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The new threat: America's war on recess

Mar 15, 2010, 10:00 AM EDT

I believe that my elementary school still holds the record for largest game of Red Rover ever attempted during recess: 30 people on one team, all linking arms, as 30 from the other team all charged into them at full speed. It had been the first time in recorded history that an entire class of fourth graders had been “sent over,” and the resulting collision left many writhing on the ground, crying; and others cheering in triumph. Many of my classmates were sent to the school nurse that day, but my team prevailed. Unfortunately, we would not fare as well in full-contact four-square.
There was a time when recess was off limits to adults; where kids could be kids for 15 minutes and life was played by our rules. Sixty-man Red Rover was an outlaw school activity, but teachers were never around to see it. This was recess, where kids ruled, if only briefly a couple of times each day. But all of that seems to be changing now. The New York Times has a story today about a new phenomenon in public schools called “recess coaches.” I think you know where this is going.


A California-based organization called Playworks has placed recess coaches in 170 schools across the country, organizing games and activities during recess periods and requiring every kid to participate.
But a rebellion is brewing.

In Wyckoff, N.J., an upper-middle-class township in Bergen County with a population of 17,000, hundreds of people signed a petition in protest after the district replaced recess in 2007 with a “midday fitness” program.

“I just can’t imagine going through the entire day without a break, whether you’re an adult or a child,” said Maria Costa, a Wyckoff mother of three who said that every day her daughter came home feeling stress after rushing through lunch to run laps. “It’s just not natural.”

Recess has since been restored in Wyckoff’s middle school, and on alternating days in elementary schools.

If you were like me, some days you were in the mood for tetherball, some days kickball, and some days I just went out onto the lawn and ran in circles. Or sat atop the Jungle Gym contemplating life, which meant throwing tan bark at the first graders. The point is that it was my time to do with as I pleased; 15 precious minutes of headlong, unpredictable activity where adults had no sway as long as I stayed within the school boundaries. Now today’s children don’t even have that?
A school principal in New Jersey said in the NY Times article that bloody noses and trips to the school nurse were down significantly since the recess coach arrived. Sir, I put it to you that a bloody nose is the whole point of recess. They’ve organized youth sports and regimented kids in every way imaginable these days. Recess is the only thing they have left. Don’t take that away.
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Forget Goofing Around: Recess Has a New Boss [The New York Times]

  1. -z- - Mar 15, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    Academia is supposed to teach the young how to think. The problem comes when academia doesn’t think.

  2. Lew - Mar 15, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    Stop with the do-gooders! Let the kids have their recess.

  3. ~SR~ - Mar 15, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    Kids need to have the break, they need to get a few scrapes. Stop bubble-wrapping the kids, how will they ever find their limits if they are kept leashed and caged?