I went out to the land during a break in the rain this weekend to check on the houses. It's amazing how real the game can become, even to a grown up like me. I closed a few doors and put the roof back on one house - there was a little damp carpeting and a few wall paper bubbles but everything else was pretty sound. The students were given the option of taking houses in but many didn't; there is a sense of wanting to play the game out fully this year.
Trash collection is a perfect example. In the last blog entry I mentioned the litter problem. The Peepopolis town managers wanted to address the problem in Peep scale. They also wanted to think all the way through where the trash should go - something I can't remember being an issue in many villages. Should the town have a landfill? (Who would want it near their houses?) should we just dump it in the school? (A town can't just dump their stuff in another town's landfill, though.) Finally, they decided to go to Simon to request permission to put our trash in his land fill (the dumpster). He agreed and talked to the managers how the school gets rid of its trash, compost and recycling and how much the school pays for that service (he thought they should ask for a raise!)
This has been, so far, a remarkably peaceful and productive time in Peepopolis. The council finally had two "controversial" proposals for which they made a list of pros and cons which they took to a full town meeting. Both proposals - one to bring a rocket launcher through customs for $20,000 and one to provide solar lighting on the public land - passed easily (they were deemed controversial because of their cost.) Peeps have been too busy with their businesses to get into many conflicts. The system to deal with conflicts is pretty straight forward. If the council believes that you have hurt your peep on purpose, you and your peep must go to a peer mediation session led by Gus. Theft is also handled by the council, but all but one dispute was handled between peeps before the council has gotten involved.
I have to wonder if the structure of the government is contributing. Often, governments are overthrown in Village because students chafe at not having a voice or not agreeing with decisions that are made. This council structure mandates that anything folks are likely to disagree with is brought for a full town vote (fourth and fifth graders are often OK. with their choice not being picked as long as they get to vote.) Towns which spend a lot of time developing many laws mandating behavior and systems of courts, juries, police and punishments often are very litigious. Peepopolis has a minimal judicial system and very few laws that deem behaviors illegal - and people seem to be going about their work with little conflict.
We had an interesting talk about the difference between something being "illegal" and something being wrong. There are many things that we do because they are the right thing to do, not because we are forced to do them by law. At Prairie Creek, we often call this "the spirit of the game." Students were very thoughtful about the letter of the law compared to its spirit. The conversation came up because, technically, students are allowed to claim materials others have not cleaned up, including things on the floor. In practice, however, we are all busy in village and we all sometimes drop things or forget to clear a table. The "right" thing to do is to try to find the owner of lost things, not just swipe them up and say, "Finders keepers." Village is a time to explore how a society can develop norms - not just through its laws but also through the conversations among citizens and the work that the government does.