Does the TEN Project only focus on kids in the big cities?

derek karver“Greetings John, just spent some time going through the Ten website. An amazing endeavor, your energy and drive to present (and improve) the positive aspects of city living is great to see in the face of the negative slant that the mass media is fond of serving us up in large spoonfuls at every opportunity.
Through browsing the site, I watched the TED talk by Ken Robinson, which summarized and clarified many of my frustrations watching two boys go through the formal education system here in Austria. It’s a real prod to action when your views are presented in such an intelligent, (and funny!) way.
My read on your response to this failure to formally educate the kids effectively is to bypass the ‘system’ and work directly with them through a form of communication that they are comfortable and familiar with – games. Such initiatives will be invaluable in the future years in giving the (hopefully) innovative policy makers successful projects to use as examples as they work towards fundamentally changing education.
Where I find this little thing niggling at the back of my mind is the project’s focus on kids in the big cities.
I think there is a general tendency to polarize ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ (look at how the US votes) and my concern is that concentrating on kids in large cities does nothing to defuse this barrier to communication. Many of the pollution problems of cities effect the rural environment in a more severe way and without encouraging communication between city kids and those outside, I’m not sure that they will grasp the importance of this. If these predictions of people movement are correct, then there will still be 25% of the world population living rurally and these people will be producing all the food that the cities will consume. These two worlds are intrinsically interconnected and interdependent.
My experience of LA and other large cities is that when you look below the sprawl, they are effectively groups of small towns that are physically connected. The community structure of these smaller units is very similar to small towns outside the city, the main difference being that they are more stratified in the city. In some ways you could argue that as the internet becomes more universal and sophisticated, a large rural area with a lot of small towns, could be referred to as a very spaced out City.
I guess that I may be drifting outside your focus here, which I understand to be your encouragement of the creative potential of kids in cities. But in a way that’s the easy job, cities are generally more liberal in their politics through the creative stimuli that is readily available. I think a tougher challenge is bringing those creative opportunities also to kids outside the cities (the Republican voters of the future). I guess that if the game catches on, then it doesn’t matter where the kids come from, they will play it and this line of communication will happen naturally.
Having seen that furrowed brow look on your face most of the time, I’m sure you have pondered these points already, but I know you don’t mind a discussion.
Keep up the great work and if you think I could be of help at all, geez a shout!
regards,
Derek”

REPLY FROM JOHN & THE TEN PROJECT:

“Derek,
I agree with all your points entirely.
To clarify: The game is for all kids, rural or city, anywhere, which are in some kind of organized out-of-school time or after-school group.  The only stipulation to join up and play is that you are in a group and we have checked its legitimacy (safety – child protection laws etc.).  A key part of the game involves the megacites, but they are only the story of the game…The actual game-play encourages connections between rural and city kids in a variety of exciting ways and “bringing creative opportunities to kids outside the cities” is one of its central goals.

The idea of large rural areas with a lot of small towns being referred to as “a very spaced out city” is also central to our project’s philosophy.

It’s great that you mention all this because it helps me see that without knowing the rules of the game and its core mechanic, it can seem from the info on the website that we are just targeting city kids and even if a rural kid gets involved they will feel somehow left out and not as cool as the city kids.  Once you read the game design document you see clearly that this is not the case.  Because we’ve been working so closely with the game and been so constantly conscious of who are target audience is, it’s easy to forget how it may seem from the outside, so thank you for making us more aware of this.
Thanks Derek for such a wonderful and thoughtful post!  If anyone has something to say about any of this, please jump in and join the discussion by posting the next comment!

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