What happened to play?

May 29th, 2011

Watch kids playing. What do you see? Watch adults playing in a workshop. What do you see?

When do we lose that capacity for commitment, imagination, curiosity, play?

Maybe it’s not lost – just hidden. Is this why we flock to comedy plays, love stand-up and sit-coms? Are we trying to replace or rediscover what’s been squashed?

4 Comments so far

  1. Adrian Segar on May 29, 2011 12:44 pm

    Viv, when I’m asked to hold sessions on participant-driven events I like to show a thirty second family video, chosen almost at random from YouTube, of a little girl playing catch with her sister as they sit in a wading pool It’s hard to keep up a running commentary of all the joyful learning via play that’s continuously going on in that half minute.

    The next slide is of a large audience sitting facing a tiny presenter, way in the distance. Seems to get the point across.

    I think that play loses its central place in our lives as we are “socialized” by school. Most school teaches that play is what happens in the breaks; that the _important_ stuff is what happens in the classroom: one-to-many, teacher-to-students.

    Yes, my society has developed agreements about the times, places, and situations it is acceptable for adults to play. That’s why it’s so wonderful when, every now and again, we experience someone spontaneously breaking those rules. Or do so ourselves.

  2. Viv McWaters on May 29, 2011 1:33 pm

    Thanks Adrian. I agree with you about being socialised out of play. All the more reason to incorporate play when, and wherever, we can 🙂

  3. Dwight Towers on May 29, 2011 1:40 pm

    Hey Viv,

    them is the right questions. I wonder if it’s partly mixed up with our Puritan heritage (Protestant Work Ethic and all that) and the desperate face-saving that goes on. “I must present myself as a rational professional at all times. I must present myself as …”

    By one of those lovely coincidences one finds on the Interwebz, I am reading excerpts from a book on Higher Education by a chap called Guy McPherson, whose site is called “Nature Bats Last”

    ” The roots of the cultural crisis run much deeper than the counter-culture days of the 1960s, and well beyond the sphere of education. But education has long been fundamental to the destruction of individuality, creativity, and, for lack of a better word, soul. Consider, for example, a few words in a speech to businessmen by President Woodrow Wilson: “We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.” Wilson’s sentiments echoed those of William Torrey Harris in his 1906 book The Philosophy of Education: Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.” In vogue with his time, Harris extended the idea of subsumption to the land as well as the individual: “The great purpose of school can be realized better in dark, airless, ugly places …. It is to master the physical self, to transcend the beauty of nature.” As I indicated in previous correspondence, Harris was the U.S. commissioner of education from 1889 to 1906.”

    PS Adrian, your site looks fab – expect some comments from loudmouthed Dwight Towers!

  4. The sage on the stage… « on May 30, 2011 9:31 am

    […] a couple of really interesting posts about education and play and interactivity. They are here and here. And a chap called Adrian Segar commented…. Where to begin? First, where has this man been […]

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