Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?

Archive for March 1st, 2007

I feel as if I’ve read this somewhere before…

with one comment

Before I ever sat down to read A Wrinkle in Time, my wife used to describe to me a scene from the book in which every house along a neighborhood street looks the same, and every boy standing in the drive of every home bounces a ball in eerie rhythm, keeping time with every little girl jumping rope to the very same beat.

Back in November, I listed Madeleine L’Engle’s classic as a challenging read, a book I had begun and had yet to finish. Due to the gentle prodding of one of the commenters (I believe she threatened to “brow beat” me), I finished the novel soon after. L’Engle’s gift for prose shines in numerous places within her work, but that moment in the neighborhood never left me. Nor has that twisted vision of the brain, sending out its pulsating rhythm to every entrenched heart on that dreary world.

I read something today that recalled that image with overwhelming clarity. Picture a classroom, if you will, instead of a neighborhood street. And in the hands of young boys, imagine a Lego…

Some Seattle school children are being told to be skeptical of private property rights. This lesson is being taught by banning Legos.


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.”

I don’t mind opening my home to someone in need. I don’t even mind that its size is regulated to a set of parameters established by people who sat around a topical grid and mapped out the area with thumbtacks. What I do mind is losing the ability to think for myself.

What the kids learned with the Legos sounds fair. It feels reasonable. After all, we are all made up of the same parts, and we should all have equal opportunity. But however much I may enjoy playing basketball, I’ll never play like Pete Maravich. And those who can should not have to come down to my level, either.

Something like this only cheapens an individual’s sense of value. We are all part of a process working itself out to some end, but if our roles and functions are all one in the same, then nothing will ever get done. Cars won’t run on hinges alone, you know. And human beings are more than just fingers and toes. L’Engle knew it. So does this fellow, by the way—he wrote a book about it too.

HT: CalvinDude; a man I may soon have to call “prophet.”


Written by taj

March 1, 2007 at 12:36 am

Posted in Books, Life, Pop Culture