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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The Group at Play

If the characteristic activity of the young child is play, the characteristic activity of the adult is work. This means that development, at the level of activity, is the transition from play to work (Drellich 1970). Higher education, because it is about preparing students for adult living, which in significant measure means preparing them for work, provides the primary setting in which the final stages of this transformation play themselves out. To provide such a setting, higher education must have a conception of what it is to live as an adult and what it means to work. To live as an adult, the individual must develop both an idea about work and a capacity to do work consistent with that idea. In this paper, I explore the problem of how we foster the transition from play to work. I am especially concerned with whether this is a transition from play to something antithetical to it, or a transition in which play develops in a way that allows it to take an adult form in work. To explore the problem, I make use of an experience I had with a group of students. These students were, I think, especially preoccupied with the transition to which I have just referred. Because the setting in which the problem arose was a group setting, the problem of work and play became a problem in group life. My concern, then, will be with work, play, and their relationship to group life.