Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Role of Leisure Education in Parks and Recreation

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Role of Leisure Education in Parks and Recreation

Article excerpt

The relationship between leisure and work has been examined in many cultures throughout history. The ancient Greeks viewed leisure as a serious pursuit and assumed that only a fool would work unless forced to. Work was justified as a means to obtain leisure. Aristotle described life as either work or leisure.

Just as in Aristotle's time, it is still extremely difficult to discuss leisure without mentioning work. To some, work and leisure are dichotomous extremes, while others view both concepts as related and continuously interacting. Teeters (1992) refers to the work and leisure relationship as polarized and hierarchical in nature with work assuming the top position. This particular view cultivates confusion and misdirection regarding leisure in the lives of individuals by forcing people to rank the characteristics of work and leisure by importance.

How people view the concepts of leisure and work have a significant impact on society. Financial success, prestige, and corporate power are societal goals which are deeply ingrained in many Americans. The work ethic which has defined the pursuit of the "American dream" extols work rather than leisure. The focus of this paper will examine the need to balance work and leisure rather than choosing one over the other.

The Role of Work and Leisure

Researchers have examined the role of leisure in society as it relates to work. Generally, many of the anticipated worker attitudes toward leisure have not been found in current research. It was predicted that leisure would expand with technological advancement, shorter work weeks, increased productivity, and more efficient home appliances. Unfortunately, the reality is that Americans are faced with too little, rather than too much free time (Harper and Hultsman, 1995). Many working Americans are salaried employees or entrepreneurs and their work week has actually increased and leisure time has decreased.

In addition to less time for leisure, workers also tend to be less satisfied with their work now than in the past. According to Godbey (1989) the source for this dissatisfaction is that workers have higher job expectations. To a generation going through the Great Depression, just making a living may have been viewed as a success. For more recent generations which have generally enjoyed more affluence in their lifetime, subsistence is often not enough.

The relationship between work and leisure can be observed from two perspectives: the compensatory and spillover theories. According to Kraus (1990) in the compensatory theory work is viewed as extremely boring. Outside of work, the individual engages in activity that is directly opposite of tasks performed at work. For example, a postal worker who does a considerable amount of walking while delivering mail, may choose to engage in activities which require less physical exertion such as fishing, playing cards, or reading.

Conversely, the spillover theory suggests that leisure and leisure attitudes are an extension of work and work attitudes. A worker who is tired or possesses a negative attitude towards work will often choose not to engage in any leisure activity after work. On the other hand, when work is viewed as pleasant a worker may enjoy leisure activities during non-work hours. For example, a postal worker may enjoy going for walks or running during non-work hours.

It is apparent that the nature of the work often determines the work and leisure relationship. Each individual must distinguish between work and leisure. If the purpose of the work is the work itself, then the individual will have a difficult time obtaining satisfaction from the job. Consequently, if the individual has some control or stake in the work or perceives the work to have purpose, satisfaction can be derived from work. The more mundane the work, the clearer the distinction between work and leisure. The more stimulating the work, the less the distinction between work and leisure. …

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