The recent visit to San Francisco/Berkeley gave me the opportunity to meet with like-minded and partially-like-minded people. One issue in particular kept coming up and that is the way people felt hemmed in by standards, regulations, and notionally non-mandatory guidelines that in practice were treated as formal requirements .
This disaffection was not restricted to those responsible for play provision, but was felt more widely. If I had to sum up the general feeling as I encountered it, it is this: that in the USA the tendency was to over-prescribe the detail of what may or may not be done in too many areas of endeavour. The paradoxical effect of this is to undermine the capacity of duty holders (I use the term loosely here to identify all those who have a formal role in decision-making, whether as professional or volunteer) to make informed judgments in the light of their ‘reading’ of the always particular, changing, situation-specific circumstances that they confront. Instead of being able to exercise judgment, the pressure was to act as mechanicals, to follow a sort of universal script deemed to be suitable for all occasions. In an odd, paradoxical sort of way, the scripts – standards, regulations, guidelines – seemingly written to enhance best possible action and outcome in the real world, end up being other-worldly, conjuring the fiction that messy reality can be engineered into a pre-formed, one-size-fits-all template. Continue reading