Message found in a bottle of snake oil, in the Sargasso sea…

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’.

~~~

OUR BOYS ARE NOW AT GREATER RISK THAN GIRLS. By Dottie Lamm

http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/boys-now-greater-risk-girls/

Sobering, eye-opening article. Also, of course, true of the UK. Here is an edited summary of the data:

” • EDUCATION: This is the first generation of boys in U.S. history who will have less education than their dads.

Yet male teachers are scarce. Recess and vocational education are being curtailed.

Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, drop out of school or be expelled than girls.///

• FATHERLESSNESS: A third of boys are raised in fatherless homes. This lack of a dad leads to poorer academic and behavioral results for them than it does for girls. A recent study of boys revealed that by the third grade, boys with absent fathers scored lower on every achievement test.

Most gang members come from homes without dads.

• EMOTIONAL HEALTH: Depression remains hidden in boys because of the male taboo against the showing of feelings.

Boys’ risky, anti-social or violent behavior often serve as a mask for depression. Usually that behavior is punished but the underlying depression not treated.

Between the ages of 13 and 20, BOYS’ SUICIDE RATES SOAR TO FOUR TIMES THAT of girls of the same age.”

KIND THINKER OUT IN THE WORLD: an elegy for Perry Else

KIND THINKER OUT IN THE WORLD

 

Kind thinker, out in

the world, away 

from the white towers; 

down by the riv’r.

Forthright, flexible and firm — 

the three frees.

Living, in the realm

of the possible:

not ‘they should’, only

‘well, maybe we can…’ 

Else we forget, the

value of play

and the value of

his playful life.

Arthur Battram

10:26 AM, Thursday, June 12, 2014, revised 2:02 PM  Friday, September 5, 2014 , and again so the scansion is better Tuesday, September 9, 2014, 2:04 PM.

A fitting obituary is here:

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/people/obituaries/perry-else-1959-2014/2013792.article

Media coverage of play/child-related issues: David Spencer Ramsey’s ongoing (and therefore partial) list

David has kindly given me permission to share his list of media coverage of what I have labelled ‘play/child-related issues’.

The list is a partial one, as he explains below. He says:

“Interesting research fact: There have been more than 50 articles, news reports, and radio pieces in mainstream media (New York Times, Slate.com, Washington Post, NPR, KQED, ABC News, etc.) in the United States on children’s play since the beginning of 2014.”

“So right now I’ve collected data on the 50+ media references since start of 2014. I’m in the process of going back year-by-year over the past 5 years to see if 2014 does indeed stand out as having a significantly higher number of ‘mainstream media’ (broadcast, print, web) discussions of play. I can easily provide you the 50+ references for 2014 with date, publication, url, title, etc., it’s all in a Microsoft Word doc.”

“I am … interested in looking at things from a different perspective, ie., is there a potentially larger social-cultural shift occurring in America that is either allowing or actively encouraging this sort of mainstream media coverage to happen? In other words, why now? Why these particular stories? What does this say, if anything, about American society in 2014?”

 

My own cynical view is that this media kerfuffle does not, of itself, signal a change in US (or UK) society. I wish it did. Nevertheless, if nothing else the covering is cheering, and may inspire. Feel free to use the list anyway you wish.

Please contact David directly if you have any questions or requests. For my part I will update this item whenever I can (not guaranteeing!).

davidramsey1234@yahoo.com

——————————————————————–

DAVID’S LIST ( as of MONDAY, AUGUST 11, 2014)

——————————————————————–

The Overprotected Kid

The Atlantic, March 19, 2014

http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/03/hey-parents-leave-those-kids-alone/358631/

Why Free Play is the Best Summer School

The Atlantic, June 20, 2014

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/06/for-better-school-results-clear-the-schedule-and-let-kids-play/373144/

Recess Without Rules

The Atlantic, January 28, 2014

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/01/recess-without-rules/283382/

Inside a European Adventure Playground

The Atlantic, March 19, 2014

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/archive/2014/03/europes-adventure-playgrounds-look-way-more-fun/284521/

How Finland Keeps Kids Focused Through Free Play

The Atlantic, June 30, 2014

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/06/how-finland-keeps-kids-focused/373544/

Kids These Days: Growing Up Too Fast or Never At All?

National Public Radio, March 20, 2014

http://www.npr.org/2014/03/20/291922339/kids-these-days-growing-up-too-fast-or-never-at-all

Where the Wild Things Play

National Public Radio, August 4, 2014

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/08/04/334896321/where-the-wild-things-play

Play Doesn’t End With Childhood: Why Adults Need Recess Too

National Public Radio, August 6, 2014

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/08/06/336360521/play-doesnt-end-with-childhood-why-adults-need-recess-too

Scientists Say Child’s Play Helps Build a Better Brain

National Public Radio, August 6, 2014

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/08/06/336361277/scientists-say-childs-play-helps-build-a-better-brain

When Kids Start Playing to Win

National Public Radio, August 5, 2014

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/08/05/331412567/when-kids-start-playing-to-win

What Kids Can Learn From a Water Balloon Fight

National Public Radio, June 25, 2014

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/06/25/325218402/what-kids-can-learn-from-a-water-balloon-fight

For Kids With Special Needs, More Places to Play

National Public Radio, August 27, 2013

http://www.npr.org/2013/08/27/213827534/for-kids-with-special-needs-more-places-to-play

Kids Need More Structured Play Time, Not Less

New York Times, May 1, 2014

http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/01/kids-need-more-structured-playtime-not-less/

All Children Should be Delinquents

New York Times, July 12, 2014

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/13/opinion/sunday/all-children-should-be-delinquents.html

Mom Faces Felony Charge for Letting Girl Play in Park

ABC News, July 28, 2014

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/sc-moms-arrest-sparks-child-care-debate-24745801

Play for Children: Form and Freedom

Huffington Post, July 11, 2014

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/megan-rosker/play-for-children-form-self-discipline_b_5575864.html

If Children are Learning, Then Let Them Play

Huffington Post, November 1, 2013

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bethany-wilinski/if-children-are-for-learning_b_4184361.html

Dad Charged With Endangerment After Son Skips Church to Go Play

Huffington Post, June 30, 2014

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/30/dad-arrested-son-skips-church_n_5544661.html

Stressed Out in America: Five Reason to Let Your Kids Play

Huffington Post, February 28, 2014

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/katie-hurley/stressed-out-in-america-5-reasons-to-let-your-kids-play_b_4869863.html

Banish the Playdate

Huffington Post, July 24, 2014

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-bernholdt/banish-the-playdate_b_5577558.html

Best Type of Play? Let Kids do What They Want

NBC News, 9News Colorado, August 6, 2014

http://www.9news.com/story/news/health/2014/08/06/free-play-kids/13694309/

How Play Wires Kids’ Brains for Social and Academic Success

KQED California, August 7, 2014

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/08/how-play-wires-kids-brains-for-social-and-academic-success/

Let ‘Em Out!  The Many Benefits of Outdoor Play in Kindergarten

KQED California, July 23, 2014

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/07/let-em-out-the-many-benefits-of-outdoor-play-in-kindergarten/

A Land Where Kids Roam Free

KQED California, July 18, 2014

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/07/audio-file-wont-embed/

Can Free Play Prevent Depression and Anxiety in Kids?

KQED California, June 29, 2014

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/06/can-free-play-prevent-depression-and-anxiety-in-kids/

Cities Want Young Families to Play and Stay

Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2014

http://online.wsj.com/articles/cities-message-to-young-families-play-and-stay-1407279639

Playing Children, Out of Sight and Mind

New York Daily News, August 4, 2014

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/playing-children-sight-mind-article-1.1889019

Visiting Lecturer Says Play is Effective Learning Tool

Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 1, 2014

http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/local/2014/07/31/visitng-lecturer-says-play-effective-learning-tool/13395155/

In This Era of Helicopter Parenting, Letting Your Child Play is a Crime

Charleston City Paper, July 23, 2014

http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/HaireoftheDog/archives/2014/07/23/in-this-era-of-helicopter-parenting-letting-your-children-play-is-a-crime

Play: The Work of a Child

Green Bay Press Gazette, July 12, 2014

http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/life/2014/07/12/play-work-child/12534161/

The Best Toy for a Kid on a Plane is Not an iPad

ABC News, July 23, 2014

http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/best-toy-kid-plane-ipad/story?id=24588355

Send the Kids Outside to Play: Study

Chicago Tribune, July 17, 2014

http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/sns-rt-us-kids-outdoors-fitness-20140717-story.html

Even Playing Dress-Up Teaches Children How to Handle Emotions

Springfield News Leader, July 11, 2014

http://www.news-leader.com/story/news/local/ozarks/2014/07/11/even-playing-dress-teaches-children-handle-emotions/12546701/

Letting Imagination Win

Washington Post, August 8, 2014

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/08/08/playing-not-winning-the-game/

Ten Ways to Fix the Mess That is Kindergarten

Washington Post, August 7, 2014

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/08/07/ten-ways-to-fix-the-mess-that-is-kindergarten/

Why So Many Kids Can’t Sit Still in School Today

Washington Post, July 8, 2014

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/07/08/why-so-many-kids-cant-sit-still-in-school-today/

Are We Overprotecting Our Kids?

Katie Couric Show, July 9, 2014

http://katiecouric.com/2014/07/09/are-we-overprotecting-our-kids/

Should Parents Let Their Kids Take More Risks?

PBS NewsHour, May 9, 2014

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/parents-let-kids-take-risks/

Does Overprotecting Children Put Them at Risk?

CBS News, March 20, 2014

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/does-over-protecting-children-make-them-less-independent-and-creative/

Let Kids Run Wild in the Woods

Slate.com, May 2014

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/05/kid_play_zones_in_parks_leave_no_trace_inhibits_fun_and_bonding_with_nature.html

What Playfulness Can Do For You

Boston Globe, July 20, 2014

http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/07/19/what-playfulness-can-for-you/Cxd7Et4igTLkwpkUXSr3cO/story.html

How the American Playground was Born in Boston

Boston Globe, March 28, 2014

http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/03/28/how-american-playground-was-born-boston/5i2XrMCjCkuu5521uxleEL/story.html

A Parklet Rises in Boston

Boston Globe, July 14, 2014

http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2014/07/14/parklet-rises-boston/6R0DwaikXFFpgILJ6trzGL/story.html

Help Kids’ Imaginations Soar

Miami Herald, July 13, 2014

http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/11/4231708/help-kids-imaginations-soar.html

For July, Let Kids be Kids

Columbia Daily Tribune, July 13, 2014

http://www.columbiatribune.com/opinion/columnists/for-july-let-kids-be-kids/article_95b39566-73a9-5fb2-9ec1-297e1ba16d03.html

The Cognitive Benefits of Play: Effects on the Learning Brain

ParentingScience.com, 2014

http://www.parentingscience.com/benefits-of-play.html

7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders

Forbes.com, January 16, 2014

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2014/01/16/7-crippling-parenting-behaviors-that-keep-children-from-growing-into-leaders/

Too Much Too Soon: Why Children Should Spend More Time Playing and Start School Later

Forbes.com, January 30, 2014

http://www.forbes.com/sites/nickmorrison/2014/01/30/too-much-too-soon-why-children-should-spend-more-time-playing-and-start-school-later/

Why Playful Learning is the Key to Prosperity

Forbes.com, April 10, 2014

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashoka/2014/04/10/why-playful-learning-is-the-key-to-prosperity/

Mom Arrested After Letting 7-Year-Old Son Walk to Park by Himself

KTLA News, July 31, 2014

http://ktla.com/2014/07/31/mom-arrested-after-letting-7-year-old-son-walk-to-neighborhood-park-by-himself/

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.

Give them all ASBOs! This is what advocacy for play looks like

What follows is the (obviously) unofficial view of a senior police officer on the subject of ASBOs, ABCs and other legal attempts to control the nuisance of children.

The officer is commenting on a report, which you can read by following the link below.

———————————————-

The officer said:

“I am writing in a non official capacity – my role is that of *** in ***
(Force).

If I can take the opportunity to comment on your ABC report. I thought it
was spot on and I will ensure it will be sent to my officers responsible for
delivering and working with those who deliver ABCs.

I do see a use for ABCs but as you point out, when the system is vague
and threatening it does nothing to inspire me that this is a tool that will
be of any merit or worth.

Surely children who may be experiencing problems in their lives require
support and should not be growing up in an authoritarian environment?

Thank you for a thought provoking report.”

The report he or she is commenting on is this one:

Report re: The Compatibility of Acceptable Behaviour Contracts with
Article 6.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights

By Jan Cosgrove and Matthew Cosgrove

Click to access 1325042991.pdf

Have any of our noble play-related university lecturers done any work in this area? I would love to see it.

 

You can find out more about FPFC here:

 

http://www.fairplayforchildren.net/what.htm

Teacher Tom: Everyone Protecting Everyone

Teacher Tom: Everyone Protecting Everyone.

When the girls came outside, the boys chased the girls chased the boys, wildly, around and around our outdoor space, all flushed and breathing hard, chasing without catching, everyone protecting everyone.”

The way he did it, honestly sharing his opinion, not adding any judgment,and the playful shuttle diplomacy he practiced, is pure playwork.

Shame that many playworkers don’t do it like this.

This is either because they aren’t allowed to, or they haven’t been shown, or, probably, they haven’t been allowed to learn how to.

Reflecting on reflective practice: “A thousand mountain ranges separate the one who reflects from the one who is truly present.”

“A thousand mountain ranges separate the one who reflects from the one who is truly present.”

Photo from: http://www.walkingforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=2750.0

This is a blog about reflective practice, which like Western civilisation, I think would be a very good thing.

I’m quoting Gandhi, who was asked what he thought of Western civilisation, as he stepped off the boat at Southampton wrapped in a sheet, having been a lawyer in South Africa. He replied: “I think it would be a very good idea.”

I’m suggesting that a lot of what passes for reflective practice is nothing of the sort, and yet it so easily could be.

Playworkers make notes in diaries, they keep records. They take photos, to attempt to present their work to others.  Some keep journals, some turn their journals into whole books, like m’esteemed colleague Eduardo Nuttall. Some write whole books, based on the work of a lifetime, or at least a significant chunk of it,  stuffed with observation and reflection – I’m thinking of  luminaries like Perry Else and Saint Bob himself (no offence). Some blog, like moi, and Joel, and Lily and many others. Some don’t do any of that, but they do think, and ponder, and talk about stuff down the pub or over a grotty cup of bad teabag tea in a hut.

But those honourable exceptions aside, often what passes for ‘reflective practice’ is nothing more than a few scrappy notes in an ‘incident book’ or an ‘office diary’, grudgingly scribbled as you rush to go home. Why do we need to write stuff up, we mutter. What’s the point?

Easy for me to criticise, but what am I doing about it?

Good and fair question. I’m currently developing  what I hope will be a new and improved approach to playwork reflective practice. I have started by distinguishing three aspects of the thing I’m pointing at –  avoiding using the term ‘reflective’ or ‘practice’ to avoid association with existing approaches, recognising that this may result in the usage of clumsy neologism, for which I apologise.

These three aspects are:

documentation – the recording of numbers and names and other details, as required by Caesar. “Render unto Caesar that which is Ceasar’s” said a Jewish prophet, and in our context that means: keep the records that your employer requires, for the good reasons that they require it. Chief among those reasons is, most likely, the keeping of funders happy.

promotion – the gathering of photos, and stories, etcetera, for reasons often confused with the above, to wit: to be able – at AGM or conference, or on telly or radio, or in print, be it press, or exhibition – to tell people what you do and why you do it and why it is deserving of their support, financing or involvement, be that as volunteer, worker or committee member or officer.

journaling – the writing of a personal and private journal of your personal reflective practice.  By which I mean recording some of what you observed and thinking about it, and writing down some of your thoughts, and relating them to your work, presumably with the intention of improvement – the making something better. I’m referring to a thing my erstwhile chums in management consultancy call ‘change management’.

(I’m not interested in ‘change management’, I’m interested in ‘improvement management’, which is, admittedly, a subset of change management, but is much harder. Given that change is happening all the time, the real trick is to detect and amplify the beneficial things, while avoiding the bad things and hoping they’ll go away. I say this because if we focus on the bad things, everybody gets upset and the good things get neglected – better to focus on making the already good a little bit better, which is nice and not too challenging for any of us, is it not?)

Anyway, a personal and private journal. Can’t be done in the office dairy because you can’t be yourself in the glare of your office spotlight. What will they think if I write that? I can’t write that, so I don’t, and so I don’t think about it either, which means that I’m self-censoring.  Not a good start. How can I reflect on the unthought and unwritten? Reflection is personal – what do I think about what happened? Not what do the Playwork Principles tell us to think (our very own PCness), nor what my boss wants me to think or do, nor what my mates or colleagues think, or want me to think. And, if it is personal it must be private, initially at least. I can always edit juicy bits for public consumption as part of our promotion or as an extension documentation later.

Hope all that helps. I’ll be piloting this approach soon, and I’ll let you know how it goes, if you’re interested.

This particular peak

Onwards and upwards to the top of this particular peak, which is the consideration of these words:

“A thousand mountain ranges separate the one who reflects from the one who is truly present.”

We don’t know who said this, the only reference we have is ‘Zen saying’.

M’esteemed colleague, Mr Joel Seath, has written about being truly present as a playworker. Bearing witness to the play of children, as our great play theorist* Gordon Sturrock, has it.  He doesn’t blog, so you can’t read him online. Joel does blog, here:

http://playworkings.wordpress.com

What do we mean by being present, by witnessing?
Ben Tawil has a wonderful story about not interfering in play:

A teenaged boy is contemplating a leap from a high tower on an adventure playground. Ben, from a distance, is contemplating the situation. If the boy makes the jump, he will massively injure himself, that much is certain.

You’ll have to ask Ben if you need to know what happened. If you have ever been present, witnessing, you’ll know why you don’t need to know what happened. Of course you want to know what happened, as did I. I’ll ask him, and he might give me his version of the tale, which I can share here.

I know I’m being annoying and obscure: I can’t help it. I don’t have the time or patience to write a longer explanation or a shorter one for that matter•. In any case, this Zen stuff is not about Western-style explanation, it is about Eastern-style contemplation.

And contemplation is another word for reflection.

When I hear the word, I reach for my gun

Now pay attention, dear reader••, as I pick up my Zen gun and shoot myself in my metaphorical foot, by essaying that very Western sin – explaining the unexplainable. I may amuse.

So when we say: “A thousand mountain ranges separate the one who reflects from the one who is truly present.” I think we are saying that reflection is impossible if you have not been present, meaning that if you have not been present in the moment, living it, being there, witnessing everything that is going on, around you and inside you, outside of you and inside your head and your heart. Me, I don’t do that often, and I don’t do it often enough, not by a long chalk. I’m just saying that if you weren’t there, you cannot speak of it, can you?

So I offer you this: the key to reflective practice – key in the sense of opening the door –  is being truly present.

And once the door has been opened, you may or may not choose to step through, of course – that’s up to you.  And if you step through, you may fail to wander very far in the garden of reflection, but it’s a start. I’m exploring that garden myself, so I might bump into you there.

So…

Think on, as my dad used to say.

(Which is, of course, just another way of saying do some reflection.)

efd941a7eecc45aa70c0f924de6750f2

 

Footling footnotes at the foot of the present mountain:

*we have but a few truly great theorists of play: Bob Hughes, Bashō, Gordon Sturrock, Marc Bekoff, to name but a few (boys).**

** oh, and one  token girl: Judith Rich Harris.***

*** oh, alright then, one more girl: Penny Wilson

• A wise man apologised like this for going on at length –  well, I won’t take more time to explain, I’ll just refer you here:

http://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/04/28/shorter-letter/

•• reader? I hope for plural.

A challenge for playwork: The scary world of 12 year olds

One of the many things I find curious about the playwork field here in UK is the extent to which it ignores the world of parenting. I’m not sure why, although I have some ideas (which I won’t share now for fear of annoying my playwork chums).

I wonder how we can blithely talk about providing play opportunities and the importance of risky play and all that, when we take no notice of the family life of twelve year olds like this one? Some women playwork writers have talked about a marginalised female perspective within playwork, and I agree largely, but my point is this – are we aware enough of these phenomena? And if we are, are we doing enough to offer a safe place for girls within our play provision?

I guess my comments are aimed more at the rufty-tufty adventure end of the provision – after-school childcare schemes might provide more girl-friendly spaces. Perhaps. And it’s not just about girls: boys have similar pressures, though they tend to act out in different ways, perhaps.

I’m not saying this to be contentious, I’m just saying that consideration of these questions might lead to us modifying some of our ‘offerings’, as the jargon has it.

Parenting And Stuff

alicia and grace

It was an evening last week when I learned that my Tween, 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 FB.

In case you’ve lost me, this is the situation: My kid is sitting on her bed trembling and crying, while I am staring at her I-pad unbelievably, chat lines running extremely fast saying:  “Diane is not at the living room… wait, looking for her at the kitchen…not there! Perhaps she already did it! Wait, the police is entering the bathroom… Here she is! She is alive! She tried to kill herself!” Etc.

Once I was sure that Diane (which my daughter is not familiar with) is ok, and that her parents are aware of what’s happening in…

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My favourite A.S.Neill anecdote: if it featured a car, I could have called it ‘Cars and Girls’

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:

“Yes.”

§

 

Thanks to Joel, for evoking this with your blog, to be found here:

http://playworkings.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/comparisons-of-some-early-twentieth-and-early-twenty-first-century-thinking-about-children/#respond

Start your reading about Neill here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._S._Neill

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/apr/23/leila-berg

(I think I would have first heard of Neill by reading an article in New Society by Leila Berg)

Arising in the playspace: what is the role of the playworker?

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://playeverything.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/on-the-shoulders-of-giants/

Even the sports guys think there is not enough play and too much testing

 

child-custody

“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!

 

http://www.drkwamebrown.com/above-and-beyond/

 

 

 

 

 

SNOWBALLS. SOME SCHOOLS CLOSED. SOME CHILDREN SLEDGING.

Ooh, there is snow.

snow

Snow picture borrowed from my chum: A snow day means a play day!

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.”

COBRA discusses growing AlbertKyder threat
COBRA discusses growing AlbertKyder threat

 

Some schools are open, some schools are closed. Maybe some questions should be asked.

School shut, kids have fun in snow.

Snow?

Balls.

Ffs: just go chuck some.

DEAR OTHER PARENTS AT THE PARK: Please do not lift my daughters to the top of the ladder, especially after you’ve just heard me tell them I wasn’t going to do it for them and encourage them to try it themselves

”I am not sitting here, 15 whole feet away from my kids, because I am too lazy to get up. I am sitting here because I didn’t bring them to the park so they could learn how to manipulate others into doing the hard work for them. I brought them here so they could learn to do it themselves.“

WOW. The only thing that stopped me just quoting the whole thing is blogettiquette – you MUST read every word of this!
http://alameda.patch.com/blog_posts/please-dont-help-my-kids

About a year ago I chided another playwork blogger for entertaining, or at least implying, that helping children is part of what we do as playwork people. This far better expresses my perspective than my querulous commenty bloggage of last year.

So I must reluctantly confine myself to a few choice quotes, those perhaps most pertinent to people who work with other people’s children:

”It is not my job to keep them from falling. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn that falling is possible but worth the risk, and that they can, in fact, get up again.“

”I want my girls to know the exhilaration of overcoming fear and doubt and achieving a hard-won success.“

”I want them to believe in their own abilities and be confident and determined in their actions. “

”I want them to accept their limitations until they can figure out a way past them on their own significant power.“

”I want them to feel capable of making their own decisions, developing their own skills, taking their own risks, and coping with their own feelings.“

”I want them to climb that ladder without any help, however well-intentioned, from you.“

Read the whole thing –  maybe even memorise it and quote it next time somebody asks you “why?” – read it here:

http://alameda.patch.com/blog_posts/please-dont-help-my-kids

New rules for fragile, vicious children

Attention, people who work with children, these are the truths you should teach your customers:

  • You can do what you like, steal or hurt others, it doesn’t matter, so long as nobody sees you, or your mate will lie for you – because guilt is dependent on proof and not conscience
  • Deny everything and call them liars. demand proof
  • Don’t apologise! It isn’t in your own interest
  • Accuse people –  it feels good and makes you powerful
  • Zero tolerance is great – they’ll assume they did it!
  • Children shouldn’t choose who they play with

What’s that? You don’t agree? Why not? You are against bullying, aren’t you? You don’t agree with bullying, do you? You support AntiBullying Week, don’t you? How dare you disagree, you bully!

Well, if you support anti-bullying, you must support those statements, because all those ‘truths’ are the consequence of anti-bullying policies. Which leads me to this article denouncing anti-bullying policies, which contains the most cogent argument I have ever read on the issue. Read these quotes, then follow the link below:

“Whether we like it or not, arguing, teasing and fighting are normal parts of childhood. Learning to tell the difference between a spat and systematic bullying should be a basic parenting skill, but our much vaunted zero-tolerance policies on bullying make it impossible. They also make it very difficult for children to reform their behaviour.

”…[W]hen every incident is treated like a potential crime, teachers’ roles change dramatically.

“She cannot simply say: stop it! Nor can she simply scold the perpetrator or propose such age-old solutions as ‘shake hands and make up’. Her job is no longer to educate, but to investigate. Once a report is being made, the accused child’s parents immediately – and quite naturally – become Jack’s defence advocates. They tell their child to deny everything and challenge every accusation by demanding irrefutable proof. …

“The process demeans the teacher’s authority, eliminates arbitration and belittles personal responsibility, as it teaches children that guilt is dependent on proof and not conscience, and that sincere apologising is not honorable but contrary to self-interest.

And children do learn. They soon learn that making accusations gives power, and zero tolerance means the presumption of guilt. Our current interpretation of bullying is entirely subjective, thus bullying occurs whenever someone feels he or she has been bullied. We have already had a case of bullying where Jack told Jill she has a nice hat. Jack thought he was complementing her, but Jill interpreted it as a sarcastic remark.

“In another case, boys who didn’t allow a girl into their game were considered bullies by way of exclusion. So children no longer have the luxury of choosing who they play with. It was not systematic shunning; but a single incident was enough.

”For those of us who still believe that children are neither as vicious nor as fragile as we are now led to believe, it’s time to realise that the over-officious anti-bullying campaigns are a part of the problem.”

Eero-Iloniemi-AntiBullying