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The Politics of Play: Seeking Adventure in a Risk-Averse Society

Child Play in woods

Photo by Gary Calton.

I referred briefly to the essay titled The Politics of Play: Seeking adventure in a risk-averse society in last week’s exploration of The Curious Garden, but I think it merits some attention of its own. In the piece, Jay Griffith argues that unstructured and free play (something that is increasing rare nowadays) is vital for helping children grow up into mature, sustainable, and resilient individuals capable of exercising sound judgement. I would like to share a couple of choice quotes:

Physical freedom, however, models all kinds of freedom, for children learn with both body and mind.  When they see themselves demonstrate physical courage, they also learn moral or political courage – and independent thought, which has profound implications.

While children must learn to control themselves, what they can never control is luck. They must learn how to live with it, how to dance with chance and mischance. Children recognize life is a huge adventure, and they must accept the dare.

…if children are allowed the price of freedom, they may act in their own wisdom, captains of their own souls, shipwrecked perhaps, but not spirit-wrecked.

My favourite passage:

The true opposite of obedience is not disobedience but independence. The true opposite of order is not disorder but freedom. Most profoundly, the true opposite of control is not chaos but self-control.

You can read the full article online at Orion Magazine, a fantastic publication that explores nature, culture, and place. Have a good Friday.

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11 Comments

  1. Thanks for that article. Risk-averse indeed. i had much more freedom at 13 riding across the city by myself on the bus or el than my nieces and nephew experience. They’ve never taken the bus or the train in the city. We live in such a fenced-in world, where everyone texts instead of calling, or kids play videogames inside instead of playing with other kids outside.

  2. Looks like a fantastic piece. I’m so grateful that we leave in a place and in such a way that our boys have the freedom to roam and explore. There are many days when for hours at a time I don’t know what they are up to, other than the fact that they are outside playing in the woods, and I think that’s just as it should be.

  3. The research is showing that if kids aren’t out experiencing nature and using their own imaginations…they won’t prefer it to anything else including computers, games, television, etc…That won’t bode well for the environment and our place in it.

    • And I wouldn’t blame them – why care about something that you have never formed memories with? I grew up in a city with very low ecological awareness, and i can totally understand kids dismissing the significance of nature when all around are all the brilliant conveniences of man. It’s a tough act to follow.

  4. Larissa Walrond says

    the quotes here gave me brain-gasms! thank you so much! i hope you dont mind I reposted some to my facebook to share with friends! xoxo

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