A friend of mine made the observation the other day that almost all the criticisms of our approach begin with some version of “When I was young…” I think she’s right. People fondly remember play and recess – the halcyon days of youth, unencumbered by pressures and constraints of adulthood. I’m not knocking nostalgia wholesale, but our memories don’t tend to be all that accurate, reflecting specific incidents more often than the general state of things, as columnist Steve Duin so ably points out in his column on recess and Playworks in the Portland Oregonian.
But perhaps more importantly, times have indeed changed. It’s funny how we are quick to acknowledge the huge global changes that have occurred in the last twenty years when we are discussing social media or economic globalization, but when it comes to things related to childhood – play, education – it is almost assumed that nothing has changed at all. It could be argued that this resistance to acknowledging change presents one of the single greatest obstacles we have in building systems that best serve kids.
Some changes require an uncomfortable and extended focus on how things actually are, right now. These frequent references to the way things once were only serve to distract us from making the changes that need to be made. In this case, nostalgia is a distraction. Play has changed. Recess has changed. Coaches have changed. And kids are kids. We owe them our unwavering focus on the very real problems of today so that we can provide them with the very real solutions so desperately needed.