Sunday, January 15, 2017

Team Humanity: Post-Truth Playing out on our Playgrounds

It’s tough for us adults to attempt living in a world described as “post-truth”. What about the little ones who will soon inherit this world we’re creating? A philosopher took a stab at the big picture in an education & family BBC article this week.

I’d like to ask: “How does a post-truth world playout on the playground?” I wrote about it once already, but I’d like to revisit the idea with a story.

Set Scene:

You’re a recess supervisor. Your job is to walk the school playground, eyes forever swiveling back and forth, up and down, ensuring all the students are getting some play into their busy days within the structure of a safe and inclusive system. Playworks is a great example. You see a student pull another student off the monkey bars by the back of their shirt and take their place. The pulled student lays on the ground in the wood chips, silently looking up and surrounding students continue on.

You approach and attempt a teaching moment on how one should behave on the playground. You are met with an exclamation:

“What did I do!? I didn’t do anything wrong!”

You press your point and describe again what you observed and try to get the student to come up with another, more helpful, series of actions. You’re ready to offer them ideas to do that.

You are met with: a blank stare into the distance. Eventually the student responds hotly with, “They pushed me before. Whatever!” They move to get back on the monkey bars. By now, the student on the ground is standing back up, complaining loudly about how the other child always does this, and even worse, stuff. Other students start congregating, chiming in agreement, listing events while others yell that they should be able to do whatever they want.

You feel a rising sense of frustration and you may grimace as you tell them to go play nicely. You’ve heard a shout of alarm from another part of the playground and you excuse yourself to check on that.

End Scene.

Firstly, what were you originally looking for when you approached the situation? Ideally, everyone has a right to be out there playing. Everyone should have a turn. Anyone can make a mistake, apologize and correct themselves.

Next, what is missing in the participants’ responses- even your own? Answer: Team Spirit. There was an overall avoidance of facts and and over-reliance upon personal beliefs and emotional response. All of it was aimed at one thing: self-preservation. In addition to the pusher’s choices, the pushed person should have made different choices, as should the crowd. The pushed child and crowd should stand up and both should speak calmly and with clarity of what is expected of the team we all call our own: humanity.

How to move forward? How to step ABOVE and BEYOND post-truth?

The beauty of living is that you always have another chance as long as you’re breathing. The situation can get away from you but the teaching moment is not lost forever. In this story, the adult needs to continue to promote effort, compromise, sharing and helping every single day. They need to catch those students making strong, positive choices and with genuineness, applaud loudly for all to see and feel. The squeaky wheel (the shouts of outrage and pain) should not be the only thing that gets greased. During a quiet moment, the adult should talk again about the painful situations- we all have them and we can learn from them.

Sports need rules and teamwork. Humanity needs them as well.

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