HYDROPONICS: further musing about the gulf between what is taught in universities on playwork degrees, and the concerns of its teachers, and what is needed for the field, by the field and suchlike, #2

Earlier I was musing about the gulf between what is taught in universities on playwork degrees, and the concerns of its teachers, and what is needed for the field, by the field and suchlike. “Do you have anyone in particular in mind, Arthur?” I was asked. What follows is a detailed explanation of what I do, and who I don’t, have in mind.

No I don’t, Francis, I replied. I’m including nearly everyone in a loosely defined ‘set’, set out in  the following:

I have in mind everyone who:

— is a full-time lecturer, because being part-time means that you are necessarily in contact with a ‘work-based’ ‘real world’ outside of the ivory tower, so they are less susceptible to the lure of ‘the life academe’. (A ‘deme’ indeed – wikipedia has a concise definition of a deme in biology)

—- is teaching playwork (primarily, could be teaching other subjects) on a university course such as a B. or M. or whatever, so I’m excluding short more vocational things, I forget the jargon.

(List continues below, this is an aside, well sort of ) Ironically this criterion excludes from my focus the teachers of playwork who have no playwork experience, indeed with little experience of  any work with children at all. There is one course leader of a newish playwork degree course who has small experience of work with under-5s and no experience beyond that age. We worry, don’t we, about people who leave school, go to ‘Yewni’ get a teaching qualification, and return to teach, some even in the same school. A toxic aquarium of closed loopiness. Do you share my worry about someone who is a lead on a playwork course, who either has no playwork experience or, even worse, has some, but hasn’t bothered to mention it in the bio section of the course promo leaflet?

— is ‘from playwork’. What do I mean? Well I suppose I mean someone who has been active in playwork ‘education and training’ or in playwork politics or policy, and as such has some cachet in the field. There are many teachers of playwork who quietly teach away, and never got involved in the politics of the field.  This ‘cachet’ in the field may be the nub of  my point here.


You may well have caught me out here, Francis.  I may, in effect, be accusing certain playwork lecturers of something quite similar to ‘selling out’.

(I think I explained that I don’t like to use the term ‘selling out’ –  it might be in  my as yet unsent reply to you that I referred to in our email exchange recently, so you might not have seen it, yet. Convoluted, eh?).

I was trying to say something about the idea that one is a ‘sell -out’ just because you take a good job. This idea is a pernicious and lazy one; I think it’s to do with my fellow northerners disdain of folk ‘who think they’re better than us, by doing well for themselves’. It’s a class thing, I’m sure folk in the other fringes feel the same way. I personally met this head on when I returned home at Xmas after my 1st term at ‘a poncy f***ing Southern University’

I think it is possible to do well in University teaching and not lose the connection to the field.  You can be pro-vice chancellor and still be connected to the field from which you came. Robert Winston, who is, in part, an annoying populariser and ‘media whore’  maintains a connection in at least 2 ways, I gather: firstly he still does gynaecological work on real ladies at a clinic (the phrase ‘keeps his hand in’ is irresistible here, sorry) and secondly he speaks out on behalf of his profession and its laity, just this week he was attacking inflated prices for fertility treatments and he didn’t mince his words. Thus despite his very annoying ‘tache, I have to show him some respect.

When that connection  is lost, it is as if the person has become hydroponic, like a brain in a jar, kept alive in a lab by chemicals. The word ‘radical’ suggests roots (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical) and if a playwork lecturer is uprooted. or has their roots cut away, or cuts them away themselves, then we have the thing I am decrying. ‘If they aren’t interested in us, why should we be interested in them?’

A good example is Susan Greenfield- totally cut off from her roots, her scientific field; as head of the RS she wasted time energy and money on bizarre chief exec type projects. She is the telly and radio ‘go-to’ person on neuroscience who has almost no credibility in her own field.

It’s a pity that I had to use a woman as the hydroponic example, as it may have you jumping to conclusions; at present it so happens the best example of the scientist-superstar mediawhore is a woman, I’m not concerned with gender here, and in fact my paradigm example of a hydroponic playwork lecturer is a man. I tried to think of a male scientist star who is disconnected and I couldn’t – some might say Brian Cox, He’s annoying, but not a disconnected science person.

And I am not concerned with fingering individuals – I’m interested in why this disconnection occurs and the negative consequences of it for the field. I also gloomily, think there isn’t much that can be done about it.

I’’ll tell you why there isn’t much that can be done about it –

( I ought to write it up, I have been saying it, and thinking it for years, and have never written it up)

(I should also say again that I’m enjoying your questions, Francis: they evoke my brain to utterances. Keeps it running smoothly, like taking a vintage car for a spin now and then.)

Next item is the ‘why’  writeup.


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