Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Christmas was kind to us this year. We all got stuff we liked, and we didn’t get too much. One of the items I found most interesting was a board game called Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game, from (See link.) It was great fun for the kids, but what makes this game remarkable is that it teaches useful knowledge, and it’s cooperative, not competitive. I’d like to see more games out there like Wildcraft, and I heartily recommend it.

The point of the game is to follow the path on the board from Grandma’s house to the huckleberry patch, pick eight buckets of huckleberries, and get back before night. At periodic points along the path, you land on a night square, which brings about the passage of time and the threat of oncoming night. Along the way, you run into various kinds of trouble – skinned knees, sunburn, hunger, etc. – and you pick up various kinds of herbs, illustrated realistically on cards. If you have the right herb, you can use it to cure the trouble, and move on. If you have a cooperation card, you can use it to share herbs with others who have troubles, or to bring any player who falls behind up to your position on the path. In the process of the game, you learn about wild herbs and how to use them, which ones work for which situations, and you also practice cooperation, while having fun. Like real life, everyone wins, or everyone loses, depending on how well you work together to achieve a specific goal.

That got me to thinking about other games we’ve got in the house. Risk, the game of world domination – one winner, five losers, competition and the glories of war. Stratego. Battleship. So many war games. Monopoly and Life, games of economic domination, emphasize competition over others rather than the cooperation that makes real life pleasant and effectiveNone of them teach any practical knowledge or skills. Even chess, a game to which I am seriously addicted, lacks the qualities of education and cooperation that make Wildcraft! such a pleasant surprise.

The question I have now is, what are my kids learning while playing competitive, martially inspired games? Not cooperation, certainly, but does Risk teach that world domination is a possibility (an attractive one, to boot)? What do kids learn from Monopoly? Does it present a paradigm where it’s a good thing to hoard all the riches to yourself and send everyone else to the poorhouse? There are winners and losers, and that’s the natural order of things, so close your heart to the down-and-out? Even our discourse of team sports focuses on competition, on winners and losers, often in martial terms; but it seems to me that team sports are really about cooperation. The team that works best together, that most effectively operates as a team, wins. How would life in the office be different if we had soaked up these lessons of cooperation from the earliest age, instead of learning competition? Or is it all just good fun, and my youngest son's tears as he falls yet again to my eldest's developmental advantage just water on the garden of good losership?

Do we really want to teach our children to be good losers?

1 comment:

Tobi said...

That sounds like a wonderful game.

I've got a few games that are less competitive, or at least less violently so. You could check out a gamer's store to see what you could find. They tend to be more complicated, but also are quite creative.

Also, I'd love to play chess with you sometime. Back in middle school I used to play competetively, but fell out of practice. And if you're interested in a creative twist, then check this out:

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our