Bayou-Picayune Podcast, S02 EP23: I Have to Teach Kids How to Play
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People spend most of their waking moments staring at their boxes. That is, their TV’s, and when they venture forth, they fixed their eyes and even smaller rectangular boxes. Their electronic devices.
And you wonder why we are awash in mediocrity?
Why we are bored?
Why we focus our collective attention on sports, entertainment, and gadgetry?
Why our politics has devolved into an us versus them mindset?
It’s obvious, people cannot think outside a box.
Sadly, the effect of box think has on our children is even more profound because of videogames and what they see on TV. Kids are incapable of original thinking, imagination, and creativity.
Instead, they are conditioned to think inside the box. Even when they play they require a game with rules somebody else has already laid out for them. Let me illustrate with an example from my days as a middle school teacher.
I was assigned yard duty at lunch recess and every day the sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade boys would play touch football in the schoolyard. One day a gang of 10 peeled away from their game and came to me with a complaint.
Can’t you help us so we can play football too?
What I asked was there a problem. Were they being told they couldn’t play?
No, that’s not it said one sixth-grader. Everybody can play but only a few boys ever get to touch the football.
The second boy took up the complaint. Eric and Ryan are the quarterbacks on the two teams and they only pass the ball to Joey, Luke, Evan, and Brett. They won’t even look to see if one of us is open.
I understood the problem.
Eric and Ryan who were eighth-graders were the two best passers, and Joey, Luke, Evan, and Brett were the most reliable receivers. They didn’t drop the ball when it was passed to them. I didn’t tell my gang members that, of course, instead I told them to get to know the football so they could play.
But there’s not enough room to do that, complained one of the boys, the field’s only big enough for one game.
I told them I wasn’t talking about their breaking away and playing another game.
Why not play the game with two balls?
Quizzical looks all around.
Two balls? How can you play a football game with two balls? It’s not in the rules.
So, I told them to forget about the rules. To think outside the box. Why can’t you simply play the game with two balls?
Whoever is on offense has both balls and two quarterbacks, and everybody on their team runs out to catch a pass from one of the two quarterbacks. I didn’t want head-on collision, so I said everyone on the left side of the field had the run out to the left, and everyone on the right had the swing out to the right.
But what happened, someone asked, if one of the passes is complete and the other is incomplete. Then whichever ball advanced the farthest would be the new line of scrimmages.
But what if one of the balls is intercepted and one of balls is caught?
In that case, I said, still improvising, an interception overrides everything.
Even a touchdown with the other ball.
I expanded on my rules.
Let’s eliminate first downs. When you’re on offense you get only one down and whichever ball advances the farthest that will be the new line of scrimmage. Then the other team takes over on offense. What if we punt with one of the balls?
Well if the punt ends up moving the line of scrimmage farther than the other ball. That will be the line of scrimmage for the other team. There was only enough time for one change of possession before the school bell rang and ended the lunch recess.
But the next day, and the days after that, the boys rushed out at recess to play their new game. Two ball. That’s what they called it. Two ball.
My question is this.
Why were the kids totally incapable of fashioning a new game to solve the problem?
Why was that left to a middle-aged man whose playing days were over?
It’s because they were victims of box thinking.
Like their parents. They’re incapable of thinking outside the box.