HIGHTOWER: Schools Without Recess

I say it's time to bring back the dunce cap in America's schools.Not for the kids -- for the administrators! I offer Benjamin Canada, superintendent of schools in Atlanta, as a case in point: He has eliminated recess in elementary schools. I rest my case.Mr. Canada says, "We are intent on improving academic performance. You don't do that by having kids hanging on the monkey bars." Is this man begging for the dunce cap, or what? Some of my most instructive moments in grade school came on the monkey bars -- we invented games there, learned to deal with bullies, made friends ... and just had fun. Plus, like all of us, kids need a break occasionally. As Tony Pellegrini, a University of Georgia expert in child development, told the New York Times: "Every study shows that children are more attentive after recess -- as the kids would say, 'Well, duh!'"Pushing a totally-structured school day, Atlanta has even built a grammar school without a playground, keeping students confined from 8AM to 2:30 PM, with no free time. Oh, yes, the children get a 30-minute physical-education period, but they have to take dance, gymnastics or some other instructional course during this time. Not even their 30-minute lunch allows a break -- after they finish eating, they must sit in their seat 'til the bell rings.Not everyone thinks that Superintendent Canada is on the right track with his all-work, no-play policy. Juanita Gibson, a physical education teacher at Atlanta's school-with-no-playground, thinks it harms the social development of children to have no free playtime. She says that when adult authorities set the agenda all day, kids always look to the adults to settle disputes for them, and don't learn to solve their own problems. Recess, she says, "ought to be the time they set the agenda. Let's give them a little room to grow."This is Jim Hightower saying ... Hey, let's make her superintendent of schools!Source: "Many schools putting an end to child's play" by Dirk Johnson. New York Times: April 7, 1998.

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