Shifting bricks. Am I the only person who loathes lego?
I'm a fan of educational technology but not of LEGO. I have twin boys, well not so much boys as men now, so had to clean out their lairs. A shocking discovery was the massive amount of expensive, polluting plastic, we had bought, lying around in boxes. But it’s not just the unsustainable waste, it’s the claims that surround the corporation’s educational PR, the simplistic but ultimately hollow promises of the ‘LEGO’ corporation.
I want to start by saying that I think the word ‘creative’ is the most overused and certainly one of the most abused words in education. With LEGO it reaches new levels of hyperbole. Place pre-designed blocks one by one on top of each other, or worse build pre-designed models in a pre-set order, add little pre-designed figures and ‘abrickadabra’, the false promise of creativity is fulfilled.
Most modern LEGO comes in the form of inflexible pieces that have to be used in a pre-set way, even left and right or orientated, as they are figures, vehicles, whatever. LEGO has moved away from reusable bricks to building pre-set, usually branded, models. I can’t see how this is in any way ‘creative’. If anything, their approach limits imagination. As a builder you’re a factory worker assembling the ‘product’.
2. Playing around
Granted, old-school, brick LEGO does allow for some imaginative play but let’s not turn this into some great breakthrough in learning and education. I’d much rather my kids built dens, climbed trees and played sport. Encourage some risk taking - take apart a washing machine, play with fire, throw a spear and make things with a pocket knife. Playing with blocks is OK but it’s predictable play with not enough freedom to express yourself, learn something new and push the boundaries.
LEGO: Everything is not awesome’. Then, there’s the 4.8 million pieces of LEGO pieces lost at sea in the Tokio Express, that are still being washed up on beaches today. Let’s keep it simple, LEGO doesn’t biodegrade., it pollutes our planet.
4. You’re being used
You, as a parent, you may also be polluting the minds of your children and paying for the privilege. With LEGO, you effectively pay to extend the marketing of other franchised brands, such as Star Wars or Harry Potter. LEGO has cleverly manipulated you into being a marketing machine for others. You are being manipulated, not into stimulating the imagination of your child but making him or her a pawn in their viral marketing game. They design you buy and reproduce their design,
5. Daily Mail!
No surprise that LEGO did a deal with the Daily Mail to distribute free mini-LEGO toys (redeemable at WH Smith and ToysRUs, so that you’ll be pressed ganged into buying more than you intend or need). That’s exactly the parent demographic I’d be hitting, Parents who don’t know shit but are desperate to get their little Johnnies and Jennies ahead in the game. The good news is that it a con.
6. Bricks not clicks
They’ve been clever in holding back the digital tide, by making a movie and some maker stuff. Mindstorms, the LEGO packs that teach programming, robotics etc. sort of annoy me. Here’s why. Nothing wrong with the idea but by this point the LEGO blocks have become somewhat irrelevant. You’re an expert in plastic blocks one minute then an education expert in coding etc. the next. That’s just jumping on the bandwagon.
Let me deliver this straight up. Your product is just too damn expensive., sometimes insanely expensive. As a parent you’re being conned into paying top dollar for some cheap plastic. The blocks are made from thermoplastic, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, which is very strong but it’s basically plastic made from oil, so the price of oil largely determines the operational profit. strong, So why the And don’t get me started on Legoland. Never have I experienced a more dispiriting, fake, branded and fake experience.
Toy manufacturers need to sell toys to children and it helps of they can convince parents of their education worth. With LEGO you have to suspend belief in green policy, sustainability and evidence-based education to buy into their claims, which are clearly part of a clever marketing strategy. Let’s be clear, this is the insidious side of privatisation in education, fooling parents and bribing teachers into shifting product. Hooking parents and kids into buying over-riced plastic on the wrong assumption that it’s ‘educational’.