These days I watch a lot of Playschool, a children’s TV program on ABCTV (https://www.abc.net.au/abcforkids/sites/playschool/). Playschool is a pre-school education program based entirely on imagination and play. Everything about the show is basic – no fancy props, no expensive sets and adults (usually male and female) enact the poetics of life and being using cardboard boxes, streamers, water paints, foam or any of the things we would normally throw out in the recycling bin.
The key to the success of the show, now in its 55th year (15,000 programs) is knowing how to: connect (pitch) to the audience, thrive on imagination, make music, play and engage with meaning. Somewhere on the set is a piano that strikes various rhythms and tunes to play whilst the hosts sing songs on the themes of the day.
The program thrives on routines and ‘primes’ children to respond with regularity using Ted, clock or shaped windows to ‘frame’ expectations. The foundation of the program is based on the best we know about curriculum and learning. The program is also founded on a clear ethic of childhood. It keeps to that ethic and teaches children many important values such as: accepting fallibility, tolerance, care, helping, love, respecting difference, partnership, community and integrity.
Playschool is a happy positive place that understands questioning and critical thinking. Children don’t absorb data but experience learning through questioning, cloze learning and reflection.
So what can Safety learn from Playschool?
· Sometimes Safety tries to do way too much. There are too many bells and whistles, fads and gobbledygook attached to the simple process of tackling risk. Here is Safety bogged down with absurd volumes of paperwork, insane IT checklists and risk assessments when it still doesn’t know to have a simple conversation about risk.
· It’s amazing how much these bells and whistles, slogans and hype cost on the safety circuit and yet nothing changes. Without fail when safety people do SPoR programs they comment that they have never learned the basics.
· Wouldn’t it be good if Safety knew what an Ethic of Risk or what personhood was, so that it might have some guiding foundation to work out how to help, support and engage people as they seek to tackle risk? One would think both would be the foundation for a body of knowledge.
· The success of Playschool is based on discovery learning, learning that knows that telling doesn’t work and that ownership is experienced through play, through doing and trial and error.
· Then there’s the imagination, the key to any risk assessment. Just imagine if Safety explored the imagination more rather than the seductions of : engineering, controls, compliance, numerics, metrics and technique?
· Just imagine if Safety knew about helping, fallibility, support and integrity. Of course Safety can’t explore any of these because it loves zero and zero is not interested in fallibility or tolerance. Zero is the ideology of brutalism and toxifies anything it touches.
· Then there is critical thinking and questioning, neither get a go whilst Compliance is about. Here is safety bogged down in checklisting unable to think and question. If you challenge or question you are the enemy of safety.
There is so much to learn from Playschool. There is so much associated with humble enquiry, discovery learning and simple basics in tackling risk. Maybe instead of getting bogged down in fads, trends, paperwork, science and engineering, Safety could sit down and watch a few episodes and learn something.