Wednesday, February 25, 2009
  Let's Get Serious

It's said that as you get older you become more childlike. The first part is, for me, certainly true: I'm getting older. However, I don't think I am becoming more childlike, and, to use a word I've just met for the first time in print, I most certainly am not infantilising. I seriously hope that I've never lost that innate capacity to thrill to new experiences. I remain curious - although some may think that I am a mere curiosity.

I'm not referring again to the perils of social networking sites, unlike this article .

Lady Greenfield, professor of synaptic pharmacology at Lincoln college, Oxford, and director of the Royal Institution, says it better anyway.

She has told the House of Lords that children's experiences on social networking sites "are devoid of cohesive narrative and long-term significance. As a consequence, the mid-21st century mind might almost be infantilised, characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity".

She also warned against "a much more marked preference for the here-and-now, where the immediacy of an experience trumps any regard for the consequences. After all, whenever you play a computer game, you can always just play it again; everything you do is reversible. The emphasis is on the thrill of the moment, the buzz of rescuing the princess in the game. No care is given for the princess herself, for the content or for any long-term significance, because there is none. This type of activity, a disregard for consequence, can be compared with the thrill of compulsive gambling or compulsive eating."

Neither am I referring to the suggestion that Shakespeare has been dumped from the UK's national curriculum .

Heaven forfend that Harry Percy is replaced with Harry Potter. If the most important writer in the English language isn't a subject for consideration in his native land ......... words fail me.

Nor am I referring to the notion that training school pupils to get high scores in multi-choice tests, an annual chore which years 6, 9 and 12 are currently undergoing here in Indonesia and presumably in other countries which place regurgitation of irrelevant information above life skills is a mark of educational excellence. No, that I'm saving up for another post because it's worth considering that computerised tests don't cater for consideration.

I have given plugs before to the Fresh Air Fund based in New York whose Sara Wilson emails me in the hope that some of my American-based readers in suburbs and small town communities can play host to some of the nigh on 5,000 New York City children who get to breath fresh air, some for the first time in their lives. However, this brief mention of her annual appeal
has to serve as my commitment to her good cause for the moment. But do read my lengthier post from last year.

That's because, until alerted by Son.No.1, I was about to overlook, yet again, what I consider to be one of the most crucial and beneficial kids projects in Indonesia.

It's fun, creative, imaginative, exciting and .... well, positive in all kinds of ways in the impoverished lives of many Indonesian children, and it's the work of a very enthusiastic Red Nose Clown, Dan Roberts.

He is back for his second visit, organising workshops for kids from a variety of backgrounds, encouraging such skills as juggling, plate spinning, diabolo (and yo-yo?) tricks, acrobatic skills, and, perhaps the key to all this and more, trust.

Dan's blog is one of the most uplifting I've ever read - not a trace of cynicism, but a positive recognition that there can be good in all situations.

One thing that was a bit depressing and uplifting at the same time was when a few of the boys decided to practice in the rubble of one of our old classrooms. At first I saw them practice their juggling and spinning plates on top of a pile of rocks and my first instinct was to tell them to find a safer place to work. Then one of the kids told me that it was all right, they’d already removed all the glass and dangerous materials and they often played there, because it was on of the only dry open spaces in the village.

When I watched them playing in the destruction of their previous dwelling, I found it inspiring to watch them in their youth experiencing so much joy in a place where so much sadness had taken place.

If by now you're wondering what the connection is with my preamble, then note this excerpt which recognises that all of us have the capacity to develop and control ourselves. It takes effort, not instant gratification, but the rewards are commensurately longer lasting, and
with an enhanced the awareness of our identity our potential contribution to society is equally enhanced.

It used to be that if I asked a kid to do something difficult, most of them would try once or twice and if they didn’t get it and I wasn’t standing right in front of them, they would give up and move onto a different skill. They are starting to learn now that if they don’t get something right away, all they have to do is practice. And some things will take them several days or even weeks to learn.

'Er Indoors comments that when she was in school, girls were adept at juggling, keeping 3 or 4 balls bouncing off the wall. I recall the elementary playground acrobatics of leapfrog races, and the various 'crazes' of hula hoops, the diabolo and yo-yo. More recently we've had, and still have, the frisbee. We don't have to be contortionists to take simple pleasure in exploring our physical capabilities.

It's a sad commentary that so-called developed and developing nations have been unable to hang on to, let alone cater for, the pure innocence of childhood exploration.

All power to Dan and all those working to enable future generations to reach for self-fulfilment.



11:30 am
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