, naive. The basic psychology of the individual is a differentation between the Self and the Other. This is important to the cognitive process.

Furthermore, economically, land and resources must be cared for; this is most effectively done when that land/resources are considered an extension of the Self (whether that Self is an individual, family, clan). If there is no such extension, that land/resources are Other - and quite frankly, open to dissipative abuse.

Brendan_2

Will refreshments be served at the 100th post?

In the recent past I created an educational module for teachers that assisted in explaining the use of taxes in our society. This was done with interactive games where someone was a secret 'tax cheat' leading to a shortage of revenues for the state to invest/distribute. Everyone here seems to be speaking past the obvious point that we all pay for a rather large collective ownership and management of infrastructure and other communal benefits. Sweden and Canada fare rather well in Hans Rosling's super cool visualized data, and they are not short of socialist features.

These teachers may have gone one step further than my 10th grade civics curriculum, but, it seems to me that injecting some knowledge of social equity into the children's Lego play might help them distinguish between private and civic responsibilities. Granted, I have not read their paper yet and so I may have missed some Marxist rhetoric that has so irked some here.

David

“Will refreshments be served at the 100th post?”

Or thereabouts.

[ wheels in jukebox and trolley of canapés ]

http://fp.ignatz.plus.com/kickinhead.mp3

old blockhead

brendan - you are, I think, diverting from the issues. The fact that a society operates within both individual and collective agendas is not at issue, and I doubt if anyone would deny these two agendas.

The basic issue, I think, is the rejection by the teachers of a basic human characteristic - the recognition of and the protection and care of private property.

This becomes a question. Is there a requirement in society for this psychological characteristic of private ownership? Is this characteristic 'degenerate' and something to be 'socialized out'? These teachers seemed to have that conclusion.

Dr. Dawg, for example, seems to reduce private ownership to toothbrushes. Questions that some of us have focus around the seeming universality of private ownership (denied by Dr. Dawg) and therefore, of its functionality.

I don't think that we are advocating one or the other mode, exclusively, but I, for one, reject that reduction of private ownership to immediate personal items. I think that private ownership of social goods and services is vital to the well-being of a society. Why? Because of that basic pyschological characteristic - that when we extend our Self into the Other, we become Owners of that Other - and therefore, we treat it with care and concern.

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