There are times when I walk into a classroom or have a conversation with a parent or student where I ask myself "What happened to the simple things in life. The days of tying your shoes with laces, telling time with an analog clock or just playing outside for fun?" Yesterday was one of those times.
Last night I walked into our before and after school program room to deliver a package before heading home. As I walked into the room there was the usual hustle and bustle of children playing games, making art, listening to music and working on the computer. In the centre of the room a group was playing a familiar board game, one that I played with my family every week during my childhood - Monopoly. My token of choice was the top hat. I loved the idea of building an empire of properties, putting up houses and hotels and charging people rent when they landed on them. What I realize now as an adult is the value of dealing with money that Monopoly provides young children. I clearly remember my mother and father encouraging my brother and I to be the bankers. Initially they helped us with the distribution of money, providing change and counting, but they gradually let us take control, a gradual release of responsibility. As a child I didn't notice or realize that they were helping me develop financial literacy, we were just having fun as a family playing a board game.
What had me reflecting about the simple things lost was that the game of Monopoly I watched the children play last night. It didn't have any paper money. They used a bank and credit cards! Yes, a credit card. I couldn't believe it. When I first approached the group I was excited to see someone playing my favourite childhood board game. I said aloud "Oh Monopoly, I wish I had time to play". That's when I discovered that there was no money, only bank and credit cards. One of the students excitedly said "Look Mr.Fife, we are using credit cards!". One of the adults replied "Isn't that cool?". I think they could tell my initial enthusiasm of them playing Monopoly had waned as I left the room and prepared to go home.
The whole drive home I couldn't stop thinking about the simple things I felt were either lost or on the verge of disappearing. Things that were important to me, that made growing up and learning new things special. Things that made me feel like I accomplished something. I realize that as time passes things change, sometimes even for the better and maybe Monopoly using credit cards is a great way to introduce children to safe, effective use of credit, providing financial literacy along the way. But what I felt last night was that it was a lost opportunity to teach basic math skills. Making change, counting money to pay rent and to purchase properties are as valid today as they were when you and I were children. Paper money and coins still exist (I'm including the new polymer based Canadian money here). Maybe I'm being a bit cynical about the nature of the new Monopoly game or maybe I'm just getting grouchy in my old age but it just seems like the simple things in life are being lost. I'm sure generations before me felt the same way when the notebook and pencil replaced the personal slate. The difference is now I'm experiencing those same feelings and emotions.
I watch young students struggle with tying their shoes to the point where parents give up and buy velcro laces, missing out on a great opportunity to develop fine motor skills. I watch students struggle daily with telling time and measuring elapsed time using an analog clock. And now I'm watching students use bank and credit cards instead of paper money while playing monopoly losing the opportunity to develop simple counting skills. I realize that maybe these are all just examples of methods moving in new, more efficient directions, but I can't help but think that the simple things in life are being lost. Does anyone else feel the same way?