Softening children continues apace

They are scraping the bottom of the barrel to find cowardly, clueless school administrators, aren’t they?

Children at the Oakdale School here in southeastern Connecticut returned this fall to learn that their traditional recess had gone the way of the peanut butter sandwich and the Gumby lunchbox.

No longer could they let off their youthful energy — pent up from hours of long division — by cavorting outside for 22 minutes of unstructured play, or perhaps with a vigorous game of tag or dodgeball. Such games had been virtually banned by the principal, Mark S. Johnson, along with kickball, soccer and other “body-banging” activities, as he put it, where knees — and feelings — might get bruised.

Instead, children are encouraged to jump rope, play with Hula Hoops or gently fling a Frisbee. Balls are practically controlled substances, parceled out under close supervision by playground monitors.

The traditional recess, a rite of grade school, is endangered not only in the Oakdale School here in Montville, a town of 18,500. From Cheyenne, Wyo., to Wyckoff, N.J., recess — long seen as a way for children to develop social competence, recharge after long lessons, and resist obesity — is being rethought and pared down.

In the face of this, a national campaign called Rescuing Recess, sponsored by such organizations as the Cartoon Network, the National Parent Teacher Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Education Association, has taken hold at many schools where parents and children fear that recess will go the way of the one-room schoolhouse.

At Oakdale, Mr. Johnson finally relaxed some prohibitions after a parade of parents complained. Now, twice a week when a parent or grandparent is present, fourth and fifth graders are allowed to play a modified version of kickball as long as the score is not kept. Many parents are still not satisfied, however, saying that such coddling fails to prepare children for adulthood.

“Life is competitive,” said Shari Clewell, the mother of a fifth grader. “Kids compete for attention. They compete for grades. You compete for a job. You compete from the time you’re little all the way to the end.”

Pretending otherwise is pointless, she said. “They’re kids. They are competitive. They can play jump rope and jacks and make it competitive.”

But the principal is determined. “I’m honestly one of the most competitive guys in the world, having coached sports for a long time,” said Mr. Johnson, who has coached youth basketball and softball. “But I honestly don’t believe this is the place for that.”

Acknowledging that the changes caused “quite an uproar,” he defended his policy as a way to build skills and camaraderie rather than competition and conflict, and said that it had nothing to do with insurance costs. He said he had seen too many recesses where children “want all the good kids on one side and they want to win at all costs, and kids are made to feel badly.”

Read the rest here.

It’s unsurprising that, as the administrators get increasingly spineless and political (something it’s hard to imagine happening considering where they started), the teachers get increasingly aggressive in promoting viewpoints inconsistent with public education.

As you know from a post here a few days ago, the above article just touches the tip of the iceberg. At my kids’ school, the official policy is to ensure that the kids never play competitively, and that they never lose. God forbid that they should learn useful skills such as handling disappointment.

I was one of the kids at school who was always chosen last.  I didn’t like it.  The school could have helped, not by destroying the games kids play, but by having an administrator drop in occasionally to give tips about fair play, not gloating, and losing gracefully.  The sports were great; what was bad was that the school didn’t use the fallout to educate.

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  • pacificus

    Imagine the job description in the employment ad:

    Spineless, clueless, but rabidly political, leftist, bedwetting commie symp, tofu-eating Volvo-driving educationist needed for fulfilling postiion as school principle. You will oversee the wholesale destruction of the wee one’s moral world, helping to inculcate the socialist mindset we all envision for our future. Come grow with us, as we expand our union benefits at the expense of the slack jawed, stump toothed, snake handling reactionaries who pay for it all. Rise to the level of our mediocrity!