A Bird's Eye View: When Lively Parks meet the Rules
( display item 15)
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• An initiative by a wading pool worker to set up a craft table for kids (while the pool was empty) is declared dangerous
Blog: Henrik Bechmann's Blog Part of A Bird's Eye View: When Lively Parks meet the Rules User Guide: Wading Pools
Part way through his tour de force work The Master and his Emissary on the left/right hemisphere and its implications for society, Iain McGilchrist makes a helpful distinction between reason and rationality:
The first of these [reason] - flexible, resisting fixed formulation, shaped by experience, and involving the whole being - is congenial to the operations of the right hemisphere; the second [rationality] - more rigid, rarified, mechanical, governed by explicit laws - to those of the left
One could say that reason is grounded and open to change - a kind of common sense; that rationality is abstract, somewhat disconnected, and rather defensive.
So it was in August when a wading pool worker took the opportunity of a lull in the wading pool activity at MacGregor Park to prepare some recreation for the kids, do chores, or prepare food. A Public Health Inspector happened to be there, and declared these activities to be unsafe, as it was distracting from her responsibilities (of guarding non-existent kids in the pool). Notably rhere was always one pool worker who was guarding the non-existent kids, just to be a good sport, but the inspector insisted that protocol requires that there be two at all times (even without kids in the pool). There was a similar incident soon after at Dufferin Park.
So some key things happened as the result of this incident.
This is clearly rationality, or what I call technocracy, at its worst, and of course is a poster child for government waste (we've all seen young adults sitting by wading pools doing nothing). Not to mention an over-reaction on the part of management, but that's another story.
Some obvious comments:
Certainly this kind of incident has become quite common in the past couple of years in Ward 18, as senior staff try to get local staff to obey "comply" with department policies and procedures. What they're trying to do is simplify, and impose control. What they're accomplishing is to drive away talented, skilled, experienced, staff, thereby losing decades of hard-won knowledge. Staff morale is low; trust between staff and their supervisors is low. As I've written elsewhere, you can't run our local parks like that without destroying the work that has been done over the last couple of decades to make our parks the envy of the city and beyond.
There's much more to this story. I haven't touched on contradictions with training (they were told originally that they could participate in Recreation activities during slow pool times), arbitrary and inconsistent rulings, reductions in attention through over-long pool-watching sessions, staff suspicions of being spied on and persecuted, and more. I'm holding back a bit so as not to interfere with any grievance procedure that might be launched.
I've numbered this "Triumph of Technocracy over Reason" number 1, because if I have time, it could be the first of many.
It is, after all, not just a part of a pattern, but part of an ongoing commitment to technocracy by senior managers at PFR. And that's the real problem.