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April 24, 2013
Jewish World Review
August 22, 2008
/ 21 Menachem-Av 5768
Let's hear it for recess
When I get around to starting my perfect school system, I'll be bringing back recess
three times a day.
"What's your favorite part of school?" When I went to school, every kid had the same
goofball answer: "Lunch and recess." Kids who didn't answer "lunch and recess" were
shunned and had the air let out of their bicycle tires.
Today, there are kids who don't even know what recess is. Talk about deprived and
in one of the world's richest countries.
Since 1989, a growing number of school districts have banished recess. For the past
10 years in Atlanta, every new elementary school built has been built without a
playground. A moment of silence, please.
It's hard to imagine a childhood where children do not experience the terror of the
biggest boy in the class barreling through your locked hands during Red Rover (and
bouncing off), the thrill of crossing home plate in kickball or showing off by
jumping rope, doing double red hot peppers with your best friend.
To put it simply, taking away recess isn't fair and kids are all about fair.
How are you going to tell a second-grade child that recess has been cut to 15
minutes when the kid knows for a fact that the Supreme Court is only in session from
10 a.m. until 3 p.m. and gets a one-hour lunch and recess every day.
Justice John Paul Stevens is 88 years-old. If a guy that old still needs an hourlong
recess, surely kids age 8 need recess, too.
Ever seen a justice snooze on the bench? Exactly. It's because they only get recess
once a day. If they had a short morning recess with a little dodgeball in the back
parking lot, that nodding-off business would never happen.
Matter of fact, the entire work force and our nation's GNP could benefit from recess
hopscotch and jump ropes in the break rooms and a pull-up bar at every water
How can you even begin to list the benefits of recess? You get to move around, hang
out with your friends, play games, have a little freedom and give your brain time to
refresh (the mind cannot absorb what the seat cannot endure).
With 35 percent of all school kids overweight, recess can't be a bad thing.
Without recess, we would not have one of the great movie scenes of all time in
"The Christmas Story" where Ralphie's friend, Flick, gets his tongue stuck to a
frozen metal flag pole.
Recess is hip. We know this because Congress gets one a recess that lasts five
weeks. Of course, Congress is also an example of people who should be deprived of
recess for behaving badly. Unfortunately, there's no one who seems able to make them
stay in their seats.
Among the schools that still have recess, many have toned it way down. Balls have
become contraband kickball, dodgeball, anything with a slight component of risk.
Even tag is becoming off-limits. Those games are being replaced by a kinder, gentler
recess featuring hula hoops, Frisbee toss, playing chess or picking up trash.
The former superintendent of Atlanta schools, Benjamin O. Canada, is famous for once
telling the New York Times they eliminated recess to concentrate on improving
academic performance. "You don't do that by having kids hang on the monkey bars."
That's true, but you don't build people skills, release energy or burn fat glued to
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© 2008, Lori Borgman
Richard Z. Chesnoff
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