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© 2019 Jeffrey Robertson

A playground theory of diplomacy?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Symbolic interactionist studies examine how social interaction in the playground and other school venues affect both learning and later social life. They argue that what occurs in the school playground can be equally relevant for wider society.

There are obvious examples of extreme cases in which children are exposed to violent imagery or games, with disturbing images from the usual suspects and more recently from areas controlled by Daesh in Iraq or Syria. But playground behavior is equally relevant in less extreme cases. 

The classic example is how playground behavior reinforces gender-role socialization in western countries. Thorne argued that girls demonstrate a preference for more cooperative games, while boys demonstrate a preference for more competitive sports (Thorne, B. Gender play: Girls and boys in school, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, 1993). 

But does social interaction in the playground reinforce other types of behavior? How we settle disputes - through negotiation or force? How we conceptualize alliances - as momentary or long-term? Or how we treat transgressors - shunning or enforcement? 

Maybe its time we look to the playground to better understand cultural preferences for diplomatic interaction?





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