A call for the revival of recess
BY ROD WALTON World Staff Writer
Monday, January 21, 2013
1/21/13 at 6:43 AM
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The highlight to my son's school day used to happen at lunch. He and his friends would grab his ever-present football out of the locker, head to the playground and get in a few accelerated quarters of touch football, three-second rush and that tree is the end zone.
About a month ago that all changed. Two bullies, best I can call them, grabbed the football from another boy; the boy tried to get it back and was promptly attacked by the older kids.
Maybe the best penalty would be to bar the bullies from after-lunch playground activity, but instead the school banned football games. This must be from the "one or two bad apples spoiled it for the whole bunch" theory of discipline.
My son already is in middle school and too old for recess, according to the prevailing educational framework of the day. Prior to that, in elementary school, I noticed that opportunities for recess were severely curtailed from my day. As late as fifth grade, I remember a little break in the morning, a full recess right after lunch and another break in the afternoon.
We were healthy and wise, happy in our boisterous mixture of life and learning. Somewhere along the way, some of our U.S. education leaders decided that a more intensive, international model was needed. In came longer class times and out went the playtime.
Fortunately, not every expert agrees and perhaps there is sunshine at the end of the academic tunnel. A policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics, published online late last year, stressed that a physical education class, itself under attack, does not take the place for free-form recess.
"Recess serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom," the AAP statement reads. "But equally important is the fact that safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it.
"Recess is unique from, and a complement to, physical education - not a substitute for it," the medical experts added. "The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child's development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons."
I want to play ball with those guys and gals - now they know how to party with a purpose.
Some believe the recess leads to better behavior. Health benefits are pretty significant, too, considering the physical activity and fresh air involved if they're allowed to go outdoors.
I don't blame my school for its lack of free-spiritedness and harshness of the "punish everyone" approach. Well, I do blame them for that last one, but enough said there.
Rank-and-file teachers and administrators everywhere are under tremendous pressures brought to bear by politicians pushing higher standards amid international academic competition. I'm not saying that pushing for higher scores isn't worth fighting for, but are we in danger of destroying the village to save the village?
Boys and girls need to stretch their legs, fill their lungs with the outdoors and try that over-the-shoulder fade pass to little Bobby.
Sad state of affairs these days, with schools and other leaders having to talk about arming teachers or janitors to deal with rare, but deadly threats. The age we live in is full of trouble and fear, but maybe we need a little more four-square, tag and football. I'm not saying that recess cures all ills, but it helps some.
So lighten up and let 'em out a little bit.
Rod Walton 918-581-8457
The American Academy of Pediatrics says schoolchildren should be given an opportunity for some free-spirited play, like this girl is enjoying at a Tulsa elementary school. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World