The Big Box
By Toni Morrison, Hyperion Books
Because they do not abide by the rules written by the adults around them, three children are judged unable to handle their freedom and forced to live in a box with three locks on the door.
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
By Taryn Hargrove
The Big Box is about three very energetic children “who just can't handle their freedom.” To make these children abide by their rules, the grown-ups create a world inside a box, a world with toys and games, treats and gifts, and all kinds of stuff they think kids need to be happy and carefree. There are three locks on the door, which opens only one way.
The first set of questions is designed to elicit discussion regarding the life in the box. Life in the box, depending on how you look at it, may be a happy place for the children. The children can be who they are and have no one judge or punish them. They are free to do what they want in that confined area. On the other hand the box could be an unhappy place for the children. The children are given everything that adults assume would make the children happy. Are the children happy with all the clothes, toys, and candy? What makes us happy? There is a conflict between happiness and what people perceive happiness to be? Some children consider happiness to be freedom of speech and freedom to do what they what. Other children may be happy with materialistic things. The questions make us think about what truly makes us happy. If you were put into the box, what would you choose to put in the box with you? Why do the children stay in the box? Some may say they are scared to go out and face the rest of the world. Others may say that they are happy in their own little world.
The second set of questions explores the meaning of rules. These questions allow us to evaluate whether rules are important in our communities. What would happen if our society did not have rules? Rules are important for structure, organization, and safety in society. Do the rules we have make our communities perfect? Even though we have rules we still have the freedom to make our own decisions.
Freedom is the last topic of discussion. We are absolutely sure that there are at least some cases where we make decisions, and that in making them we are free and hence responsible for these decisions. We cannot imagine what it would be like to live in a community in which there is no such thing as responsibility. On the other hand, does freedom actually exist? With a lack of resources are we still free to do what you wish to do? Freedom appears to be impossible in a world where everything runs its ordinary course and no irregularities happen. But why is that so?
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
By Mary Cowhey and Thomas Wartenberg
Life in the Box
The Meaning of Rules
The Concept of Freedom