Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Playground Phronesis

Michael J. Lewis pens a lament against dismal conformity. Riffing on the widely-shared Deresiewicz New Republic piece deriding Ivy League admissions, Lewis's fretting over scholastic ossification is even more menacing when juxtaposed with Cass Sunstein's recent Bloomberg article on partisanship (the story is more complicated than Sunstein claims, but illustrating why would take too much space, and is off-topic to boot). If America is becoming both more heavily partisan and less intellectually flexible, the risk of civil unrest rises. Otherwise intractable political differences of opinion are eventually solved by the sword.

If Lewis and Sunstein are correct, safety-mad school districts and the Department of Education are unintentionally injecting institutional uncertainty (fragility, if you prefer) into the US constituency. Play, free play forces kids to cooperate, if not in the actual conduct of the game, then at least about the rules or meta-rules of the game. It obliges kids to consider model rules of law for ordering their model societies. Stripping them of that opportunity atrophies the crucial faculties that allow them to legitimately question authority.

Play is euvoluntary. the risk of personal injury now is insignificant compared to the risk of civil war thirty years hence.

Give kids back their recess. For the love of the republic.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?