111 Playgrounds are ubiquitous children’s spaces in urban landscapes. They symbolize children’s presence and absence in cities around the world. The modern urban playground is a product of the playground movement originating in the American northeast, an early twentieth-century continuation of the child-saving movement. This movement sought to combine ideas of physical culture from Germany with ideas of moral education and was designed to assimilate immigrant children, elevate the character of poor children, and reform cities by altering the landscape with parks and open spaces (Howell 989). The playground movement was intertwined with the City Beautiful movement and with urban reform efforts that characterized urban planning in late nineteenth-century North America.
Playgrounds became sites through which to materialize civic leaders’ progressive thinking about cities and to illustrate their care for children.
As Viviana A. Zelizer has detailed, the child-saving movement placed a new-found value on children Abstract: This paper examines how adults used playgrounds to discipline children in early twentieth-century Toronto.
Using a close reading of playground texts from the period, the argument supports and elaborates upon Elisabeth Young-Bruehl’s discussion of childism and Michel Foucault’s arguments about the control of activity and the art of distributions in the discipline of children. Adult reformers used time and space in order to produce particular gender identities and also to fulfill their own narcissistic needs. The Toronto case illustrates the depth of social power that often resides in seemingly benign urban spaces and the ways in which the prejudice against children can control their micromobilities and geographies.
Keywords: playgrounds; childism; micromobilities; geographies of children Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 \(2016\) Disciplining Children in Toronto Playgrounds in the Early Twentieth Century \227 112 as an image of the future (71). In contrast to earlier abuses of children emerging from industrial capitalism, philanthropists between the 1870s and the 1890s created numerous institutions that sought to provide services particularly for children: children’s courts, children’s hospitals, children’s correctional institutions, children’s labour laws, and mandatory schooling laws (Platt 102). The surge of interest in childhood led to the creation of much new knowledge about children’s development and particular ways to apply this knowledge. Playgrounds were not exempt from this new regime of knowledge. Playgrounds were not simply sites or places for play but were set up as municipal programs with specialist supervisors teaching physical and moral education (Cavallo 14).This article examines one example of the playground movement in Toronto in order to discuss how children’s bodies and their micromobilities helped to produce the space of the playground. I draw first on Elisabeth Young-Bruehl’s discussion of childism as a strand of the philanthropy of the Child Savers (282) in order to provide a theoretical framework for the paper. I use the distinction she makes between the Child Savers and the Progressives to find childism in a progressive movement. Finally, I use Michel Foucault’s discussion of discipline in space and time from Discipline and Punish in order to highlight the narcissistic childism diffused through technologies in the playground (141–47). Playground discipline in early twentieth-century Toronto employed surprisingly similar discourses to contemporary discussions of the need for regulation of children’s lives and spaces.
By tying together these recurrences, I illustrate the childism that lies in many programs that espouse the protection of children.
Child Savers, Progressives, and Childism In her 2012 book Childism: Confronting Prejudice against Children, Young-Bruehl argues that prejudice against children is pervasive in contemporary Western society (8). This belief leads to actions against children that range from child abuse and neglect to poor school systems to the over-prescription of drugs as a technique for creating students who are easy to teach alongside a range of everyday prejudicial acts that limit children’s full self-expression. Young-Bruehl’s observations emerge from her experience as a psychoanalyst who treats patients seeking relief from symptoms that spring from difficult childhoods, abusive families, and dysfunctional social systems. Young-Bruehl notes that the history of the field of child abuse and neglect has often resorted to victim blaming in its terminology (compare battered child syndrome to battering parent syndrome, for example) and argues for a new, overarching framework to highlight this prejudice and politicize it—childism. She describes her project like this:
Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 \(2016\) Ann Marie F. Murnaghan 113 Since the mid-twentieth century, social scientists have been exploring the many reasons why individual adults harm individual children, but they have not looked at the wider picture of how harm to children is rationalized, normalized. Prejudice against children is not the sole or the immediate cause of child maltreatment, but it is the conditio sine qua non, and we need to understand its various features if we wish to uncover the specific causes of maltreatment in any given instance. (6) Young-Bruehl argues that legacies of prejudice are borne in the life of the perpetrator of child abuse or neglect in narcissistic, obsessional, and hysterical forms, forms she understands in the terms of Freud’s basic categorization of neuroses (48–52). The narcissistic form of childism is self-oriented and ignores children, resulting often in the neglect of children’s physical, psychological, and emotional needs. The obsessional form of childism is eliminative, seeking to destroy children through various rules and punishments, usually physical abuse. The hysterical form of childism seeks to manipulate the behaviour of children and creates a splitting of the good child and the bad child, disallowing a range of behaviours, emotions, and experiences in children’s lives. The form of abuse in the hysterical neurotic form is often sexual, using children as an object for the gratification of an adult’s need for domination and control. Apart from categorizing her clients’ childisms through the several case histories in her book, Young- Bruehl also applies her schema to the Child Savers of the late nineteenth century in order to highlight the transhistorical nature of this kind of treatment and the psychical commonality that allows it to flourish (281–88). Following the lines of Foucault’s arguments about the hysterical woman and the onanistic child in The History of Sexuality, Young-Bruehl argues that the Child Savers created new categories of children upon whom they would confer particular treatments. The first category of child that they created, she suggests, was the destitute child of the obsessional form of childism.
This child was eliminated by placing out, often sent away from the corrupting forces of the city by civic or philanthropic groups, thus removing the problem from view. Young-Bruehl argues that the narcissistic form of childism created the second category of the neglected child. This child was seen as wayward and in need of guidance and discipline in sweatshops and workhouses, also known euphemistically as Houses of Refuge. The third category of child was the delinquent, a child who defied the Child Savers’ middle-class values but who could be corrected with a series of laws and institutions like courts and jails. Young-Bruehl posits that the Progressives, child advocates of the 1890s to the 1920s who followed the Child Savers in their efforts to change the lives of urban children, were better equipped to help Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 \(2016\) Ann Marie F. Murnaghan 114 children because of their life experiences and class position (288).
In comparison to their earlier counterparts, these individuals were born largely after the Civil War; often, they were suffragettes from middle-class households, professionalized through the settlement house movement; and they typically were advocates of anti–child- labour laws. Child savers were often elite individuals whose advocacy for children emerged from the movement for the humane treatment of animals. By contrast, the Progressives were interested in childhood as a unique period in an individual’s development and in the psychological effects of the maltreatment of children. Their strategies for uplifting children were less abusive than those of their earlier counterparts: for example, there was no longer an interest in placing children on isolated farms as unpaid labourers. They took the position that they could best help children through education, legislation reform, and the creation of the foster care system. These reformers saw citizenship as a strategy for caretaking and poverty as a complex problem that was not based on genetic inferiority.There are indications, however, that the distinctions between the Child Savers and the Progressives posited by Young-Bruehl did not represent a complete break. Periodizations are often fuzzy, and, in this case, traces of previous forms of childism remain in the progressive era. In my reading of the history, the playground movement and its disciplining of children’s bodies can be seen as a lingering form of narcissistic childism. That is, the playground movement was a way to use children for the reformers’ own motives: while the obsessional form of elimination that was applied to the “destitute child” by the Child Savers was not applied by the Progressives, they retained the categories of “neglected” and “delinquent” children who could be taught, demonstrating their The type of discipline applied in the playground movement . . . points to a continued form of childism.
Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 (2016) Ann Marie F. Murnaghan 115 progressive understanding of social problems. The type of discipline applied in the playground movement—the particularities of the ways in which bodies were manipulated and identities were created and erased—points to a continued form of childism. It is necessary, I maintain, to examine histories in fine- grained detail in order to highlight how childism works at different levels, even in seemingly benign places like playgrounds.
The Playground MovementCanadian research on playgrounds is sparse compared to the wealth of studies in the United States. 1 Scholars have attributed this omission to scant archival records, the absence of a national association like the Playgrounds Association of America, and the paucity of autobiographies of urban young people of this period in Canada. 2 Like other researchers in the field, I have turned to peripheral sources such as the records of private philanthropic organizations, the minutes of city councils, the records of boards of education and parks departments, diaries, scrapbooks, photographs, maps, and newspaper records to fill the gaps in the existing literature. 3 The stories that emerge from these records are of competing interests, where civic leaders in their attempt to please their constituents implement playgrounds that eventually are taken over by play and recreation workers who are entrenched in municipal government. In the Toronto case, the Parks Department and the Board of Education were important actors in the playground movement, but, similarly to other cities, the tasks of publicity and propaganda were left to a group of citizens interested in promoting playgrounds. J. J. Kelso, the first Superintendent of Neglected and Dependent Children for the province of Ontario from 1893 to 1907, approached the Toronto Board of Education in the late 1890s with a proposal for a playground in the centre of the city.
Kelso, in his role of children’s advocate, had visited several cities at the leading edge of playground building in the United States and had encountered influential actors involved in the movement at various charities and at commons conventions, settlement houses, and other social institutions (Jones and Rutman 116). In November 1906, he printed five hundred copies of his first treatise on the need for playgrounds, Supervised Playgrounds: One of the Greatest Needs in Toronto To-day. The text of this small booklet was taken from a letter he had written to the Globe in which he outlined why playgrounds were important in the Toronto Centre district of St.
John’s Ward, one of the poorest areas of the city. The pamphlet was illustrated with images of playgrounds, probably from Manhattan, lent to him by the American Institute of Social Service. Kelso’s ultimate question was “How would [a supervised playground] look in Toronto?” (12).
Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 \(2016\) Ann Marie F. Murnaghan 116 Kelso’s position in the Department of Neglected and Dependent Children and his training as a journalist were important in his organization of a Toronto Playgrounds Association. He cites his experience helping to support his family as a messenger boy in Toronto as one of the reasons that he was interested in the playground movement: to give other children the carefree childhood he did not have. Because old play places were increasingly regulated by rules about private property, a carefree childhood depended, in his view, on creating spatial changes to the urban form. Kelso detailed his views about children and his relationship to them in his diaries; he saw children as friends and took their hardships personally. In 1906, Kelso wrote on a regular basis to the Toronto Board of Control, the purse keepers of the city, and received replies indicating that the playgrounds matter would be referred to the Board of Education. Like many of the American reformers, Kelso had hoped that the city would play an important role in providing municipal playgrounds with tax funds so that playgrounds could be distributed equitably across the areas where they were most needed. At schools and halls throughout 1907 and 1908, Kelso gave illustrated speeches with lantern-slide projections to promote the virtues of playgrounds. Agitation from the Local Council of Women and University Women’s Club, alongside Kelso’s recommendations and popular opinion about the importance of playgrounds, encouraged the city to send a representative to the first congress of the Playground Association of America, held in Chicago in June 1907 (Board of Control). Mayor Coatsworth and the Board of Control chose Alderman J. W.
Bengough to represent the city and to return with information on playground work in the United States.
On his return, Bengough called for the city “to take the necessary steps to secure land for adequate parks and playgrounds in every ward of the city, and next to secure the adoption of a financial scheme by which their equipment and maintenance will be assured” (Kelso, “Play”).
In 1908, the Toronto School Board opened the first five supervised playgrounds in Canada (Reeves). These supervised playgrounds were located at Elizabeth Street School, Niagara Street School, Borden Street School, Park School, and Queen Alexandra School (labels 1–5 in fig. 1). According to the School Board Annual Reports, programs were held from 8:30 a.m.
to 9:00 p.m. in July and August with the exception of the Elizabeth Street School, which held programming only in the mornings (Board of Education). Each of these playgrounds had four to five supervisors, mainly teachers and principals, with an annual cost of $1,313.66 in materials and salaries. The average attendance at each playground was over 284 children in the summer season (Board of Education). The playgrounds were spread over the developed areas of the city, and most were equipped with some Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 \(2016\) Ann Marie F. Murnaghan 117 Figure 1: Map of Playgrounds in Toronto and their Founding Organizations, 1915. Sources: GEORIA Project, Shoreline, Toronto Streets, Toronto Boundaries, CTAP 144612-4, 487, 196. ARBET, 1905-1918. four playgrounds with asterisks could not be located. Cartography by Ann Marie F. Murnaghan.
Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 \(2016\) Ann Marie F. Murnaghan 118 ID Name Year F ounding Organization 1 Elizabeth Street Sc hool /Hester How 1905 Pri vate 2 Niagar a School 1908 TBE 3 Borden School 1908 TBE 4 P ark School 1908 TBE 5 Queen Alexandra 1908 TBE 6 St. Andrew’s Square 1909 TP A 7 J esse Ketchum 1909 TBE 8 Y ork School 1909 TBE 9 V ictoria Street Crèche 1909 TBE 10 Argyle Street/Osler 1910 TP A 11 Broc k Avenue/ McCormick 1911 TP A 12 McCaul School 1911 TBE 13 Rose School 1911 TBE 14 Cherry Street/Sac kville Street/Canadian Northern 1911 TP A 15 Rosedale 1911 Pri vate 16 Ho ward School 1912 TBE 17 Exhibition 1912 TP A 18 Regent Street/O’Neill 1912 TP A 19 Ri verdale High School 1912 TBE 20 Str athcona School 1912 TBE 21 Carlton 1913 TP A 22 Earlscourt 1913 TP A 23 Essex Street School 1913 TBE 24 Bo y’s Home 1913 Pri vate 25 Girls home 1913 Pri vate 26 Leslie Grove 1913 TP A 27 Gerr ard Street East* 1913 City 28 Annette School 1914 TBE Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 \(2016\) Ann Marie F. Murnaghan 119 29 Baird Park 1914 City 30 F ern Avenue School 1914 TBE 31 W illowvale Park 1914 City 32 Sacred Heart 1914 Pri vate 33 J oseph Workman 1914 TBE 34 Manning Avenue 1914 TBE 35 Ri verdale Park 1914 City 36 W ithrow Park 1914 City 37 K ew Gardens 1914 City 38 East Toronto* 1914 City 39 Norw ood Road Park 1914 City 40 Ogden School 1914 TBE 41 Roden School 1914 TBE 42 Morse Street 1915 City 43 Pyne School* 1915 TBE 44 W estern Avenue 1915 TBE 45 W est End Crèche 1916 TBE 46 King East* 1916 City 47 W inchester Street School 1917 TBE 48 P erth Avenue 1914 City 49 Moss Park 1915 City Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 \(2016\) Ann Marie F. Murnaghan 120 form of apparatus, such as swings, slides, teeters (see-saws), and sand piles, which were a popular amusement especially with younger children. It was the structures and the supervision that differentiated these playgrounds from the play spaces that had been common in the city for decades. In the existing spaces, activities took place on fields with turf and often involved games and sports with set rules and teams, usually of men and boys, such as cricket, lacrosse, and baseball. Playgrounds, in contrast, were sites for the particular teaching of citizenship through physical training in calisthenics, military-style exercises, and sports such as basketball and baseball as well as activities such as crafts, theatre performances, dancing, singing, and concerts.The Board of Education continued to promote playground activities, expanding the programming to seventeen more schools over the next decade. The Toronto Playground Association not only advocated for playgrounds through its own fundraising and lectures but also, on occasion, opened playgrounds funded by benefactors, such as Member of Parliament Edmund Osler’s Playground in 1910 and Heiress Mary Virginia McCormick’s Playground in 1911. By 1913, the Toronto Parks Department had begun to take responsibility for municipal recreation in playgrounds and opened a playground on Gerrard Street East, followed by ten more in the two years that followed. The playground movement in Toronto created a massive shift in the urban landscape and in children’s recreational programming in a short period of time. The movement began with one playground in 1905 but expanded to nearly fifty playgrounds over the next ten years. This marks the most profound shift in public space for children in the history of the city.
Disciplining Children in Toronto Playgrounds Playgrounds were much more than places in which children could play. They were seen as places to instruct children in values of citizenship and national identity. The playground workers were specialized and professionalized: many had taken university classes on the topic—for example, the University of Toronto Department of Social Service held classes in playground work—and many playground workers had been educated in the United States. The spaces of playgrounds were likewise specialized and professionalized, constructed in order to organize children in place and to show them where they belonged. Children were disciplined, that is, made to perform in particular ways in the playground, first through control of what they did and second through control of where they did it. I draw here on Foucault’s framework in Discipline and Punish, in which Foucault describes schools, factories, and prisons in order to highlight common tactics of discipline and the ways in which this form of control is similar both to military Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 \(2016\) Ann Marie F. Murnaghan 121 training and to forced labour in its meticulous attention to time and to the micromobilities of bodies.
Control of ActivityThe timetable is, in Foucault’s words, “an old inheritance”; its application in the playground was integral to demarcating the rhythm of the day (Discipline 149). Routines and schedules were published regularly in newspapers. The organization of time in these tables points to the importance of the new conception of play as something that was taught. Not only were broad outlines of daily activities laid out, but also smaller actions were prescribed:
these constitute what Foucault called the temporal elaboration of the act. Foucault highlights the way in which marching instructions given to soldiers regulated their movement as a population through time and space by a precisely defined step. By being taught something as small as a step, a group of individuals begin to move in sync with one another, and this synchronous movement helps to create the feeling of unity. It is not surprising that military drills historically preceded the playground activities in the history of physical activity in Toronto schools. This regulation of activity also extended to games that were played in the playground or to forming lines to wait for a turn on playground apparatus. These particular spatial behaviours called attention to the body and enforced a shift from one’s own natural timing of behaviour. Foucault also set out the correlation of the body and the gesture that moved individual bodies in “correct” ways. Foucault uses the example of handwriting as the gesture whereby groups could be instructed en masse to undertake a collective movement that becomes repeatable without thought. Dances and sports were similarly thought to be naturalized through repetition (Melvin 90). The body-object articulation highlights how a thing is connected to the person, such as a soldier and a rifle or a child and a ball. Together, the object and the individual perform differently in space than they would without one another. The final control of activity is the notion of exhaustive use that shifts action from a negative concept of non-idleness to a positive concept of productivity. Speed is a virtue in this new mode, and maximal utility and efficiency are sought. From the factory to one’s everyday life, a productive citizen is created through labour or activity.
This final premise is revealed in the rationale of the playground movement, which thought that children’s idleness would lead to immoral behaviour and the decline of the nation.
In Toronto, the city playgrounds were originally supervised every day except for Sunday, from 9:00 in the morning until 8:30 at night in the summer (Kelso, “Play”). In order to organize the use of space in the playground, play workers employed timetables that dictated the length of time each activity should take.
These schedules involved more than simply separating Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 \(2016\) Ann Marie F. Murnaghan 122 the day into morning and afternoon sessions, as was often the case in the early Toronto school playground schedules published in newspapers. Schedules regulated time first by activity, as is evident in this excerpt from the most important playground text, American Playgrounds: Their Construction, Equipment, Maintenance and Utility:1.00 to 1.30.—The assembly, consisting of marching, singing, the salute to the flag, and a short talk by the principal. 1.30 to 2.30.—Organized w ork in the kindergarten and gymnastics.
2.30 to 3.00.—Organized pla y, including indoor and outdoor games which may be played in limited space.
3.00 to 4.00.—Military and gymnastic drills, folk dances, and apparatus work for the older children, and occupation work for the younger.
4.00 to 4.45.—Organized games, basketball, gymnastic and kindergarten games.
4.45 to 5.15.—Athletics and the acti vities of the Good Citizens’ Club.
5.15 to 5.30.—Dismissal, including mar ching and singing. (Mero 112) The activities are as telling as the time allotted to each: the day opened and closed with marching and singing, important linkages with military traditions. Different tasks are assigned to older and younger children, with muscular fitness, rules, and practised activities important for older children and learning to pay attention and focus on a task (often crafting or sand play) important for younger children. The incorporation of dancing, apparatus work, games, and sports marked the characteristics of a good playground because these activities utilized the skills of time and body management together. Performance, however, was an integral element of all these acts: children were seen as objects on display in the playground. Their actions were illustrative of their place in the nation.
The temporal elaboration of the act did not stop at intervals of fifteen to sixty minutes, with some advocates breaking up time even further in their precise instructions. For example, an exercise routine for children in an outdoor gymnasium in New York is broken into activities of a few minutes:
Children line up according to height; done in 2 or 3 minutes. Simple mar ching; 5 minutes. Breathing exer cises, to be done at end of march, while walking or at halt, in line, after the marching; 2 minutes.
Exer cises using arms; 3 minutes. Exer cises using trunk; 3 minutes. Exer cises using legs; 2 minutes. All-round exer cise using all muscles, such as Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 \(2016\) Ann Marie F. Murnaghan 123 lunging, imitation throwing, ground exercises; 5 minutes.
Exer cise using arms principally; 3 minutes. Breathing with arm exer cises; 2 minutes. F inal marching, ending with dismissal; 2 minutes. (Mero 113–14) Performance and appearance are also shown to be important elements to this program: children will line up according to height, activities will be completed synchronously, and exercise of the various parts of the body will provide a balanced physique. Disciplining the actions of young people created impressive spectacles for playground festivals, where adults filled the playgrounds and observed the activities of the charges. The discourses of the playground were tied to activities; playgrounds were not simply empty spaces in which to put children. In Foucault’s example of the prison, exhaustive use was enforced through hierarchized surveillance that created a system of supervision where individuals regulated themselves.
In the playground, this was enacted through the use of playground workers, organized as a hierarchy of supervisors, assistants, and those in training. A passage from a 1909 Toronto newspaper article about playgrounds reads as an exemplification of Foucault’s assertions about the use of time: A curfew law, compelling children to return to their homes at a certain hour, is a feeble device.
What is wanted is not prohibition, but guidance and inspiration. Why is the child on the street? Why is it necessary to drive him home? What will he do when he gets home? These are questions that should be considered by all those who are desirous of improving the quality of Canadian Citizenship.
(Kelso, “Play”) The idleness of children’s time outside the playground is not seen as the source of the problem, that is, the curfew law is not an effective tactic for controlling children. A negative prohibition on place and time were not effective either. The construction of citizenship required supervision, guidance, inspiration, and motivation by the ideal supervisor, and the ideal supervisor was a Canadian with a strong (moral) character who could encourage a fit body to create a fit mind (Valverde 27). While the disciplinary activity of controlling children’s play is educational, it nevertheless replaces children’s ability to play games and spend their time as they choose. While the Child Savers may have intentionally put children to work in Houses of Refuge (effectively sweatshops), the Progressives put children to work in playgrounds. Undoubtedly, children did have more freedom in the playground than in a factory, but this was a controlled freedom. Children’s Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 \(2016\) Ann Marie F. Murnaghan 124 attendance at the playground could never be regulated as it could be at a House of Refuge with locked doors, but the playground did not provide children with access to open spaces in which they could express their individuality through their choice of play. Ordering the playground spaces helped supervisors with their work: time was ordered through timetables, time was regulated through the synchronized movement of bodies, rules were established for the correct movements of bodies, and bodies and objects were articulated to enforce correct movements. Since particular activities had dedicated spaces, individuals were ordered by activity and location. Not only did this allow for the spectacle of an ordered, rationalized public space, but also it allowed for a division of users and the creation of playground identities.
Art of DistributionsFoucault describes how space disciplines through the example of Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon prison design (Discipline 201). This design allowed prison guards a full view of all prison cells from a central position in a circular building without being visible to the prisoners.
Since this perspective allowed for constant surveillance, Bentham believed that inmates would behave as if someone was always watching them, even though it was not possible for the guards to watch all of the inmates at once. Scholars have discussed how playgrounds employ similar regimes of control in their ordering; that is, playgrounds imply supervision of all when only some children are, in fact, being watched at a particular time (Gagen 603; Blackford 236). Foucault called the panopticon “a marvellous machine which, whatever use one may wish to put it to, produces homogeneous effects of power” (Discipline 202).
The panopticon, as an architectural and spatial form, thus acts as a machine: it does work. The panopticon produces changes evenly across Discipline in space is employed by four techniques: enclosure, partitioning, functional sites, and hierarchizing . . . .
Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 (2016) Ann Marie F. Murnaghan 125 spaces, mainly that people will regulate their own behaviour and fall in line.Foucault’s consideration of more minute forms of spatial discipline through what he terms “the art of distributions” is of particular interest for an analysis of playgrounds (Discipline 141). Discipline in space is employed by four techniques: enclosure, partitioning, functional sites, and hierarchizing (Discipline 141–49).
Enclosure, from Foucault’s examples of eighteenth- century France, was visible in the cells of prisons and in the ordering of desks in early schools. In Toronto playgrounds, enclosures were created through the fences that separated playgrounds from their local area, constructing a boundary between the playground and the non-playground. Partitioning, in Foucault’s terms, refers to the breaking up of spaces inside an enclosure: this was also visible in the fences and other markers that created spaces inside the playground, such as the paving of courts and the sodding of fields for sports. Functional sites, in Foucault’s words, are “useful space[s]” that direct a particular type of activity (Discipline 144); in the example of playgrounds, this is created through apparatuses and through the enforcement of permitted and prohibited types of play activity. The final technique for the disciplining of space described by Foucault, hierarchizing, was the ranking of spaces using categories. Such hierarchizing appeared in the playground through the creation of specific spaces for children depending on their age, their gender, and their size, where more challenging apparatuses were designated for a more skilled user, often a male above the age of twelve or fourteen.
According to a news report of the time, the St.
Andrew’s Square (Toronto’s sixth playground in fig. 1) had grounds that were divided into two parts, the easterly half being devoted to the girls and very small boys, and the westerly half to larger boys. A wire fence encloses the whole ground, and girls and larger boys are separated by a wire fence. . . . The grounds and equipment have been donated by the city. The boys’ section of the ground is equipped with parallel bars, teeters, giant stride or maypole, trapeze, swinging rings and rope ladders. The girls’ section is provided with swings, giant stride or maypole, sand courts, teeters, basket ball, and a slide resembling a chute, the last-named being the most popular attraction on the ground, so far as the small tots are concerned.
(Kelso, “Play”) In this passage, almost all of the techniques of the art of distributions are visible: the wire fence encloses the whole ground and acts as separation inside the playground. The sites are ordered hierarchically by gender and size, which delineates different activities through particular equipment, that is, there are various functional sites. The boys’ section with parallel Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 \(2016\) Ann Marie F. Murnaghan 126 bars and trapeze, swinging rings and rope ladders is designed for the physical culture ideals of the time, which understood gymnastics as good training for boys to become fit soldiers. The section for girls (and younger children) contains the sand court, basketball, and a slide. These activities were seen as less vigorous, more social and cooperative, and thus more suited to the gender norms for women of the time.Fences were hotly debated in the literature on playgrounds: some authors like Dr. Henry S. Curtis, director of the New York City playgrounds and secretary- treasurer of the Playground Association of America, argued that the fences were important to keep children inside. Others, like Joseph Lee, philanthropist and vice-president of the Playground Association of America, argued that fences made the playground like a jail or a school, both of which were unsuitable places for children’s recreation. In the United States, many northern playgrounds had fences while those in the south did not.
In Toronto, most playgrounds had high exterior fences to keep children in and the undesirable playground users out. Unfenced grounds were seen as suitable when space was limited, but without a fence, the tempting street would lure children out of the playground and into spaces where they did not belong. The fence also kept out other dangers, according to Curtis: “There are occasional mad dogs and runaway horses in the cities. If the children are in a fenced yard they are safe, while there is always danger otherwise” (15). Fences served as the bounds to the playground and seemed to draw children to them from inside the playground and adults to them from the street (see fig.
2). These fenced edges, most often built of wire, allowed visibility at the same time as they contained and delineated the spaces where the rules of the playground applied. Entry to the space implied a contract where a child was “either playing by the rules or be[ing] shut out by his playmates or by those in charge” (Gulick 247). Fences also dictated where one entered and left the site as Maria, a woman’s columnist, noted in the Toronto Globe: “Yesterday afternoon, when starting to visit the grounds, I was not quite sure of the location, but following the lead of some children from afar off I could discern groups of all-sized children entering the enclosure” (Kelso, “Play”). In her observation, Maria makes clear that the playground is visible from the outside, that it can be found through observing the children entering it, and that children’s enclosure highlights the possibility of surveillance. The sense of enclosure was important in the disciplining of children in the playground as it defined the spatial boundaries inside which play activities would be regulated.
Climbing playground fences or otherwise gaining entry outside the hours of supervision was considered a grave transgression by the playground reformers. One of the major explanations for this behaviour in the period was “the play instinct,” the natural desire for play that existed in all humans (American 159). In Toronto, Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 \(2016\) Ann Marie F. Murnaghan 127 protocol indicated that the gates of the city playgrounds be locked after supervisors ended their shifts, yet Samuel Dillon Mills, former mining engineer and chairman of the Toronto Playground Association’s location committee, described seeing adults using the playground apparatus one evening after hours, an infringement that he reported to the Parks Department (54).Fences were also used to partition the playground itself, marking sections of the playground for certain users and uses. As already noted, partitions were commonly made between the areas for boys and girls and between the areas for older and younger boys. Despite the fact that the playgrounds were labelled on the basis of sex, their primary division was by age and then by sex, since the youngest children were seen as having little need for differentiation in activity: both sexes were offered kindergarten games and crafts alike. Older girls were often encouraged to help out on the younger children’s playgrounds, which is why there was no space for older girls (those aged twelve to fourteen). Most articles about playground facilities note the presence of a fence around the area, its type, and often its cost. Short fences seemed to be effective boundaries to differentiate the space and to regulate it. The fence acted practically to keep spectators out of the field of play and the balls inside the basketball and baseball areas (see fig. 2). In figure 2, there are so many spectators (a mixture of adults and children) lining the fences on this unusual day of the playground festival that they become the boundary that one sees from afar. Figure 2: Crowds and Apparatus at Elizabeth Street Playground, 21 August 1913. Used with permission from The City of Toronto Archives, Series 372, Subseries 52, Item 72.
Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 \(2016\) Ann Marie F. Murnaghan 128 These disciplinary techniques implied that the reformers knew more about play than the children they aimed to teach. One of the more direct statements of this perspective comes from Michael V. O’Shea, an education professor at the University of Wisconsin, in his exhortation in a playground education manual:
Organized play is much more necessary in American life today than it was fifty years ago, when the majority of the young lived in the country. The city tends to repress play activities. Students of this matter are finding that play is dying out among boys and girls beyond the age of six or seven. The old traditional games suited for the country cannot be well played under city conditions, and the young do not readily devise new ones which can be carried on under the changed conditions. As a consequence, it is probable that the boys and girls who are growing up in the cities need to receive definite suggestions regarding the best way to play interesting and developing games. (vi) His rationale is that children need to be taught to play because they do not remember old country games and they cannot create new ones. Creating adult urban play experts becomes the narcissistic solution. Children are thus manipulated to serve the needs of adults, performing activities that are easy to supervise and control, in places that are designed to create citizens with clear gender (and classed and raced) identities. Conclusion Toronto playgrounds at the turn of the twentieth century were sites for the adult discipline of children.
The logics and actions of the playground movement can be seen as a form of narcissistic childism, where children are controlled by adults’ disciplining of them in time and space. Foucault’s detailed descriptions of the techniques of discipline in the factory, school, and prison have important parallels in the playground.
Seeing these parallels highlights the ways in which regimes of control are durable across time and space. The disciplinary mechanisms in summer programs for children offered by the state in the public spaces of the city were detailed and specialized. Play workers were trained in techniques to strengthen children’s bodies, instill co-operation, and create healthy future citizens. Children were on display in their actions; they were visible although enclosed inside fences, doing activities in unison, with their actions often organized to the minute. The location of playground sites in schoolyards, former parks, and “slum” areas attests to the importance of the playground as marking out public spaces for children in cities. These spaces were outside, and fenced from, the generationally diverse sites of the streets, factories, homes, and parks in which children would have played. Creating and maintaining specific sites for children was one way to control them, and the disciplining that occurred inside these sites was further opportunity to exercise such control.
Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 \(2016\) Ann Marie F. Murnaghan 129 In the contemporary period, the provision of services for children’s recreation has become increasingly privatized and commercialized by indoor, for-profit play spaces (McKendrick, Bradford, and Fielder 102).
These spaces are promoted as safe places for children to play, in which their activities are also watched (and even recorded on video) by a hierarchy of parents and paid workers in the name of child protection. Creative play and the imaginative use of toys and facilities are more challenging for young people under these increasingly numerous watching eyes. As these spaces become the norm for children’s play, public sites decline in popularity, and often in condition, as fewer adults are invested in their use and maintenance. Numerous discourses pervade the turn from public space: for example, the stranger-danger narrative describes the erroneous perspective that large numbers of mysterious adults are looking to abduct and abuse children in public space, although research indicates that the majority of abuse comes from adults who are already known to children. Similarly, children’s knowledges and capacities to navigate their own neighbourhoods and streets are denied as their trips to school are increasingly chauffeured by adults. Short errands, playing with friends, and other tasks that are within young children’s capacities are thus limited because of this lack of knowledge and familiarity. Thus, in contemporary Western societies, children are rarely seen in public spaces unless they are accompanied by adults. Playground sites are still common in most urban spaces, but they are often not seen in the positive light that they were a hundred years ago when playground openings made the front page of newspapers and the president of the United States was also the president of the Playground Association of America. That said, there are new movements to make more creative playgrounds, often invoking natural metaphors and using natural materials, attempting to connect children “back to nature” (Shillington and Murnaghan 8). These sites may hold promise for a new relationship between children and adults, or they may be another indication of a childist relationship. Only time will tell.
In her research on childism, Young-Bruehl used examples from her psychoanalytic patients to theorize prejudice. To be sure, her foray into history was a brief section of the text, broadly narrated and by no means complete, but it was helpful in provoking an argument about a change in paradigm. While maintaining that the progressives were still childist, I see the activism of the Progressive era as more progressive than that of the Child Savers. The Progressives’ understandings of the roots of poverty and the importance of education in improving young people’s situations were both important shifts from earlier models of charity. This article offers an alternative to a teleological reading of history and suggests the usefulness of reading a social movement from a de- centred position: that of the young people in whose name the projects were undertaken.
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She is working on projects related to the effects of museums in children’s lives.
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Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures 8.1 \(2016\) Ann Marie F. Murnaghan