(A reference to Paolo Freire’s commendable book Pedagogy of the Oppressed)
Humberto Maturana has a thistles and child story.
He is walking with his young son through a thistle-infested field. Seeking to heroically clear a pathway for his young son, who he loves with all his heart, he starts to playfully scythe the thistles, swinging his walking stick like it’s a sabre. His son asks him “Daddy, why do you hate the nettles?”
Maturana was much chastened. Children naturally respect the natural.
There is so much in this story and I only have time for one or 2 carats from the gem. So…
We don’t talk enough about oppression. Children are an oppressed group. We knew this in the 70s, the millennials feel it, but don’t fight it. Generational Learned Helplessness.
All oppressed things, like prey animals who quiver and dart and have huge eyes on the sides of their heads to see 360°, constantly observe, scan, watch and listen. Children observe all adults for signs of threat and they conceal their own feelings. To a small creature, everything bigger that moves is a threat, a potential predator. Even your mum. And if it’s Gary’s mum, especially Gary’s mum. You know those smiling natives in gap-year Trustafarian’s humblebrag photos? As the awesome Caitlin Moran pointed out, those smiles are the nervous grimaces of the rabbits as the fox enters the field…
And if you are oppressed, you always wonder if you’ll be next. That’s why, when the brave ‘zero tolerance of bullying moronic hero in their own brain’ leaps in to quash a bit of bullying*, all it does is frighten all the rabbits. There is a special place in playwork hell for anti-bullying zealots.
Same thing happens when HR don the superhero suit and fight an ism.
*BTW, it’s not bullying unless it is hurt that is sustained, repeated and targeted. Otherwise it’s just mean. You know that word ‘mean”? Kids use it a lot, adults less so. Pay attention, people. And hey…
Let’s be careful out there.