In his Remarks on the Youth Fitness Program in 1961, John F. Kennedy proposed that, “The Strength of our democracy and our country is really no greater in the final analysis than the well-being of our citizens.” That was more than fifty years ago. The decades-long trend of increased childhood obesity should be sounding klaxons […]
In his Remarks on the Youth Fitness Program in 1961, John F. Kennedy proposed that, “The Strength of our democracy and our country is really no greater in the final analysis than the well-being of our citizens.” That was more than fifty years ago.
The decades-long trend of increased childhood obesity should be sounding klaxons across this country. President Kennedy’s proposed minimum of “fifteen minutes of vigorous activity daily” was insufficient. Our failure to resolve this issue will likely result in a generation of adults needlessly dependent on an already-strained health care system.
Strong minds are improved by strong bodies.
Simple survival requires the presence of air, water, food and shelter from the elements. The offspring of sentient creatures also require access to time for “play” that leads to the development of survival skills and general fitness.
Both structured and unstructured play time are absolutely essential to the physical, social and intellectual growth of children. Adequate time for play is critical to their well-being.
So, why are we still stuck with a fifteen-minute minimum recess for children in a place called “school”?
For the dozen years since the enactment of the pernicious No Child Left Behind legislation, school schedules have been compelled to strictly narrow the curricular focus to reading and math skills. Schools are devoting ever more of the school calendar to test preparation and test administration because their very survival depends on achieving “acceptable” results on standardized assessments.
Instructional programs, especially in schools serving the socio-economically disadvantaged, have therefore experienced reductions in enrichment programs, recess, and even nap-time for pre-Kindergarteners. Such regimentation ignores the needs of the whole child.
In the current climate of test-based accountability, it will be no small task to allot time in the school day to provide an opportunity for children to achieve the recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise at aerobic threshold required to maintain optimal human health. So far, only a handful of states have achieved that goal.
We ignore that goal at our own peril.
In research released by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2012, too little recess leads to difficulty with concentration and attention span. Conversely, ample recess time in elementary school leads to increased cognitive performance as well as improved physical fitness. Consider this an affirmation of another assertion by Albert Einstein, “Play is the highest form of research.”
Editor’s note: We welcome Kenneth Haines to the Prince?George’s Sentinel. Kenneth is the outgoing president of the Prince?George’s County Educators’ Association and a former teacher. A former columnist for the Gazette and Prince George’s Journal, Kenneth will provide opinions and news analysis on education and other topics of interest within the county.