A friend of mine said, in a lovely,erudite presentation to some very smart folk:
“a weakness of my current thinking is a lack of explicitly encompassing the group, the social.”
Totally agree, we all lack this.
Re-examine page 49 of ‘Navigating Complexity: the essential guide to complexity theory in business and management’, written by myself.
Then think about that botanical nostrum – Early Years textbooks teach that there are three kinds of play in young humans and many mammals:
- individual play
- parallel play
- social play
Know that this is botany – classifying plants by the shape of their leaves. We observe the spots of a leopard, but what is the mechanism that creates them?
What are the primitives, the atomic irreducible processes that underly the phenomena?
We do not have a language to describe phenomena in groups. I suspect they are incommensurable, like weather prediction after Lorenz.
We do not have a language to describe phenomena in groups.
This has hamstrung playwork, education, professional football, orchestral performance, NASA budgetary oversight inquiries, Air Accident Investigation, Corporate Fraud Investigation, etcetera etcetera.
There are clues in the Miles Davis approach to group play.
There are clues in Taoism, and Zen.
But as Sapir, Whof and Wittgenstein, and probably Gibson (JJ not W) would tell you, language shapes thought and we do not have the language.
Try explaining how to put oil into a car without using any car-related, or engine-related words. Go on, try it. Write it down, now go through it and strike out any car-related and engine-related words that crept in. We don’t have a big enough RAM, our short-term memory, to hold even one sentence of the resulting tedious arm-waving stuttering verbiage.
Why doesn’t the world move when I shake my head?
M’learned friend also said:
“This has many implications, but that main one is that we should judge education by the value created for stakeholders (laudate Tom) – this is fittingly complex and circular.
NO NO NO, NO!
Very pleased that you rate teecha Tom.
Not stakeholders, feck stakeholders. Leave that to the Tory Goovey Gradgrindians.
I think you might mean participants? If so then I‘ll semi-agree.
How would you judge a Beth Chatto garden? Answer that and you’ll know how to judge education .
Read Seedstock by Frank Herbert… full text here… https://momentoftime.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/seed-stock-frank-herbert/
I cannot link to that story without rereading it, and when I reread it, I cannot help but be moved to tears.
Koan for you: “how can we value things without judging them?” asked the abbot.
Answers on a postcard to my fastness by Ruabon mountain, please, or via ‘e-mail’.
TL:DR –black children enslaved by drug dealers because they are outside all the bourgeois systems of survival.
Yeah, the thing you should take from this is ‘complexity’. Not, ooh it’s ‘complicated’, rather, this is ‘complex’— interconnected emergent, evolving… VUCA PICA whatever-acronymity. Yada.
Here’s how to do it…
1. Allow a trader culture to infest the guardian culture of school provision (Jane Jacobs – Systems of Survival)
2. Obsess on exam results (Long-term aim – gaming educational futures at Lloyds – I kid you not, google ‘charter schools and Wall St, the real story’ or whatever, dig deep)
3. allow schools to inappropriately and fraudently deploy commercial confidentiality
4. Allow schools to exclude pupils to improve results.
5. by redefining ‘our pupils’ and focussing only on your ‘bounded container’ (Wassex County Council is a container as is Sizewelldown Unitary, as is Vastco Academy MAAT) the problem goes away.
Now read this and come back…
All the answers to this problem are staring government, councils, agencies, whoever in the face (read my book ‘Navigating Complexity: the essential guide to complexity theory in business and management’, LOL)
But instead, funders want to approve your diversity targets and your theory of change WITHIN YOUR CONTAINER.
“There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing
Is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring there
Are the clanging chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you”
“I miss the gifts they bring for me, the special leaves, the bouquet of dandelions crushed lovingly in a fist, the portrait they made of me last night before going to bed.
“I miss trusting them and to have that trust justified.
“I miss spontaneous debates over our own rights and responsibilities and how to balance them with the rights and responsibilities of others.
“I miss liberating them for a few hours each day in a world that is forever telling them what to do.”
Do you know what this is, children?
Yes sir, we do, so please stop annihilating our playframe with your bolx teachable moment!
Dear Santa, I want one thing. (sic) I been a good girl and I want to ask you if you please get me a power wheelchair. My wheelchair is very old and it does not want to work. I am very sad. Please Santa, bring me a power wheelchair. I don’t want nothing else.
“Dear Santa … My wish is money for my (sic) perents. $100 dollars would help us a lot. They are having a rough time with the bills.”
“Dear Santa, how are you and your reindeer? It must be cool riding a sled in the sky…. this year for Christmas I would really like a couch that is also a bed. The reason I would like a couch with a bed is because I have a[n] apartment that only has one room. My parents sleep in the living room on the couch and they always wake up with back pain. My dad works a lot, so his back pain stresses him out.”
Even prior to the pandemic, the United States lagged other developed nations in child poverty levels. More than one out of every five American children lives in poverty, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development data. As the pandemic continues to exacerbate the underlying crisis of American poverty, 45 percent of all children now live in households that have recently struggled with routine expenses, according to a report out this month from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, or CBPP. Black and Latino households have been especially impacted by the economic starvation that the mishandling of this pandemic has wrought, and these populations were already disproportionately likely to grow up poor.
“…fire all the teachers and replace them with cooks and gardeners and artists and woodworkers and scientists, all pursuing their interests in the company of the neighborhood kids who would spend their days pursuing their own.”
Another superb blog from the man in the superhero suit:
Donny knows it’s the inbetween not the things.
The material of playwork is relationships, connections. Between humans and between humans and things. It’s not about things. It’s not about Lou Spartz, it’s about our relationship with them. It’s all just junk if you think it is. That’s what that bloke Gibson is on about: affordances are the possibilities that you can see, observe, grasp.
Who are you when you are alone? Less human. That’s not a judgement, it’s an observation. I nearly wrote ‘just an observation’ as if a judgement is a bigger thing then an observation, which it isn’t. We get bigger, wider, deeper, when we are connected. Which is not to say that alone is less. It’s different.
Sheep turn playground merry-go-round into their treadmill
These sheep are having a field day. A flock of sheep took over an empty playground in Preston, UK, and hopped on the carousel. Watch as the wooly animals run in place as the roundabout spins in this funny video.
© 2020 NYP Holdings, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Given how rapidly things get lost on the interweb, it might be helpful if I park these here.
The Playwork Primer by Penny Wilson (Alliance for Childhood 2009)
The very best introduction to playwork, and what it isn’t.
A lost classic, a companion piece to Best Play, containing some gorgeous stories that really give you a feel for the playworkers mindset.
What play provision should do for children. If your ‘space’ doesn’t do these, it’s not playwork provision, even if it is lovely.
An excellent overview for beginners
Here they are, and in the poster below. The key one in these endtimes for playwork is #4:
For playworkers, the play process takes precedence and playworkers act as advocates for play when engaging with adult-led agendas.
And finally, for now, some thoughts from Professor Play himself on what makes Playwork unique:
The Unique Elements of Playwork
- A conceptualisation of the child that actively resists dominant and subordinating narratives and practices
- A belief that while playing, the ‘being’ child is far more important than the ‘becoming’ child
- An adherence to the principle that the vital outcomes of playing are derived by children in inverse proportion to the degree of adult involvement in the process
- A non-judgemental acceptance of the children as they really are, running hand in hand with an attitude, when relating to the children, of ‘unconditional positive regard’
- An approach to practice that involves a willingness to relinquish adult power, suspend any preconceptions, and work to the children’s agenda
- The provision of environments that are characterised by flexibility, so that the children are able to create (and possibly destroy and recreate) their own play environments according to their own needs
- A general acceptance that risky play can be beneficial, and that intervention is not necessary unless a safety or safeguarding issue arises
- A continuous commitment to deep personal reflection that manages the internal relationship between their present and former child-self, and the effects of that relationship on their current practice
Lou Spartz, who passed away recently was an adventure playground pioneer, who introduced Simon Nicholson to the idea of kids doing stuff with old stuff that was lying around. Simon , being an architecture student, coined a confusing and intellectually reified terminology , based on his good friend’s own moniker. This slight playful moment, has now, courtesy of an academic journal, become a rod (a stick, louspart1, in the jargon) with which to beat children who put garden canes in the fabric tray. Aieee! Back in the day, we just called it stuff. Stuff. Stuff lying around.
This workshop, drawing on the work of Lakoff and Johnson, Postman and Weingartner, Dunbar, Tsoukas, Miyami, Minkoff, Vespuigi, Cohen and Stewart, Maturana and Hegel explores the complex relationship between truth, solidarity, tribal bonding, decision-making, leadership and socialisation, and the limitations of consultation and evaluation.
In today’s complex world of true lies and false facts, where the internet is blah blah.
To book this workshop contact Plexity. For more information, please reread.
Scarfolk Books have asked me to point out that they are not sponsoring this workshop and apologise for the misleading flyers.
ADSS get really grumpy…
“Councils are unwittingly acting as “recruiting sergeants” for drug gangs by sending vulnerable children to care homes miles away from where they live, a parliamentary inquiry has found.
“Thousands of young people who are sent to children’s homes up to 100 miles (161km) from their homes are becoming magnets for paedophiles and gangs who use children to traffic drugs from inner-city areas to provincial towns, according to evidence sent to the all-party parliamentary group for runaway and missing children and adults.
“More than 70% of the 41 police forces that responded to the inquiry said placing children out of area increased their risk of exploitation, often resulting in them being coerced into going missing.”
ADSS spokesdroid grumpily hinted at ‘having words with’…
Rachel Dickinson, the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said: “The suggestion in this report that local authorities are acting as ‘recruiting sergeants’ is wholly inappropriate and we are in dialogue with the report authors directly.”
Social workers would be struck dumb if they couldn’t use ‘inappwopwiate’ and ‘dialogue’ going forward…
If the ADSS had any understanding of networks, predator- prey interactions and autopoiesis, and
If they had any youth workers, and
If they listened to their youth workers
They could easily have seen this coming…
If you contract out your service delivery, you contract out your sensory apparatus.
You might think that monitoring is your sensory apparatus, but it don’ work like dat. Blakemore’s infamous experiments on blinded kittens (I know, don’t tell me, tell him) demonstrate that the visual system remains unformed if it isn’t able to autopoietically and cybernetically interact with the locomotor system. You can’t separate learning from doing as I said in 1995 in my Manifesto for Learning.
“The Children’s Play Policy Forum believes that play is a powerful builder of happy, healthy, capable children. The benefits of play extend to families, communities and society.”
Believing it doesn’t make it true. This fatuous statement from people who have set themselves up as experts in the field flies in the face of established science. Yes, I know you’ll tell me it’s not aimed at scientists, it’s aimed at parents… well you must have a very low opinion of them, in that case. Simple is not the same as dumbed-down.
Play does not build children. This statement is:
…. Grossly misleading
… Smacks of the worst sort of deterministic instrumentalism.
Play doesn’t do things to kids. Kids do things through play. Play is not something under external control, it is a process, a medium, if you must.
Children are not built like Lego or outside toilets.
They are living, complex, emergent organisms.
That’s why I coined the phrase:
THROUGH PLAY WE BECOME HUMAN.
There are a number of implications within this simple-seeming sentence.
People seem to struggle with it. I’ve seen it mis-recalled as “play makes us human” which takes us back to the original misrepresentation of building not becoming.
Play is not an external thing acting on children from outside, it is an inner urge, a propensity, a medium if you must, a process. So THROUGH PLAY.
Children are not alone (except when they are isolated, which is damaging. Humans are social primate mammals. They don’t develop as they should if they are deprived of company). They become who they are through interactions with other humans and with other becoming-humans. What emerges is shaped by a complex web of interactions and consequences (aspects of this are described by some as ‘socialisation’ and hey presto, with that single polysyllable we are back to the idea of things being done to them. Wrong.) Organisms are autopoietic, (googlit) they are self-creating, they emerge from interactions. It’s not predictable, it’s not controllable; at best it’s vaguely nudgeable, sometimes, a bit. Thus WE BECOME.
Implying that some do not become human. Stuart Brown has studied psychopaths and murderers. They have one thing in common: play deprivation in childhood.
THROUGH PLAY WE BECOME HUMAN.
- do your head in.
“Let’s say you witnessed a kid hitting another kid or something to that effect deliberately. Would you make the kid apologise?”
Depends, depends, context, etcetera. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple way to decide what to do? Well, there isn’t. But there is a complicated, if not actually complex, ‘sense-making’ model that can help.
Complex is not just a posh way of saying complicated – you need to grasp that firmly. Have a read-up…
These items seem reasonably helpful and not too misleading…
Anyway, that model. It’s the Cynefin framework from David Snowden, who, like the mountain, is Welsh. It’s pronounced Kunevin, roughly. Here are two diagrams which give you a hint of what it’s about. It’s a business model, developed to support leaders and strategists making decisions in complexificatified situations, so it’s a bit of a stretch to apply it to playwork, yet that’s what I do. The keyword in all of this is SENSE-MAKING.
A lot of the time the sense we make is nonsense or worse. ‘Common sense’ hmmm, as my gran woodov said, it’s ‘common’ as in there’s a lot of it about and it’s not very good.
Wrap your visual acquisition system round these, and note that, to confuse the English, he changes the labels now and then. The one on the left is the latest labelling, the content, like the song, remains mainly the same…
These links might help you think it through…
Oh, and please, don’t complain about the military/battle/war/death/killing/not nice aspects of these applications of his model. It’s a tool, like that hammer you just used to repair that dangerous platform on your playground. Hammers can kill or mend. “Tools don’t kill people, people kill people” to misquote that git, Charlton Heston. If the war stuff winds you up you’ll love this:
By Maxgeron – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55158193
So, back to Kevin’s question, let’s try to make some sense of it. Is his situation… complex, complicated, chaotic or obvious?
Clue – it’s not obvious, sorry.
About the only thing in playwork that is obvious is locking the office when there’s nobody in it and turning off the lights when you go home.
Have fun, and if you get stuck, my easy-to-read cult classic, ‘Navigating Complexity: the essential guide to complexity theory in business and management’ is still available secondhand. Go to abebooks.co.uk, not Amazon.
I’d be fascinated to hear from anyone if they find any of this stuff useful…