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Playground Politics

Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Peterborough This Week -- one of our two local newspapers -- has two "Letters to the Editor" reacting to its recent story about the playground fundraising pressures being faced by parents in certain school communities:


  • a letter I wrote expressing my concerns about the fact that some students won't have access to playground equipment while others will (a "have" and "have not" situation within the same school board)
  • and
  • a letter from another Peterborough resident who clearly sees the situation quite differently.

  • Here's a snippet from the other person's letter:
    "I find it hard to believe that we are born with the right to playground equipment, but I also do not know of any existing legal document in which the right to playground equipment has been afforded to every individual. In my opinion, it cheapens the word 'right' when parties co-opt it for their own particular issues. The existence of universal rights in general can still be debated. When every party with a grievance claims their 'rights' are being violated, it does not serve proponents of universal human rights well. I urge the Prince of Wales Parent Council and all other similar organizations to consider their terms when engaging in politics."

    I can't help but wonder if, in fact, a case could be made that knowingly providing unequal playground facilities could be viewed as discrimination as defined by The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, specifically:
    1. every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreation activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
    2. member governments shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.

    And as the International Play Association has noted, "Article 31 is not the only one with direct implications for children’s play. For example, other articles address such issues as the child’s right to be heard (12), preventive health care (24), a broad range of child development areas (29), children with disabilities (23), culture (30), prevention of harm (19); and all articles are encompassed within the over-arching principle of the best interest of the child (3)."
    This document from the International Play Association also appears to be relevant -- specifically these statements, which really ring true for me:
    "The significance of the inclusion of children’s play in this document is not only an acknowledgement of the importance of play in the fabric of children’s lives, but represents a shift from seeing play as a need to accepting it as a right....[Promoting] the child’s right to play is arguably more important today than it was in the mid-twentieth century. Barriers to free play still include the quantity and quality of playspace and play workers (i.e., the need for trained “animateurs” or facilitators rather than “supervisors”) but now include a wide variety of other issues such as over-emphasis on formal learning, children’s isolation, lack of access to play opportunities by children with disabilities, competition of entertainment pastimes and consequent shrinking of time for play, as well as a range of safety issues.

    IPA maintains that play is not only about providing safe playgrounds for children. It is fundamentally about protecting their right to be free to explore and discover the physical and social world around them. This spontaneous behavior of children is fundamental to all aspects of child development and is a key component of preserving community and culture in the broadest sense."

    Thoughts?

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    | posted by Ann D @ 10:37 AM