Lisa Forbes

December 6, 2020

Play and Status Quos

Hello Mr. Pinkwater,

Happy belated birthday! Hmmm, I’m not sure where to start. Your book, The Big Orange Splot, was my all-time favorite book as a child. I know you wrote it and drew it up quickly but it holds some of my core values, which I think is why I was so drawn to it as a child. But, to be honest, I had totally forgotten about the book for many years. Life has a way of pulling you away from your true self, childish self, and internal values. Because society wants you to fit their mold (to live on a “neat street”). That, or the book was just packed away in a box as I grew up. 🙂

I recently found my old childhood copy which is tattered from so many reads. As I was re-reading it now as an adult, I was blown away by the message (or the one I take from it). My whole life, I’ve always hated status quos or having to do something in a certain way just because that’s how everyone else does it. To me, that’s a huge message in your book – follow your passions, your values, your dreams no matter what all the other deadpans say. (This seems like a long-winded way to get to my question but I thought context was important – questions coming, I promise!)

Currently, I teach at a university in Colorado. My research tends to challenge various status quos in our culture. A project I am working on is challenging the traditional lecture-based approaches to teaching higher ed and instead using more of a playful pedagogy even with adults. (check out In order to do this, instructors must bust outside of the long-standing status quo of higher education that tells you to be the hierarchical expert that spews knowledge and empty vessel students. I think to teach differently, you have to have courage like Mr. Plumbean did to stand out and be different. I think it’s blasphemy that to be playful and value play, especially in professional spaces, you have to have courage to be different. To be ready to be looked at sideways because it’s not neat – it’s not ‘what we’ve always done.’ 

So, phew…that was a lot to ask: from The Big Orange Splot, I get the sense that you dislike status quos. I’d love to hear your opinion about that. Also, what is your take on play and being playful in adulthood? Are you a playful fella? And what connection (if any) do you see between play and “professionalism” (as we tend to think of it – rigid professionalism in my opinion). 

Okay. Done now. Thanks for sharing your beautiful mind with us over these years!

Lisa Forbes

Daniel replies:

I imagine you'll encounter more resistance from the students than your colleagues. But what do I know? My own most important educational experience was a 3-year apprenticeship, from the beginning of which comes this quote: "I believe it is impossible to teach Art, so I will teach you me, and leave it up to you what to make of it."