Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Making Play Disappear- What Test Based School Reform and the Suppression of the Occupy Movement Have in Common

One of the most threatening features of the Occupy movement was its playfulness and spontaneity. The beating of the drums, the impromptu marches through city streets, the group discussions that could break out at any moment, the musicians- of all types- who would come to perform and whose performance was immediately captured and disseminated through you-tube, created a festive atmosphere that capture the imagination of people around the country and helped the movement spread like wildfire. It is this playful and defiant spirit, made possible by the possession of communal space in the center of towns and cities, that Mayors and police departments seemed to find especially threatening, as it challenged the order and obedience that they saw as essential to the smooth running of their cities and the maintenance of vibrant economies. Evicting the Occupy camps, something partially coordinated by Homeland Security, removed the threat of a contagion of Freedom and Spontaneity in their midst

The same obsession with order and obedience is dominant in the educational policies being promoted by leaders of both political parties, coordinated by the US Department of Education. Everywhere around the country, schools are eliminating arts, music, and gym, and in the lower grades, play and recess, to make time for more standardized tests. Increasingly, school time, from Kindergarten and Pre-K on, is being transformed into preparation for standardized tests, with the results of those tests guiding the futures of students, teachers, administrators, and at times whole schools. Not only is play time being eliminated, but activities which leave room for imagination and creativity are being squeezed out of the curriculum in one subject area after another. Dreamers and those who express themselves through physical activity find their talents devalued. Those who are uncomfortable sitting still, and who, through no fault of their own, have difficulty absorbing information in the rigid forms that schools increasingly present it, are marginalized and humiliated

Increasingly, we no live in a nation which is declaring war on play.Perhaps this is necessary to manage a society in which upward mobility is no longer possible for a large portion of our citizens, and in which the fate of most people will be to perform low paid work under strict surveillance. It is certainly convenient for sustaining the rule of the 1 Percent.

But lest us be very clear. In suppressing playfulness and spontaneity, we undermine the parts of ourselves which make us the most human, most compassionate, and most capable of adapting to new circumstances. And we fatally weaken whatever vestiges of Freedom and Democracy left in our social order

1 comment:

turtlelearning said...

Love this post Mark! To be honest, I witnessed this problem since the beginning of the 1980's when there was a backlash in education and schools stopped following the sensible and knowledgeable theories of Jean Piaget. My daughter's kindergarten class in 1985 was pure paper and pencil work and no creative play, dress-up, blocks, etc. All things we know that are essential to our development.
And secondly, as a vet of the 60's, I still think the biggest threat to the status quo is the taking of property. Peoples' Park in Berkeley demonstrated that so well.
Thanks for all that you do!