Another local school has cut recess time.
Superintendent blames the decision on pressure from the state to improve test scores.
Yes, because bored, antsy, underexercised kids are in just the right mood to learn short division, conjugate a verb, and concentrate on filling in bubbles on exam forms.
Fortunately, there's pushback, and not just from parents:
Last year the National Parent Teacher Organization and Cartoon Network partnered to sponsor National Recess Week and helped parents with letter-writing campaigns.
Organizers understand the pressures facing schools, including increased assessment requirements and lack of funding, said James Martinez, a National PTO spokesman.
As a compromise, Rescuing Recess suggests playtime before and after school, and launched an effort to recruit volunteers to supervise students.
Some local lawmakers are also responding to parents' calls. New York state Assembly members last session considered the Healthy Schools Act that requires schools to have local wellness policies, preferring those that require recess.
The act passed both houses in different forms, but no compromise was sent to the governor. Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, D-Queens, is expected to reintroduce the bill with changes in the coming session.
Unfortunately, this particular school, like too many schools, is in trouble. Lack of money and the relative poverty of the district it serves are probably at the root of the problem. And, thanks to No Child Left Behind, we now live in a country where we don't give schools more money to help them improve, we threaten take away money they already have too little of if they don't use it to improve test scores.
The real trouble with our schools is that, basically, Americans hate school.
We don't think it's really necessary. We like schools and support them to the degree they provide cheap and easy day care and during football and basketball season give us somewhere to go on Friday nights.
We don't understand why it's important to be educated, let alone how to educate ourselves or our children. We even take a certain chauvinistic pride in being a nation of ignoramuses.
We think we're better off for relying on our gut instincts and common sense rather than any darn booklarnin'.
Basically, we subscribe to the Jethro Bodine School of Pedagogy. Schools should teach readin', ritin', and cipherin', period, except we don't have Jethro's pride in having made it all the way through the sixth grade.
If we weren't a country of blockheads, someone as willfully ignorant, intellectually incurious, and sneeringly contemptuous of his own privileged educational opportunities as George W. Bush would never be elected to the state legislature let alone the White House. He would not have had half our elite Press Corps, college graduates to a man and woman, expending so much time and energy assuring us back in 2000 that it was better to have a dope like Bush in office than a smartypants like Albert "He sighs too much" Gore running the show. A know-nothing President who relies on his gut is so much better for the nation than one who actually bothers to study and understand the facts and issues at hand.
This same indulgence of our national anti-intellectualism is at work in this Presidential election too.
If you don't think that a lot of the Media's contempt for Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards isn't due to the fact that each one is obviously twice as smart as the average Beltway pundit, you haven't been reading your Bob Somerby and Eric Boehlert.
When the Village Elders praise John McCain as a straight shooter, they mean that he's not smart enough to speak in complex sentences made dense with any actual facts and figures affecting his proposed policies.
When they praise Mike Huckabee's folksiness, they mean he's the kind of chummy jackass who's cheerfully wrong about everything he blithers on about at the Sunday Social.
When they praise Rudy Giuliani's toughness, they mean that he will never, ever, ever let an actual intelligent thought get in the way of taking violent action against anyone he deems an enemy.
When the debate over who will lead the nation for the next four years is repeatedly phrased as Which Democrat isn't too much of an egghead, which candidate comes across as "authentic" enough, that is comes across as as big a knucklehead as the average American, then how can we expect the knuckleheads to care, really care, about what goes on in their neighborhood schools?
This is the fact, we are a nation of people who will throw away five hundred dollars on the newest game platform for the kids and never think to buy them a twenty dollar a year subscription to Ranger Rick or take them down to the library for a free library card.
We are a nation of people who are prouder of a kid who comes off the bench once in his or her high school athletic career and score the game winning goal or sink the shot that sends the game into overtime than of one who makes the honor roll four semesters running.
We're a nation of boobs and proud of it. And given the bad example we set for our kids, ten fewer minutes on the playground are not going to turn any schools around.
The school day is already too long.
The school year is too long.
I'm not an advocate for more homework either. Most teachers don't need any more papers to grade and I don't like the idea of adding more stress to the lives of working parents already pressed for time and worn out by their day at work and who probably are as convinced of the good of the extra work as their kids.
On the other hand, what do most families, including mine, do with the time they have in the evenings besides plunk themselves down in front of the TV?
In the long run, we're not going to improve our schools until we improve our attitudes about what schools are for. Politicians, and school officials, and parents, need to stop talking as though the only value of an education is monetary---that is, stop talking about the great job at the end as the be all and end all. Preachers need to stop railing against science from their pulpits. Pundits need to stop assuring us that idiots make good Presidents. We all need to stop buying into the Culture of Sports. Yeah, yeah, I'm glad the Red Sox won the Series. But as that great philosopher and left fielder Manny Ramirez said, it wouldn't have been the end of the world if they'd lost.
In the short run?
My modest proposal?
Want to improve reading and writing scores? Teach students to diagram a sentence, have them memorize and recite poems and speeches, devote sixth grade English class to teaching grammar. Bring back penmanship classes and copy books! Sure, it's all boring and rote but it gets into their heads the structures and sounds and rules of the language.
Then send them out on the playground for an hour to run around and scream to get their frustration out of their systems.
I'm ranting. I'm sorry. I can't help it. It's Monday. I hate school days.