The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) just came out with a policy statement entitled “The Crucial Role of Recess in Schools,” which concluded that “both recess and PE in schools promote activity and a healthy lifestyle, and should be a daily break for young children and adolescents.“ Geez, I sure as hell hope so. And there’s more.
According to the AAP, “Safe and properly supervised recess offers children cognitive, physical, emotional and social benefits. It should be used as a complement to physical education classes, not a substitute, and whether it’s spent indoors or outdoors, recess should provide free, unstructured play or activity.” Hold on, is the AAP suggesting that school administrators actually need an explanation of how important recess is? Sadly, yes.
I think it’s absolutely tragic that this kind of policy statement—which has to point out something every parent already knows—is even necessary. But it is. In more and more schools across the country, recess has been cut way back or eliminated so that teachers will have more time to devote to academic subjects. The goal? Improve test scores. Don’t get me wrong—high test scores are great. But at what cost? Is it worth jeopardizing our children’s health?
Plus there’s a growing body of evidence that shows that there’s a strong connection between physical activity and overall school performance and cognitive development. In other words, taking away PE and recess in order to boost test scores will actually create a worse problem than the one it’s supposedly trying to fix.
The AAP recommends that “recess should never be withheld as a punishment, as it serves as a fundamental component of development and social interaction that students may not receive in a more complex school environment…”