I have been engaged in an epic battle with my child's school for the past two years because they have adopted the nonsensical and illogical policy of banning recess. I could understand, to some degree, if this policy was implemented for high school students, but instituting this at the elementary level for students as young as six seems preposterous to me.

In an attempt at a gut check, I asked a close friend for his opinion because he had an eight-year-old attending elementary school in the state of Florida. That school also implemented a similar policy that ended recess after second grade and my friend was very happy with this rigid, Draconian way of thinking.

In one Georgia county recess has been delightfully renamed 'study hall' and administrators are terse, if not downright hostile, with any parent who dares to request that their child be allowed to have recess. Parents are characterized as 'soft' and academically challenged students are thought of as lazy and lacking discipline.

Recess is gleefully withheld to address an array of classroom sins like unfinished work, excessive talking and bad grades. Childhood is now old school in the 'No Child Left Behind' era. Playing, socializing and exercising during recess is now regarded as a wasteful and frivolous waste of precious time that could be used for studying and cramming in those precious facts that children must know.

I was delighted to see that the American Acadeny of Pediatric is now calling on schools to stop cutting recess:

Since the advent of the federal government's No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, some schools have been cutting or eliminating recess to spend more time teaching academics.

Now the American Academy of Pediatrics is urging schools not to cut recess, which the organization says is a much-needed break and helps children develop a healthy lifestyle....

Recess is a fundamental component of development and social interaction children ought to receive in school, said Lead Researcher Catherine Ramstetter, a health educator at the Christ College of Nursing and Health Sciences in Cincinnati and a member of the Academy's committee on home and school health. It "offers a unique opportunity for children to experience a break from the academic demands of school as well as a forum for creative expression, social engagement and physical exertion."

Co-researcher Dr. Robert Murray, a professor in the department of human nutrition at Ohio State University, added that "recess is a crucial part of a child's development. That's mental as well as social development."

In order to learn well, children need a period of concentrated academic activity followed by a break that allows them to process information, Murray said. That's also true for adults, he added.

"Studies have shown that children do a better job of processing information if they don't move from one challenging task to the next, but rather, have a break in between," he said.

Moreover, they say withholding recess should not be a form of punishment. Recess, they added, is an important part of child development and provides social interaction that children may not get during class time.

"Schools ought to examine other discipline methods, and look for ways to provide safe and properly supervised recess for all children," Ramstetter said. "Whether it's spent indoors or outdoors, recess should provide free, unstructured play or activity."


I have had numerous discussions with school administrators trying to point out these same common sense facts and I have now become persona non grata. Will the schools heed the advice of the Academy, or will they continue with their insane policies of punishing teachers for failing students and coralling students in classrooms, relentlessly spoon feeding them until they are satisfied that their grades have improved? Do we want the next generation of students to learn at any cost, even if the price is their deteriorating physical and mental health?

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