When I was a kid, my favorite game was The Game of Life. I mean, really, what’s not to like. It has little cars and baby blue stick figures for men and pink stick figures for women. You can go to college if you want. You can get a good job (which you keep for life — a charming assumption that was even then unraveling). You had children. You could speculate on the stock market. And it had that cool spinning wheel for making your moves. I loved it and I played it hundreds of times with friends and siblings. But the funny thing is that no one ever won the game.
The way you win The Game of Life is by having more money than anyone else at the end. So if you think you have enough money, you just stop when you reach the end of the board. But if you don’t think you have enough money, you can bet everything you have on one spin of the wheel. If you pick the right number, I think you get ten times as much money; if not, you end up in the poor house. Now I know all this, but it is not how we played. We all risked it all at the end and we never counted money.
The point is that none of us seemed to care about the outcome of The Game of Life. It was fun to play and that was about all. I was much the same way with Monopoly, but not with as many people. That game is much more combative. But I played it a lot with one friend where we would play Monopoly until we had built our little empires and then we would call a truce. The only thing I get aggressive about is the piece I use. I really like the Terrier.
The reason I bring this all up is that for years I’ve been hearing men (Always men!) complain about tee-ball games not keeping score and how everyone gets a trophy for participating in everything and blah blah blah. There are a lot of people who think there must be a point to everything. Why would you ever play a basketball game if it wasn’t to win?! Of course, if that’s really the case, then why does anyone ever watch a basketball game all the way through? Why not just show up for the second half of the fourth quarter?
But it was only the other day that I realized that it isn’t kids who are all excited about winning games and getting trophies. This is something that is mostly forced on them by adults. Kids play games because they are fun to play. There really is no other point to them, unless you want to look at it in a developmental sense — games help us to improve and develop.
The same thing, of course, is true in education. I don’t recall ever meeting a child that didn’t delight in learning. Just the same, I’ve known lots of children who hated school. I was one of them! But there has been a big push in recent years to take an educational system that was pretty bad and turn it into one that is even worse. Because again, adults think that education is about the goal: getting a good job. And that ain’t education.
It would be great if everyone who wants to turn children into little goal-oriented automatons could have watched the way my siblings and friends played The Game of Life or, I’m quite sure, the way most kids play it today. If the journey is not worth taking, the goal will not help, since the goal of the “game of life” is death.