Father of 3 and soon to be 4, I often find myself standing longer than a grown man should in the toy aisle. Reminiscing at the same time as reliving childhood fantasy I gleefully watch my children engage their imaginations at play. But when I opened my first ‘non-80’s’ Lego kit I was thrown abruptly into a harsh reality of rigid conformity. It was like a bucket of cold water…
I opened the box with my then 4 year old son and my hands began to tremble as I slowly tore the plastic bags that neatly organized hundreds of obscure parts that I had never seen before…
Each bag numbered precisely as it coincided with specific instructions that held no less than 50-60 steps to build the pictured toy on the cover. My forehead beaded with sweat as confusion rushed into the grey matter.. I was trapped… I was panicking.. I was being forced to conform.
Now of course being an 80’s child I never followed the instructions on a Lego box – they were only suggestions. And the blocks were usually large and easy to manipulate compared to the myriad of minuscule morsels they sell now for an arm and a leg. But this experience, this love, this passion that once resided in this master builder was now being questioned by a 4 year old who demanded to know why he should build something without using the instructions!
“But Julie” I would say (his name is Julius) “Building from your imagination is so much better!!” But even so, his peculiarly sharp mind became fixated on the instructions. It wasn’t until a campaign of about 6 weeks did he finally let go and now… He has become a budding Master Builder himself.
The movie is really a strong commentary on conformity and how it has crushed creativity throughout the ages. Though the movie is meant to be timeless the presence of an older lego set – the astronauts whose helmets always split at the chin – was a stark reminder of how it ‘used to be’. You see even Lego was making fun of itself as it examined how inflexible it’s current kits really are. The movie also depicts the creative Master Builders as a hidden rebellion that seeks to undermine the status quo. The movie does so well to build that antithesis yet all the while it makes Emit – a conformist – the actual hero! Now Emit does contribute the virtues of collaboration and compassion to the adventure so there appears to be some reconciliation. It really wasn’t until the astronaut was finally allowed to build a space ship his way that our hero was finally removed from grave danger.
In the end the movie moves into a true life reality that sees a father and his young son argue about how to play with Lego… But in this case it was the opposite of my situation with Julius. In the movie the father’s use of Lego was rigid and grounded firmly in the instructions. The child wanted the freedom to create. In one of the proudest moments of my life as a dad – my son and daughter both rose up in the middle of the theatre and began shouting at the screen, demanding of the father to allow his son to use his imagination!! And I let them scream to their hearts delight!
Think about what we do as educators. When we teach do we think the lesson is ours? Or is it theirs? Is the classroom our space or theirs? Our values or theirs? Who are we to constantly instruction their imaginations to oblivion?