Monday, April 13, 2009
Recess in American Education
Remember recess that time in school where you got a break from your daily chore of home-work? As adults we have learned that breaks are important to productivity. Regular scheduled breaks increase creativity and the ability of students to retain information.
Many adults have fond memories of growing up in public school, but here in America our children are attending schools where increasingly recess has been marginalized or removed all together to make way for more study time. Like a run away fright train going down hill every faster the idea that children should learn reading, writing and arthritic at ever earlier ages has taken over our school systems. Forget character education, creative genius or empathy development; will they score to grade level? is the question being asked by everybody in today’s school systems.
In the name of increased test scores recess has been removed from ever lower levels of education until it can be seen as reasonable to see a day when there will be no recess in our public schools.
Recess was a time of slight supervision where children had a moment to explore their personal identity. Where they were able to keep a little piece of that uniquely American experience that was the backyard, the neighborhood or just hanging out with your friends. This time is increasingly gone. Removed by system of parenting and an educational philosophy that says that an unsupervised child is a danger to themselves and their environment.
The rub is that recess is supervised: the child’s choice of activities is not. Recess is not acceptable because it reminds us that children don’t need to be supervised to learn, children don’t need constant adult attention and children can get by for increasingly large amounts of time by themselves with out us. Recess reminds that even after a hundred years of an increasingly dogmatic and bureaucratic American educational system that the essential nature of American children is of independence. Clearly recess has got to go so that we can have more tests, learn one more spelling word and demonstrate our sacrifice of the heart at the holy alter of intellect.
Recess has to go so that the testing industry can make more money printing duplicate unnecessary tests and congressman can go home to their districts and speak about increasing standards in education.
I am passionate about this because 30 years ago I went to public school and I am dyslexic. While normal grade school children need a break, learning disabled students need it even more. I did not learn to read till 4th grade and I can tell you that with out regular recess breaks in my schedule I would not have be here today. I would have cracked into a million pieces under the strain.
Children need adults, but they also deserve a break from us just like we do from them.
Eric Wolf M.S. Ed.