Remember when you were in school? If you grew up like most of us, your teachers were usually strict, yet friendly, and recesses were spent out on the playground. It was all about outside, where tougher kids might be playing rugby, fast kids played ball or tag, and quieter kids might read on the grass. It was fun and sometimes goofy, and even bullied kids like me enjoyed the break away from structure.
Nowadays, children don't get to have fun anymore. Kids go to school, come home with piles of homework, are shuttled to ballet and judo practice, and come home and blow their minds out on the computer or gaming machine before collapsing for fewer hours of sleep than we ever had. Twice a week, they see the paediatric psychologist because they're depressed or insubordinate from the poor diet of fast food, Prozac, and little-to-no exercise. Kids get outside less because parents are afraid of the mysterious predator and schools are cutting out recesses under the guise of work proficiency.
In recent years, 40% of American elementary schools have either reduced or eliminated recesses for various reasons. Some cite budgetary concerns, but many believe that the loss of fun time is due to overemphasis on test scores. The problem existed before the failed No Child Left Behind Act of 2009, but recess reduction has gone full-steam. And it's not just in America, but much of the highly competitive western world.
Human beings are not hardwired to receive a continuous flow of information for 7 to 9 hours without a break. This is why most workplaces offer breaks to employees. More comfortable workplaces generally enjoy benefits such as better performance, fewer injuries, better overall mental health, and lower numbers of sick days taken. And it works in a similar fashion with smaller members of our species. Children who have no recess, or recesses-in-name-only that involve more schoolwork eventually crack. An overly stressed out young person may grow tired or despondent, with lower scores being the result. And it's no wonder that we have all of these kids with alleged hyperactivity disorders- while I know some are genuinely related to neurological or genetic issues, I believe that a great number of children are simply energetic and want to run around a field and chase the chickens like our grandparents did.
By inundating children with too much information, too soon, and not giving them a breather, we will create some perfect corporate drones. We can use technology to rot their social skills and then dope them up when they don't fit in or when protest this absolute assault on their natural selves. And of all arguments that can be made, it simply boils down to the fact that all of this is contrary to our very essence. Despite what anti-evolutionists say, we are animals. If you look at the young of all high-order social creatures, you'll notice that they play. We may not always be certain as to why youthful fun affects the adulthood behaviour of various mammals, but it's clear that play produces positive results.
In the western world, we get to choose our leaders; everyone from school board trustees to presidents sees his or her name on a ballot sheet. We have the right to petition our leaders for better and vote for those who have a record of caring for our youngest and most awesome citizens. Education cuts and miseducational policies are human rights violations against those too young to vote. In most states, provinces, and nations, a tax hike of under 2% would overhaul the education system to the positive, provided we get rid of these ridiculous overachievement standards and stop trying to raise a race of bored Stepford stockbrokers.
If we let kids be kids again, I promise we'll get better adults. Oh, and boot your kids outside every so often. I'm pretty darn sure that will help too.