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Recess Request

By Matt Wood in News on Oct 23, 2006 11:58AM

chicagoist_200610_playground.jpgIf you asked Chicagoist to recall our top ten fondest memories from grade school, nine of them would come from recess. Not that we didn't like school, it's just that our best times came during our time off. That's just the way kids are. But perhaps having those good times mixed in with the academic parts of school encouraged us to submit to the hard work too. Why not do some phonics, we knew we always had some more playtime around the corner.

But recess has been nonexistent in Chicago Public Schools for a long time, succumbing to both safety concerns about children playing outside in tough neighborhoods, and increased pressure to pack every day full of book-learning so the state can test their little brains out. But CPS chief Arne Duncan is now championing the idea of restoring recess to city elementary schools. Right now, fewer than 30 schools offer a break longer than the standard 20 minutes for lunch, and even the ones that do build in recess are only allowing an additional ten minutes. Duncan wants to encourage more schools to incorporate some kind of play time, but the movement is slow-going because of the teachers contract, lack of playground space and supervision, and the ever-present safety concerns.

Ten minutes? That's it? And that's a problem for some schools to accommodate? Someone's not being reasonable here. Hell, we need a ten-minute break every hour to get through our day now. Do they really think it's healthy for a bunch of ants-in-the-pants grade schoolers to get only ten minutes a day? During our halcyon elementary days, we had three recesses: a short morning break, an afternoon break, plus a longer one at lunch. If the weather was rainy or too cold out, we still had "inside recess" where we stayed in the room and played with toys. And we somehow managed to learn enough to graduate and go to college in spite of all this slack time. Kids need to play to burn off some of that energy so they can focus on school. Plus, isn't social development important at that age too? One ten-minute break isn't too much to ask.