Play is really dangerous to school. It’s very subversive. It’s antithetical to the status quo; it’s the generative, imaginative, organic solution to the problem of schooling, which is moribund, petrified, and mechanical. It’s adaptive; it sheds and assumes rules until all participants find an entrance and some measure of wonder and joy or fulfillment. It doesn’t insist on guarding and mercilessly applying a single rules set that makes no one happy. Play creates; schooling, at best, replicates. Pop #edreform is an empty promise and a hollow pursuit insomuch as it does not begin with tossing out the rules and consequences of schooling. Instead, it wants to amplify them. School does not play with possibilities; it seeks to eliminate as many of them as possible.
I think play can be one of the supports of a new learning space and experience for United States education, along with democratic composition and unconditional teaching, two ideas I hope to unpack in the future with as much help as possible.
We public school educators need to critically examine our attitudes toward play. If play pisses us off, it does us and our students no good to “protect” play only to judge it – and the kids participating in it – negatively. We will not fundamentally change schooling or the lives enmeshed in it if we view play as an interruption of our agenda.
But can we public school educators see ourselves at play? Can we embrace possibilities we do not see?
Can we play the imp?
Do teachers play?