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Imagine Going to School to Learn to...PLAY
Bil Gilbert
October 13, 1975
That's what they do at Emporia State in Kansas. Believing that students—after years of homework, classwork, workbooks, workouts, work schedules, work sheets and workshops—don't know how to play, a madcap professor is going about the business of teaching them
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October 13, 1975

Imagine Going To School To Learn To...play

That's what they do at Emporia State in Kansas. Believing that students—after years of homework, classwork, workbooks, workouts, work schedules, work sheets and workshops—don't know how to play, a madcap professor is going about the business of teaching them

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"I hope," says Bill Harper, "that the overall effect of the Advocate and the factory is to spread the notion that play is positive, respectable and useful. We have a lot of people and institutions who directly and indirectly suggest that play is something that can and should occur only when a person has nothing constructive to do. I'm not trying to get people to think seriously about play, that is obviously a contradiction in terms, but I hope some of this will suggest that play is as worthy an experience as love or beauty."

Meanwhile, The Fool's shop in Emporia is filled with ideas for bigger, better and more playful productions. A playmaker from New York City and another from Hawaii are compiling guides to their native games that might be nicely transplanted to the Kansas prairie. Thought is being given to new sports—for example, track and field events: the shot roll, the 50-yard crawl, the 120-yard under hurdle, the low jump (making a clean leap under a bar that would be lowered after each successful try) and the patience sprint (seeing who can take the longest time to cover a given distance). Playmakers are experimenting with setting games to music—Wagner for people who want to knock heads, Brahms for restful games. There is talk of an underwater jacks tournament, basketball with moving baskets, an Honor the Clouds celebration combined with an all-day hand hold, and putting some play-makers and their gear in vans and sending them out to promote the playful spirit at interstate highway rest stops.

Harper, who since its beginning has been hoping the playmakers will take over the Play Factory bat, ball and mud-hole, favors such ideas and, as they say in the Advocate, anything else that comes playfully to mind. However, his long range hope is that the Play Factory will self-destruct.

"The contradiction is that we are indeed making play, which is an antiplayful element. The idea and excuse was that something like the Play Factory was necessary to remind people about the value and nature of play and to challenge openly some of the antiplay attitudes and propaganda. If we are successful, people here will start playing spontaneously.

A few words from George Santayana, which were naturally picked up by the Advocate, seem to explain the philosophical properties and prospects of the Play Factory as well as any can:

"There is an undeniable propriety in calling all the liberal and imaginative activities of man play because they are spontaneous and not carried on under pressure of external necessity or danger.... By play we are designating no longer what is done fruitlessly but whatever is done spontaneously and for its own sake, whether it have or not an ulterior utility. Play in this sense may be our most useful occupation. So far would a gradual adaptation to the environment be from making play obsolete that it would tend to abolish work and to make play universal."

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