It was an evening last week when I learned that my 12 years old daughter, a very sensitive and empathic girl, is chatting with a friend who is, at the same time over the phone with another friend escorting the local police searching for another (fourth) friend suspected of trying to commit suicide, per her Facebook page. So, this is the situation:
Lots of wisdom in this blog. It’s also hilarious.
Thanks to Cath Prisk for alerting me to it, I’m doing a bit of e-housekeeping while I listen to Diane Abbott arguing with Hezza wondering which one is more annoying, and I just now found her email from two months ago.
Here’s my favourite Neill anecdote, told in my own words. It works like a stun grenade lobbed into the ivory tower of pedagogy and pediatric development, I reckon.
I’d like a snappy title: how about this:
“MANUAL WORK IS GOOD FOR THE SOUL”
Once there was a boy at Summerhill who could not read. Teachers were concerned about him, and wanted to help. Neill said, calmly and firmly: “No.”
The years went by and the boy – still utterly illiterate and fast approaching his final year of school – wanted a motorbike: the key to his freedom to roam the leafy lanes of East Anglia, and the key to meeting GIRLS in the nearest town, several miles away.
That summer, as he turned sixteen (and became eligible for a provisional license to legally ride a 50cc motorcycle), he discovered a rusting moped in a hedge. He dragged the wreck back to Summerhill and set about restoring it. He scrubbed and cleaned until it gleamed. Of course it wouldn’t go. It would need masses of mechanical and electrical know-how to get it going, if this were even possible.
So he went to Neill, they all called him Neill, and knocked quietly on the half-open door of Neill’s study, clutching the Haynes manual for the Honda 50, and asked: “ Neill , please will you teach me to read this?”
And Neill said, calmy and firmly:
Thanks to Joel, for evoking this with your blog, to be found here:
Start your reading about Neill here:
(I think I would have first heard of Neill by reading an article in New Society by Leila Berg)
Thank you to Morgan for sharing this quote:
“I am of course employed as a leader, but on an adventure playground this is hardly the same as the accepted idea of a leader and organizer who works, as it were, from the outside. Rather, mine is a function which arises within the actual framework of the playground where I am in a position to give the children every opportunity of putting their plans into practice. This initiative must come from the children themselves and when the necessary materials are to be had these give the children the inspiration for play. I cannot, and indeed will not, teach the children anything. I am able to give them my support in their creative play and work, and thus help them in developing those talents and abilities which are often suppressed at home and at school. I consider it most important that the leader not appear too clever but that he remain at the same experimental stage as the children. In this way the initiative is left, to a great extent, with the children themselves and it is thus far easier to avoid serious intrusion into their fantasy world.”
from John Bertelsen’s “Early Experience from Emdrup” in Adventure Playgrounds,p.20-1.
Now, note the word: ‘arises’.
Something that arises is something that is emergent.
He is not saying his role is mandated by his employer, nor is it subservient to, or defined by, his ‘customers’. Rather, it is, from my complexity perspective - an emergent phenomenon within the playspace.
Which brings me right back to my presentation in 1997 at PlayEd: ”Designing PossibilitySpaces – the key task for playwork“. It is this emergent quality of the playspace, which is not a simple linear result of the staff and the physical environment, that determines and creates the playspace. Yes, it is circular. And yes, it is emergent from many interactions between many humans – mainly the children with each other, but also with adults.
(Author’s note: I’ve added single quotes around the phrase ‘the child’, just like that. I did this just now: Thursday, April 18, 2013 14:27. The reason being that I wanted to clarify that I am focussing on the concept we point to when we use the phrase, and I am indebted to Morgan for pointing up what I was doing. I was taking for granted that my audience would know what I meant, which is always dangerous. Like Morgan, I wince when ever I encounter the idealised child in print.)
Yet we continue to talk about children in the singular. Playwork is not about ‘the child’. As I have said before, and been mightily misunderstood and majorly castigated for: playwork is not about helping children. Playwork is about providing playspaces (a term that needs to be defined, but not now, but see below*) for children – PLURAL, not helping ‘the child’. SINGULAR.
Playwork is not about ‘the child’. Leave that bogus concern to social services, who have discarded all they knew about families as interactive systems in favour of a tabloid-driven heroic rescue mentality.
Playwork is about children en masse. Groups of children. Large numbers of children.
If we focus on individual children and we neglect to focus on the playspace*, – the culture being continuously recreated autopoietically, the resulting emergent behaviour of the denizens en masse – then we stop doing playwork and become rescuers.
The role of the playworker
is an emergent responsiveness
to the playspace.
Thanks again Morgan, for sharing that Bertelsenic nugget. More please.
http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/brainpickings/rss/~3/wANMTTMt3KQ/ Fascinating and inspiring stuff, looking at children as designers. Warning: may contain Spacehoppers.
Definition (extract – Encyclopaedia Ludica, 5th edition 2027)
*Play Movement, The (UK terminology, see disambiguation)
”The Play Movement, characterised by its obsession with free play for its own sake, the garish primary-coloured clothing of its fervent early adherents and their wearing enthusiasm, was born in the squats of Notting Hill, in the 1960s. Some say that it was influenced by the Dutch ‘junk playground’ experiments, and the Arts Lab movement. Others trace its genesis to the free festival ‘Playstock’, held in a field near Bolton, Lancashire, where a massive artwork featuring a large number of small holes dug in the ground was created by participants. An early presaging of crowd-based art, that also inspired a verse in the Beatles’ song “Day in the Life”. Since the late 1980s, the movement, some say, took a wrong turn and became mired in the qualification structures of childcare. Meanwhile, in wider society, playfulness blossomed.”
(Authors: Fernando Pessoa and Hugo Grinmore. ©Wintermute/Geneva AI holdings SARL)
That entry forms a preamble to this interesting article:
Would More People Use the Public Library If It Had a Water Slide?
“In 2010, Poland’s National Library performed a survey to determine the reading habits of the Polish citizenry. The results were not buoying: 56 percent of Poles had not read a book in the past year, either in hard or electronic form. Just as bad was that 46 percent had not attempted to digest anything longer than three pages in the previous month – and this included students and university graduates.
But who’s to blame here: The willfully non-literate masses for not trekking to the public library? Or is it the library’s fault for not attracting these individuals, what with its classically stodgy, hermetic-cage-for-learning design?
At least one Polish architect believes libraries should bear some of the blame for a lack of reading. Hugon Kowalski, who runs UGO Architecture and Design, thinks that no matter how grand or inspiring a library’s appearance is, many people will not flock to it unless it offers amenities other than plopping down with a book. “A modern building will not attract new users to a library, at least not in the long run,” he writes. “People interested in its novelty will probably go there only once.” So Kowalski conceived of a new kind of library…“
“I told a friend today that it’s time to take a stand. Here is that stand.
“I have been an advocate for, and more importantly a community worker in Active Play for quite a few years now, and have worked in a number of capacities. Because of that, I have had the opportunity to watch our advocacy develop in the context of physical education, sports performance, the so called “obesity crisis”, and the push for academic “excellence”.”
Above and Beyond
“During this time, there have been herculean efforts made to justify ”moderate to vigorous physical activity” for kids and teens in terms of things like “productivity”, “test scores”, and “health”. All you have to do is look at the terminology. It is clinical and measurable. That’s what I keep having to justify play against – clinical and measurable. I will submit to you during this article that play can’t compete with measurable on it’s turf, but measurable is no match for LIVING.”
Go read it!
It has been conference week in the playwork ‘world’ (as you who were also there are aware!) Conferences are often odd affairs: they never seem to last long enough, or you never get to participate in everything you like the look of, or they leave you tired and playing catch up for the rest of the week; yet, you will bring away something.
TELEPHONE COACHING AND BOOSTERS LEAFLET
click the image or this link: http://goo.gl/w3tPF and it will be downloaded to your computer. Thank you for your interest.
Once upon a time, there was an island in the middle of a mighty river which flowed through a great city on its way to the sea.
Many artists lived there and spent their time producing artworks. These artworks where rather odd, because they were neither fish nor. fowl.
Some would start by making a picture.
Some would start by making a special kind of poem, called a haiku.
Some would start by writing some words: a description of something they saw as they tramped the streets; or some thought they had about nature; or something strange and beautiful that they witnessed.
Then the artists would go out into the streets bearing their pictures…
To be continued…
“Play is a process that is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated.” One of the Playwork principles. One thing is to be told about this and quite another to see just how much this means in practice.
So here I am, working towards my NVQ level 3 in Playwork, as a member of staff in a play session. A new family walked in: Mum, Dad and two children, a boy and his slightly older sister.
It may be more congruent with a rights-based approach, writes Adrian Voce, but promoting ‘free-range childhoods’ alone will be less effective without also highlighting their absence – and ‘nature deficit disorder’ is as good a way as any.
The recent debate about the relative merits of the terms ‘nature deficit disorder’ and ‘free-range childhood’ as part of the play movement’s campaigning lexicon reminded me of another metaphor which might help to place the debate in a wider policy context and show that they each have their benefits and limitations.
THE TRAIN CLANKED and rattled through the suburbs of Tokyo on a drowsy spring afternoon. Our car was comparatively empty – a few housewives with their kids in tow, some old folks going shopping. I gazed absently at the drab houses and dusty hedgerows.
At one station the doors opened, and suddenly the afternoon quiet was shattered by a man bellowing violent, incomprehensible curses. The man staggered into our car. He wore laborers clothing, and he was big, drunk, and dirty. Screaming, he swung at a woman holding a baby. The blow sent her spinning into the laps of an elderly couple. It was a miracle that the was unharmed. Terrified, the couple jumped up and scrambled toward the other end of the car. The laborer aimed a kick at the retreating back of the old woman but missed as she scuttled to safety. This so enraged the drunk that he grabbed the metal pole in the center of the car and tried to wrench it out of its stanchion. I could see that on of his hands was cut and bleeding. The train lurched ahead, the passengers frozen with fear. I stood up.
I was young then, some 20 years ago, and in pretty good shape. I’d been putting in a solid eight hours of aikido training nearly every day for the past three years. I like to throw and grapple. I thought I was tough. Trouble was, my martial skill was untested in actual combat. As students of aikido, we were not allowed to fight.
“Aikido,” my teacher had said again and again, “is the art of reconciliation. Whoever has the mind to fight has broken his connection with the universe. If you try to dominate people, you are already defeated. We study how to resolve conflict, not how to start it.”
I listened to his words. I tried hard I even went so far as to cross the street to avoid the chimpira, the pinball punks who lounged around the train stations. My forbearance exalted me. I felt both tough and holy. In my heart, however, I wanted an absolutely legitimate opportunity whereby I might save the innocent by destroying the guilty.
This is it! I said to myself, getting to my feet. People are in danger and if I don’t do something fast, they will probably get hurt. Seeing me stand up, the drunk recognized a chance to focus his rage. “Aha!” He roared. “A foreigner! You need a lesson in Japanese manners!”
I held on lightly to the commuter strap overhead and gave him a slow look of disgust and dismissal. I planned to take this turkey apart, but he had to make the first move. I wanted him mad, so I pursed my lips and blew him an insolent kiss.”All right!” he hollered. “You’re gonna get a lesson.” He gathered himself for a rush at me.
A split second before he could move, someone shouted “Hey!” It was ear splitting. I remember the strangely joyous, lilting quality of it – as though you and a friend had been searching diligently for something, and he suddenly stumbled upon it. “Hey!”
I wheeled to my left; the drunk spun to his right. We both stared down at a little old Japanese. He must have been well into his seventies, this tiny gentleman, sitting there immaculate in his kimono. He took no notice of me, but beamed delightedly at the laborer, as though he had a most important, most welcome secret to share.
“C’mere,” the old man said in an easy vernacular, beckoning to the drunk. “C’mere and talk with me.” He waved his hand lightly. The big man followed, as if on a string. He planted his feet belligerently in front of the old gentleman, and roared above the clacking wheels, “Why the hell should I talk to you?” The drunk now had his back to me. If his elbow moved so much as a millimeter, I’d drop him in his socks.
The old man continued to beam at the laborer. “Whatcha been drinkin?” he asked, his eyes sparkling with interest.
“I been drinkin sake,” the laborer bellowed back, “and it’s none of your business!” Flecks of spittle spattered the old man.
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” the old man said, “absolutely wonderful! You see, I love sake too. Every night, me and my wife (she’s 76, you know), we warm up a little bottle of sake and take it out into the garden, and we sit on an old wooden bench. We watch the sun go down, and we look to see how our persimmon tree is doing. My great-grandfather planted that tree, and we worry about whether it will recover from those ice storms we had last winter. Our tree had done better than I expected, though especially when you consider the poor quality of the soil. It is gratifying to watch when we take our sake and go out to enjoy the evening – even when it rains!” He looked up at the laborer, eyes twinkling.
As he struggled to follow the old man’s conversation, the drunk’s face began to soften. His fists slowly unclenched. “Yeah,” he said. “I love persimmons too.” His voice trailed off.
“Yes,” said the old man, smiling, “and I’m sure you have a wonderful wife.”
“No,” replied the laborer. “My wife died.” Very gently, swaying with the motion of the train, the big man began to sob. “I don’t got no wife, I don’t got no home, I don’t got no job. I am so ashamed of myself.” Tears rolled down his cheeks; a spasm of despair rippled through his body.
Now it was my turn. Standing there in well-scrubbed youthful innocence, my make-this-world-safe-for-democracy righteousness, I suddenly felt dirtier than he was.
Then the train arrived at my stop. As the doors opened, I heard the old man cluck sympathetically. “My, my,” he said, “that is a difficult predicament, indeed. Sit down here and tell me about it.”
I turned my head for one last look. The laborer was sprawled on the seat, his head in the old man’s lap. The old man was softly stroking the filthy, matted hair.
As the train pulled away, I sat down on a bench. What I had wanted to do with muscle had been accomplished with kind words. I had just seen aikido tried in combat, and the essence of it was love. I would have to practice the art with an entirely different spirit. It would be a long time before I could speak about the resolution of conflict.
”I found this on the web, but it closely follows ”A Kind Word Turneth Away Wrath” by Terry Dobson in ‘Aikido and the New Warrior’ edited by R. S. Heckler. The book chapter reads better; what follows sounds like a early draft. —SAP“
and I found it here, says APB:
http://boingboing.net/2013/01/21/pennsylvania-kindergartener-us.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+boingboing%2FiBag+%28Boing+Boing%29 Mount Carmel Area Elementary School in Pennsylvania suspended a five-year-old girl for pointing a Hello Kitty bubble-gun at another student, characterizing this as a “terrorist threat.” The little girl had to undergo psychiatric evaluation before she was allowed back in. Her parents say that they couldn’t get their daughter into another school, because no one wanted a kid with “terrorist” on her transcript. They’re considering a lawsuit. Ffs. I’m considering a new category for this blog: ffs.
Ooh, there is snow.
Some schools announced this morning, that they will be closed tomorrow – how do they know? Other schools are open. Apparently Five thousand schools were closed today. Ooh… Interesting…
The weather is different in different parts of the country. Some schools within a mile of each other are differently open: one is closed, while another is open. Some heads insist on opening, making a special effort. Others close if they think significant numbers of children won’t be there, perhaps because it affects their absence records, which in turn affects their league table position. It’s complicated. Questions are being asked.
An ambulance man said, on the telly, that there had been a number of sledge-related incidents, and advised people to wrap up warm, despite not being a weatherman or weather woman. Seems that stating the sodding obvious in a serious way is within the purview of all who appear on the gogglebox.
Snow threat receding, we are told – how on earth do the Scandinavians cope?
Given that lots of schools are shut, and a lot of children are sledging, we might expect a few incidents.
No broken bones, because, if there had been, we would have been told about the ‘snow shock near-death horror’ by a meejah desperate for something more than:
“School shut, kids have fun in snow.”
Some schools are open, some schools are closed. Maybe some questions should be asked.
School shut, kids have fun in snow.
Ffs: just go chuck some.