From the “We survived, didn’t we?” department: A paean to old, dangerous playground equipment. (But see Greg Downey’s astute response.)
Tags: Asides · Daddyhood
// Jul 25, 2008 at 11:53 am
OK, I’m about to devote way too much effort in a rebuttal of what was obviously meant as a mere trifle of an observation, but I can’t help it, playgrounds are near and dear to my heart. To me, that post is actually a really interesting example of how someone articulating an aesthetic reaction to a set of technological artifacts (a certain current style of playground equipment with bright colors, smooth edges, and commodified modularity) makes a set of complaints entirely divorced from the social, political, and economic conditions within which those artifacts exist — and instead, blames some sort of stereotypical other (he called them the “Safety Conglomerate” while many of his readers pointed the finger of blame in their comments to supposed “Soccer Moms,” and all the race, class, gender and political divisions that implies) for the loss of his supposed Golden Age. Rather than making such a simplistic argument based on nostalgia and conspiracy, we might think through playgrounds as part of a sociotechnical system of decentralized public education and recreation. Perhaps the new playground equipment didn’t replace the old, but was installed in new playgrounds themselves following the shifting demographics of school-aged children. Perhaps the social capital of carpentry skills and free time of parents of school-age children lead them to raise money for the purchase commodified playground equipment rather than banding together to haul old tractor tires out of the dump and bolt them together on their free weekends (this was the playground I had growing up). Perhaps public schools, slandered by decades of neoliberal propaganda driving toward the privatization of education, pick the playground as a highly visible symbol of progress, safety, service, and “modernity” in which to invest their meager surplus in order to build the goodwill of local propertyowning taxpayers. Or perhaps — gasp! — the blithe statements about how kids don’t use these playgrounds anymore is based on nothing but the author’s own imagination. My kids (aged 6 and 9) love their newfangled playgrounds. And in spite of the primary colors and soft beds of foam, they still manage to do plenty of dangerous things there, thank you very much.
// Jul 25, 2008 at 12:19 pm
Hi Greg! Thanks much for visiting, and for your astute comments.
I do think you are giving the post more intelligent thought than its original author did, but I agree with most of your points. There is no “Safety Conglomerate” that I’m aware of – but there are schools and municipal governments justly terrified of litigious parents and massive lawsuits.
My daughter (age 2) also loves the newfangled playgrounds and constantly scares the crap out of me on them.
// Jul 25, 2008 at 3:03 pm
As you may or may not know, Rob, the original author is a fellow former Golden Words editor, so — and I’m speaking in that capacity right now — we can probably all agree that nearly no intelligent thought was put into it at all.
(That sounds like I don’t like it. I do. In fact, it’s is my favorite new blog.)
// Jul 25, 2008 at 3:08 pm
Ha! I had no idea. That must be why it called out to me. Is it somebody I would know?
// Jul 25, 2008 at 5:23 pm
Probably not — he’s well after your time, and mostly after mine, for that matter. I believe the young Neil Pasricha first came through the door to the EngSoc lounge during the year after I edited the paper, when I still occasionally popped my head into the office to see how it was recovering, and he took the reigns in 2001-02.
"How can we be anything but kind?"