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Tuesday, June 27, 2006
School Recess is Becoming a Thing of the Past

I read an article in USA Today this morning that has me all fired up: 'Not it!' More schools ban games at recess. Elementary schools across the country are banning games during recess, such as tag, soccer and touch football, because educators say these games are dangerous. The principal at one such school said tag was banned because it "progresses easily into slapping and hitting and pushing instead of just touching." My son just completed third grade, and his school has one recess session for only 15 minutes and permits tag, soccer and kickball on the playground. However, his teacher -- who by the way is an excellent teacher and one of his all-time favorites -- banned his class from playing touch football when one child was hit in the head with the football (and the child did not suffer any injury).

Banning games at recess is a disturbing trend. I can remember having much more recess time when I was in school, and we played both tackle and touch football. In addition to the benefits of physical development and exercise, we learned many valuable things that simply can't be taught in the classroom -- including how to compete; how to compromise and resolve disputes on your own; how to form your own rules and play within them; and how to deal with adversity.

According to the article, educators worry about kids running into one another and getting hurt. Granted, this is a valid concern when educators are supervising the children while away from home and are responsible for ensuring their safety. But using a typical risk-utility analysis, the risk and extent of possible injury on the playground is simply outweighed by the high utility, benefit and value associated with children playing games at recess. While banning tackle football might be justifiable, banning touch football, tag and soccer is simply not.

So I write this with the purpose of making parents aware of this trend, and you can make your own determination as to its level of importance. If nobody complains, schools will most likely continue to ban more activity at recess, and will most likely ultimately ban recess altogether. While most parents will be requesting that their child have a laptop, I'll be requesting that recess time be extended and the games permitted.


The difference between now and your elementary days, Rick, is that society is exponentially more (i) litigious and (ii) scared of everything. I'm not sure how much (ii) is influenced by (i), but I'm pretty sure the media is the primary factor for (ii).

This translates to other things. For instance, child abductions. Watching the news you'd think people are running off with children at an alarming rate and it's not safe to let your kids play in the yard, the way we did. However, my understanding is that the rate of child abductions has not markedly increased since we were kids. Only the publicity has.

A child is much more likely to drown in a pool (see "Freakonomics" by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner) or get killed on a bike.

Anyway, your post explains (in part) why so many kids are overweight or otherwise physically unhealthy.

Blogger ChapelHeel -- 6/28/2006 7:33 AM  

It's amazing that anyone over 40 is still alive and mentally healthy! 35 years ago there were no helmet rules, restrictions on recess games, mandatory seatbelts, scoreless youth games, etc, etc, etc.

I remember playing touch football at recess (13 years ago) and can't recall a single instance of someone being seriously hurt. Getting a little banged up is part of being a kid.

Anonymous Jeff -- 6/28/2006 1:55 PM  

Recess Petition Launched Nationwide

North Port, Florida

Fumed Father launches Web Site Targeting Little Or No Recess In Schools in retalitaion to a note sent home with 1st. grade son stating: "Your son was jittery and loud while in line to go out to recess" so he was put in timeout for 5 minutes.

He became un-controllable and would not calm down.

After questioning his son, Dad found out that his son gets only (1) 15 minute recess a day and that comes at 2:45 (End Of The Day.

Read More:


Anonymous Ken Goodin -- 10/30/2006 4:47 PM  

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