This chapter provides a brief history of leisure and recreation, starting with the ancient Greeks and continuing into the 21st century



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Chapter 1

Introduction and Overview


Overview

This chapter provides a brief history of leisure and recreation, starting with the ancient Greeks and continuing into the 21st century. In addition, the chapter focuses on five philosophical approaches to the provision of leisure services: idealism, realism, pragmatism, existentialism, and humanism. The chapter follows these with definitions of leisure, play, and recreation. Finally, the chapter outlines numerous theories that have been used to describe people’s participation in leisure and play.


Outcomes

  • Assess how the role of leisure has changed over time.

  • Compare and contrast five philosophical approaches to leisure services.

  • Identify your own philosophical approach to leisure services.

  • Define six theories of play.

  • Describe seven theories related to why people engage in leisure.

  • Differentiate among the definitions of leisure as time, activity, or state of mind.

  • Describe four theories related to recreation.


Activities and Assignments

  1. Your instructor will assign you one of the time periods discussed in the chapter (ancient Greeks, Romans, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Colonial America, Industrial Revolution, or Great Depression). Research leisure practice and definitions in your time period. Then write a letter as if you are a member of this time period. Address the letter to a member of contemporary society and explain how your assigned time period conceptualizes leisure. Assess contemporary leisure from the standpoint of your time period (outline the similarities and differences between leisure in your time period and contemporary leisure). Finally, explain how someone from your time period would change or enhance contemporary leisure for the better.




  1. For this assignment you will work in small groups. Your instructor will assign you one leisure-related issue in contemporary society (e.g., obesity, technology, sustainable tourism, minority visitation to parks, nature deficit disorder, and so on). Act as a parks and recreation professional attempting to address the assigned issue from the standpoint of each of the five philosophies outlined in the chapter (idealism, realism, pragmatism, existentialism, and humanism).




  1. For this assignment the class will be divided into two groups. One group will represent leisure as time or activity and the other group will represent leisure as state of mind. Research your assigned topic to prepare for a debate during the next class meeting. Focus on the strengths of your assigned topic and the weaknesses of the other topic in defining the contemporary conception of leisure. During the debate, give your opening statement, ask questions for the other group to address, and end with a closing statement. At the close of the debate, decide as a class who presented the most convincing case and discuss which definition of leisure is most accurate.




  1. As a class, choose a common leisure experience that a majority of the class members have participated in or are familiar with. Then divide into seven groups. Each group will study one of the leisure theories presented in the chapter. With your group members, examine the common leisure experience through the lens of your assigned leisure theory. Consider the following questions: (a) How does the leisure theory explain why people participate in the common leisure activity? (b) Does the use of the leisure theory change depending on the role a person plays in the common leisure activity? (For example, consider paid athletes versus spectators at a sporting event.)




  1. Divide into five groups, each of which will be assigned one of the following theories of play: surplus energy, recreation, conflict enculturation, optimal arousal, and instinct practice. Research your assigned theory of play to prepare for a debate during the next class meeting. Focus on the strengths of your assigned theory and the weaknesses of the other theories in predicting why humans play. During the debate, give an opening statement, ask questions for the other groups to address, and end with a closing statement. At the close of the debate, decide as a class who presented the most convincing case and discuss which theory best explains play.




  1. Using and referencing the information in this chapter, consider your own personal philosophical approach to leisure. Write your personal philosophy from two perspectives: (1) What is your philosophical approach to leisure in your personal life as a participant? (2) What is your philosophical approach to leisure in your professional life as a leisure provider? Justify your choices with information from the text and your own personal and professional experiences.


Keywords

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)—Federal agency organized during the Great Depression to provide jobs to unemployed workers on projects such as state parks and trails.

existentialism—The branch of philosophy that believes that reality is living and that individuals are responsible for developing themselves and are responsible only to and for themselves. Thus personal choice and freedom are of great importance.

humanism—A branch of philosophy focused on human interests and values that has no concern with the idea of a divine being such as God.

idealism—A branch of philosophy focused on self-defined ideals influenced by what is perceived as excellence or perfection.

leisure delivery system—A system of businesses and agencies that provide leisure services through public, private nonprofit, and private or commercial entities.

pragmatism—A branch of philosophy in which the worth or value of something is determined by its consequences or outcomes.

privatization—The transfer of government-owned services or assets to the private sector.

realism—A branch of philosophy focused on the natural order of the world, believing that objects are defined not only by the individual but also independently by reality. The realist focuses on the practical rather than the ideal or theoretical.

Work Projects Administration (WPA)—Federal agency organized during the Great Depression to put the unemployed to work on useful projects throughout the country, including community parks and recreation centers.
Sample Documents

No sample documents are provided for this chapter. While all other chapters have sample documents included, the documents are examples that would be used by a practitioner in the field. This chapter does not lend itself to those types of documents.


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