REGENERATING THE PUBLIC REALM: Blenders, babysitters and burglars! – connecting neighbours in unexpected ways – Playing Out

“For my street – and the others who have shared their experiences – new and rich connections have grown from sharing time and fun on the street during playing out sessions. And they have changed the way I feel about living here for the better.”

We know more about regenerating a rainforest or a prairie than we do about regenerating the public realm.

We really need to get out more.

And we really need to study more.

PlayingOut, is one neccesary, but—of course—of itself, insufficient condition for this regeneration of  the public realm to take place. Pun placed intentionally!

Read and follow their excellent bloggery.

via Blenders, babysitters and burglars! – connecting neighbours in unexpected ways – Playing Out.

Parents Who Promote Less Rigid Lifestyles for Children Prove More Effective

Seems to be a balanced article about a smart bit of research.

Evidence you say? What is that? Away with you and your ‘evidence’! (NAMED AND SHAMED: GPs who miss cancer diagnoses)


Read this blog, please. If you value any of my bloggage, read this other bloke’s blog. We need to bring as much as we can of this level of surgical precision to management.

If psychology can be a science, (a claim I find dubious having obtained a degree in it from an excellent college ranked number 3 or 4 in the UK, Hindustani).

(Hindustani? How could this idiotphone think I meant that when I wrote incidentally? This is why the robots well not take over just yurt)

As I was saying, if psychology can be a science then so can management.

There was a brief kerfuffle in the business schools about why they didn’t see the crash coming and why they failed to teach ethics to MBAs. Six months later all forgotten. Gary Wossname would have put on a conference or earned a big fee for meaculpaing, or both. Business school profs make admen look shamefaced and moral.

I’m not advocating Taylor’s Scientific Management. We have some better science now. And proper true facts are harder to come by in management consultancy. But we could work a lot harder than we do to seek truth amid opinion and cant.

Please read the wise words of the junior doctor.

Originally posted on juniordoctorblog:

If you saw the Mail on Sunday today you would have seen the above headline.

According to Wikiquotes, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, 4-time US senator and academic, once said “You are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts”. Rather than writing an extensive counter-diatribe of rhetoric on the ridiculousness of the article, the irresponsible attitude to health reporting and Jeremy Hunt in general, I have decided to try a new form of discussion. I call it ‘The Facts’.

Fact #1
Here are the National Institute for Clinical Excellence guidelines for referring patients to a specialist with the suspicion of cancer.*

Fact #2
This is how common bowel cancer is: there are 47.2 new cases per 100,000 people per year (crude). This equals around 40,000 new cases nationally, which means nearly 1 case per UK GP per year.

This is how common breast cancer is: there are 155…

View original 978 more words

Out of sight, out of mind, out of the brain of Mr Chown, for your reading pleasure

Out of sight, out of mind.

Excellent blog by the wise Mr Chown. Sample quotes:

20 years on I still see signs of children playing out, unnoticed by adults. Surveys and questionnaires provide only a partial picture of children’s independent mobility. We need more direct observation and engagement with children and families in their own neighbourhoods, not just in schools, if we are to create policies to support children playing out and to measure their success.”

‘We have given up haunting the places where children play, we no longer have eyes for their games, and not noticing them suppose they have vanished’. Children’s Games in Street and Playground – Iona and Peter Opie.”

Out of sight, out of mind.

The Narcissistic Injury of Middle Age – Atlantic Mobile

Typical. You wait ages for an interesting piece on the gaze, and them two come along at once.

The first was that weird, deep Aeon piece about looking at naked people (stop that sniggering at the back);

and here’s the second one, about looking at old people, who are, like, really gross? Because, they are like, really old, and stuff? EU.

What our minds do when we see someone’s body – Matthew Hutson – Aeon

This is one of the most mind-bogglingly complex, provoking and provocative, challenging, obtuse and abstruse pieces of thinking and reporting that I have ever encountered.

And I have encountered a lot. I actually, really, don’t know what to make of it.

What I do know is that it is important, in some way, or several or many ways, to me, and to other thinkers and writers of my acquaintance.

It is published by Aeon, probably the finest web salon we have on this poxy little planet that we have chosen to call, what was it again? Dirt? Soil? Ah hold on, I’ve got it, EARTH!

I’m sort of suggesting that you might want to try reading it?

And if you succeed, please come back and explain it to me.



Designed to remind you of timeframe, a termframe is my neologism; an attempt to point to something inevitable and unfolding, like a leaf bud, or a butterfly de-pupating; the gestation period for a complex, emergent phenomenon within a living system.

Cicadas have a gestation period of 17 years, therefore their termframe cannot be less than than. Trees have a extending, indeterminate lifespan, once established, we don’t know how long a yew our redwood can live, thousands of years…

I’m trying to get a sense of a cycle period, an ambit, a purview, a chronological terrain, or domain…

Another definition: the termframe is the time it takes when it takes as long as it takes.

A comprehension of the termframe for something allows us a patience that comes from understanding the emergent inevitability of a phenomenon.

Porridge cools, not yet, you’ll burn yourself, plants grow, no use shouting hurry up or even I love you little seedlings, you can’t hurry love, and you don’t push the river.

What is the termframe for a human intervention in a community?

It depends, of course.

Children and pets

Competition time!

Once I have managed to upload this video, ask me what use I am making of it in a teaching/coaching/mentoring context.

It is nothing more than a wander around a back garden, featuring pets and their dwellings, bunnies and guinea pigs

Or guess, and tell me!

Only ‘followers’ of my blog can enter, (so click the follow button now)

Big prize: a free half-hour teaching/coaching/mentoring session.


A new and very occasional series entitled
‘Things that make it harder to do good playwork’:

Back in 2008, Coert Visser, in an important article entitled ‘What’s the deal with self esteem?’, said:
”Many people in education have long believed that, in order to improve performance of pupils at school, you have to first make them feel good about themselves. The idea behind this was: it is easier to function well, if you feel good about yourself. Many educators, psychologists and parents have tried this.“

Coert could’ve gone further and said that this idea – the idea that ‘focussing on getting kids to feel good about themselves is a good thing’ has become received wisdom in the UK and USA. It is part of the dreaded ‘common sense’ that everybody knows is true, unchallenged by anybody apart from a few extremist politicians and weirdos. Everybody knows. all mums, know, all politicians (well all except 3), all teachers know, OFSTED knows, even dads and your postman and even next door’s cat knows that it’s true. Coz it stands to reason, dunnit?

Coert then asked:

”But does it work?

Excellent question, sir, and he quoted from a very interesting article by Albert Mohler:

“Since the 1969 publication of ‘The Psychology of Self-Esteem’, in which Nathaniel Branden opined that self-esteem was the single most important facet of a person, the belief that one must do whatever he can to achieve positive self-esteem has become a movement with broad societal effects. Anything potentially damaging to kids’ self-esteem was axed. Competitions were frowned upon. Soccer coaches stopped counting goals and handed out trophies to everyone. Teachers threw out their red pencils. Criticism was replaced with ubiquitous, even undeserved, praise. In 2003 the Association for Psychological Science asked Dr. Roy Baumeister, then a leading proponent of self-esteem, to review this literature.

“His team concluded that self-esteem was polluted with flawed science.“
(read on by following the link)

I hope I have wetted your appetite; please READ ON, then follow the links to the rest of the articles.


This deeply flawed concept of self-esteem has had particularly pernicious effects on old-school playwork.

Back in the day, when teachers were like the PE teacher in ‘Kes’ bullying the weedy kid with the kestrel, or more recently when they were like Billy Eliot’s dad not wantin’ ‘im to do ‘owt puffy like dancin’, back when schools were grim and serious and hard work and fun-free, something odd happened on old abandoned bits of land in the inner-cities of the UK: a bunch of old hippies (well, actually, back then in the early 70s they were young hippies, obviously) invented a new fun thing for kids to do after school, called going to the adventure playground, also known as ‘goin’ up the Venture’ or ‘goin’ down the Addy’

Now then, playleaders, as they was called back then, dear reader – before they changed the name because we don’t lead and we don’t play, but we do do work and our work is children’s play, specifically its facilitation, so we called us selves ‘play-workers’, back then it wasn’t about self-esteem, it was about free play outside of school and the home.

Nobody knew anything about this fancy psykerlogical stuff, they just knew that kids needed somewhere to play, and they knew it was true because those nice posh folk like Lady Penny Wilson and the ex RAF chaps at the NPFA jolly well said so. So all the local mums and dads and the vicar and one or two teachers who didn’t think flicking wet towels at weedy kids was educational (I’m guessing the art teacher), went down the council and told them not to evict the hippies with their junk playground and instead told the council they should pay them to run the playground for their kids!

So soon all sorts of young idealistic folk sought employment on ‘adventure playgrounds’. Bob Hughes got a job running one, so did Perry Else ( I think) and even me, Arthur Battram, and Chris Taylor (a girl!) and Mo Palmer(another girl!) and Jess Milne(not a girl, despite having a girls name), and even Adrian Vole, OBE!

Let’s cut a long story short, because I’m already compressing a book of history into a few paragraphs.

Let’s just say that schools saw that kids like play, and because they were also being told to boost self-esteem, the schools grabbed the idea of play, as they fled from competition, as they embraced circle time and stickers and feeling good.

And then they sort of forgot to educate.

Everybody is playing now
Suddenly, by roughly the mid- 90s, everybody is doing play. Schools do play, maths teachers and evil PE teachers do play, all kids called Billy have to dance in backstreets to a song by The Jam because it is now part of the National Curriculum. Then later, these kids, these played-out, played to death kids, who have never actually done anything difficult at school, because it was all made easy in case it upset the little angels (hence ‘dumbing-down’), leaving us with these oddly unhappy kids turning up at ‘Ewni’ expecting to be entertained by the ‘Ewni’ lecturers and threatening to sue for non-delivery of learning and/or ‘hurt to my self-esteem’ if they weren’t entertained.

What a bloody shambles.

Now, this left playworkers with a bit of a problem, to wit: if everybody is doing play, what are playworkers for, exactly?

I think the consensus is now, in the aftermath of the Global Theft of 2007 (aka the Credit Crunch, the Recession), as a field, we are a bit confused.

What is playwork for, we asked at conferences, and as funding withered, we asked wither playwork? and we agonised, and we started to say anything that came into our heads if we thought it might make the men in suits give us some feckin’ money.

What was playwork? Well, it was once the groovy alternative.

In the 70s, it was cool and hip and groovy, even before it was called ‘alternative’. It was part of a movement, it was part of ‘the counter-culture’, alongside feminism and ecology (aka ‘the environment’) and organic food and ‘free schools’ (the original ones, like White Lion, not Michael Gove’s ones), and ‘progressive rock’ and dropping out and going to India, and living in the woods.

Playwork back then had an ethos which was, broadly and oversimplistically, : to be an alternative for children. That’s why they called it ‘the counter culture’.

And I also think there are some good signs: one young playwork blogger is talking about ‘the death of playwork’. Well if we can’t see what’s gone, we can hardly see what needs to be done to replace it, can we?

And know this – playwork is not about self-esteem, to paraphrase that footy bloke, it was Brian Clough I think, ‘its much more important than that, it’s about supporting the development of children. (No time or space to explain why I inisist on saying ‘children’ not ‘the child’, but it is to do with not being doctors or social workers, not being people who see kids as clients or patients to be fixed by nice men, like Chris Martin fixing Gwyneth. (No, not that Chris Martin, the other one.)


A lot more to say, I will come back to this another time.



click this link to read all of what Coert said:

and click on the link inside Coert’s article to read all of Albert’s article.

©© Arthur Battram Saturday, September 15, 2012


This is more of a second draft than a finished piece. Of course it is biased and opinionated, represents only one point of view (or 3 at best) and can be torn to pieces by any thinking person. Feel free. But the truth is still there, grinning like your reflection in the pond as you throw bricks in: playwork has lost its way.

©© Arthur Battram

This note added Tuesday, September 18, 2012


WordPress is misbehaving, so I am struggling to post…


My last piece on self-esteem, is a bit wack, because the links aren’t active and such. I’m having to revise my workflow, and abandon browser based blogging and Android smartphone blogging in favour of my blog app MacJournal.








the last entry before this is half of a draft, so hang on, and I should post the proper full finished version shortly.










The hand is the cutting edge of the mind … The most powerful drive in the ascent of man is pleasure in his own skill

From the Guardian:

The Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski – review

Tim Radford finds Bronowski’s history of humanity, The Ascent of Man – reissued with a foreword by Richard Dawkins – as compelling as ever


“But the enduring freshness stems from something else. Bronowski had a gift for identifying the themes and advances that would seem just as vital 40 years on. He also had a gift for sentences minted with precision, and Dawkins picks out two of them in his foreword: “The hand is the cutting edge of the mind … The most powerful drive in the ascent of man is pleasure in his own skill.””

There you go.

The embodied mind and the function of play in a sentence.

“Wow. Oh wow.”


Tim Radford says:

“…The Ascent of Man is as compelling as ever. The brain, he understands, is not just an instrument for action. It is an instrument for preparation; it both drives the human hand and is driven by it; it is an instrument wired to learn, control speech, plan and make decisions.

“In the course of the last chapter, he reminds us that from the printed book comes “the democracy of the intellect” and that humans are primarily ethical creatures. These are the words of a man who studied the devastation of Nagasaki.

”All our science, all our endeavour, is for something. “We are nature’s unique experiment to make the rational intelligence prove itself sounder than the reflex. Knowledge is our destiny.” This is not just a book about science. It is a book about why science matters, and what it really tells us. That is not a message likely to go out of date in a few decades.“