Remember the glorious fifteen minutes each day you’d get as a young schoolchild to cut loose from your daily routine of being scrutinized by your singular overlord who you saw almost as much as, if not more than, your parents? That was called recess. It kept you sane. And now we’re going to have insane children, because their recess is being usurped by the totalitarian Powers That Be.
Today’s New York Times notes a new disturbing trend in education, wherein children are going to be subjected to harsh discipline and structure via capos “recess coaches.” Meet the people who will turn our children into goose-stepping fearmongers sans social skill sets once considered essential that were gleaned in the schoolyard, where you had to fend for yourself. This is actually happening:
Broadway Elementary brought in Ms. Parker in January out of exasperation with students who, left to their own devices, used to run into one another, squabble over balls and jump-ropes or monopolize the blacktop while exiling their classmates to the sidelines. Since she started, disciplinary referrals at recess have dropped by three-quarters, to an average of three a week. And injuries are no longer a daily occurrence.
Okay, so kids are probably beating the piss out of each other less (good thing) and not preparing themselves for territorial gangland warfare (good thing). What they are not getting: a sense of the real world. Outside of that school, the thin skin we’re letting these kids grow by structuring their playtime will eventually turn against ’em. For one thing, they’ll be more likely to fall in line to a new regime who tells them where to be, when. If you want your kid to be a slave to The Man, get a recess coach. Because otherwise, the truth? The truth is that life’s less Orwell, more Mamet, where the kid who wins recess gets Power Wheels, and everyone else gets fired. And a few people get the shit kicked out of them. The other kids at other schools aren’t getting a recess ref. You know what they’re getting?
Yes, that’s right, they’re getting the shit kicked out of them by the mean kids they’re one day going to have to usurp through sheer moxie and intellect, and they’re going to have to learn this lesson on the blacktop. Just shoving ’em on a schoolyard and letting them go to work. Also, some scientists said something about kids having more of an imagination when left to their own devices. Either way, the full-clock babysitting has to stop. For all of us. Do you understand this? Do you get this? Learn it, kids: You never open your mouth until you know what the shot is. You fucking child.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 15, 2010