In Defense of Recess
up with schools taking all the fun out of child's play? They're banning
traditional kids' games at recess, and getting rid of all semblance of anything
that even hints of competition. There
can't be that big of a threat of lawsuits, can there?
A number of grade
schools around the country have banned certain games like tag and dodgeball, or
done away with one or two recesses altogether during the school day, citing
increasing conflicts, arguments and accidents among children, officials said.
But those who
support keeping recess free of excess regulations say that a playground
that's out of control signifies a lack of effective and adequate adult supervision.
They defend recess and say it's crucial for student success and normal
Since only a handful of
states require schools to give children a break from their studies, the changes
to recess are a matter of local control. Prents and taxpayers have been active
in letting local principals and superintendents know how they feel about
restrictions on free play. However, it is commonplace for schools to carve
minutes away from recess, or reducing them from two to one, citing the need to
prepare students better for the standardized tests that the educational
bureaucracies have imposed on schools.
Conn Iggulden, co-author
of The Dangerous Book for Boys, said boys,
especially, need recess. It helps them learn about risk, how to pick yourself
up when you've fallen down, how to deal with someone who's trying to get you
mad, and so forth. If they don't learn to take safe risks while under
supervision, they will doubtlessly take unsafe risks when no adults are around,
he warned. Iggulden told Amazon.com, "If we do away with challenging
playgrounds and cancel school trips for fear of being sued, we don't end up
with safer boys — we end up with them walking on train tracks."
But that doesn't stop the
Politically Correct crowd from dumbing-down recess. In Montville, Conn.,
children at Oakdale School lost their 22 minutes of unstructured daily play at
their own choice. Instead, children are limited to a few acceptable activities.
They can jump rope, play with Hula Hoops or gently fling a Frisbee. They can
pick up litter around the school grounds. They can play chess on rainy days. Balls
are parceled out under close supervision by playground monitors. The changes
were so unpopular with parents that they marched on the principal, and now,
twice a week, if a parent or grandparent volunteers to monitor it, the kids can
play a modified version of kickball. Note that no score may be kept, since
school officials deem that provocative and dangerous.
Sigh. It's yet another example of
the control-freak attitude among some educators that is taking a lot of the fun
and play out of schools. It's at cross-purposes with the big push in schools to
instill social skills in children; at recess, they can "learn by doing"
everything from fair play to how to respond successfully to bullying. It also
makes no sense to minimize or kill recess in the face of the obesity epidemic
among children that everyone's concerned about.
Other examples of changes:
Tag is banned at recess at Discovery Canyon Campus in
Colorado Springs because it was too "wild," and at least a few parents had
complained, though many more opposed the ban at the prek-6 school, according to
In Broward County, Fla., one of the
nation's largest school systems, to comply with expanded physical education
requirements that the state mandated but did not provide extra money for, recess
time is being taken over by structured, phys ed type activities.
In Wyckoff, N.J., recess is now a
"midday fitness" class, replacing the gym requirement to free up more academic
Homework: A national campaign has formed, Rescuing Recess, sponsored by such
organizations as the Cartoon Network, the National Parent Teacher Association,
the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, and the National
Education Association. Also see the book, Bringing Up Boys, by Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, www.family.org