15 February 2014

If You're Keeping Score...

A friend (thanks, Bethany!) drew my attention to an article she saw the other day by author Alfie Kohn entitled “5 Not-So-Obvious Propositions About Play.”  I thought the article had some good things to say so here are a few excerpts…

“Play isn't just for children.  The idea of play is closely related to imagination, inventiveness, and that state of deep absorption that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi dubbed ‘flow.’  Read virtually any account of creativity, in the humanities or the sciences, and you'll find mentions of the relevance of daydreaming, fooling around with possibilities, looking at one thing and seeing another, embracing the joy of pure discovery, asking ‘What if....?’  The argument here isn't just that we need to let little kids play so they'll be creative when they're older, but that play, or something quite close to it, should be part of a teenager's or adult's life, too.”

“…to insist on its benefits risks violating the spirit, if not the very meaning, of play.  In his classic work on the subject, Homo Ludens, the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga described play as ‘a free activity standing quite consciously outside ordinary life as being 'not serious' but at the same absorbing the player intensely and utterly.’  One plays because it's fun to do so, not because of any instrumental advantage it may yield.  The point isn't to perform well or to master a skill, even though those things might end up happening.  In G. K. Chesterton's delightfully subversive aphorism, ‘If a thing is worth doing at all, it's worth doing badly.’”

“Play, then, is about process, not product.  It has no goal other than itself.  And among the external goals that are inconsistent with play is a deliberate effort to do something better or faster than someone else.  If you're keeping score – in fact, if you're competing at all – then what you're doing isn't play.”

You can read more about the nature of play in our vision document.

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