Lately, my 7-year old boy has been a bit obsessed with paper – folding it into jets, airplanes, and ninja stars, mostly – so obsessed that we had to create a “hangar” at home to house all the flying objects. He’s been begging for a book on the art of origami, and partly because of his commitment to the craft, I’ll be taking him to the bookstore to get one right away.
The other reason I’m now determined to buy him the book is because of something that happened in the car after school yesterday. My son showed me a “finger claw” that he had just folded and put onto his own finger. My 11-year old daughter said, “You know those have been banned from school, right?” I rolled my eyes, fully expecting her to explain that it had been banned because of its resemblance to a weapon, but what she explained was far more offensive.
Apparently, my son isn’t the only child fixated on origami. In fact, this paper folding is what a vast majority of the male elementary school students choose to do once they’ve completed their classwork. Seems harmless enough, right? Well, because a select few of these students choose to fold paper instead of doing their classwork, the practice of paper folding has now been universally banned.
This is the same troubling logic that is pervasive in government today. Super Big Gulps make people fat, so they should be forbidden. Guns kill people, so they should be made illegal. Cigarettes cause cancer, so they should be banished from sight in retail establishments. And origami distracts students from their worksheet learning, so it should be outlawed in elementary schools.
Here’s just one of the many ways banning origami in an academic environment fails the logic test. Origami is an art form that relies heavily on mathematical and geometrical concepts. Much like playing with Legos and wooden blocks challenge the left side of the brain, the practice of origami is a natural exercise in math and logic. Educators, particularly in a world that prizes degrees and careers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, should be encouraging activities such as these. Instead, my fifth grader says, the only paper activity allowed once classwork has been completed is coloring. Talk about dumbing down our children.
It seems to me that the government-employed classroom leaders are once again trying to ensure that our students remain part of the flock instead of fostering leadership, ingenuity, innovation in them. So, in an act of rebellion, and in fulfillment of my responsibility to nurture in my children a love for learning, I’m going to march my son straight to the bookstore and buy him that book on origami…and maybe even a ream of paper.