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Volume III, Number 7, Summer, 2005

No More Recess:
The New American Sweatshop

By Jamie McKenzie (About author)

We have a new American Sweatshop emerging as NCLB causes many school districts to take drastic measures like eliminating recess for elementary children.

It is hard to believe that school leaders would betray what we know about learning, physiology, psychology and wellness just because the federal NCLB hammer is poised to smash down on schools.

Eliminating recess, silent reading and other important aspects of elementary education is folly of the first order.

Whatever happened to the idea of educating the whole child?

The current national educational policy is narrowing the focus of the curriculum for millions of children so they end up with a lean diet of basics and a pressurized daily grind that is like life in an 18th century factory.

While the Secretary of Education claims to have the best interests of children in mind, she and her allies are responsible for drastic changes in the culture and practices of schools that will eventually be proven unhealthy, unwise and damaging. Sadly, it might take a decade before Congress awakens to the damage it has set in motion.

Schools are not factories, nor are children factory workers, but some reformers think otherwise and seek to impose working conditions on little children reminiscent of 18th and 19th century sweatshops that put small children through long days with short bathroom breaks.

Schools in mammoth Clark County, Nevada, the school system that surrounds and serves Las Vegas, ended the longstanding practice of granting recess to children at elementary schools. Click here for the article.

According to "Recess: Is It Needed in the 21st Century?"

The reduction of recess breaks in schools is a growing trend in elementary education. According to one advocacy group, "Nearly forty percent of the nation's 16,000 school districts have either modified, deleted, or are considering deleting recess" (cited in NAECS/SDE, 2001, p. 1).
The Congress is fond of recess. Can you imagine our federal lawmakers joining the example of Clark County by banning recess for all Senators and Representatives?
Given the drastic measures being imposed on schools across the land, one would expect that there was some basis in research that might justify those measures, but we are engaged in a colossal series of experiments that carries huge risks while providing no credible research data to justify the damage.

Unhappy with the civilizing impact of public schools on new populations entering the USA, right wing ideologues have concocted a plan to narrow the focus of schools to just a few chores - the teaching or reading and math. The result? A cadre of new employees capable of nothing more than entry level, low wage jobs.

Even the teaching of reading and math for this program has a narrow focus that does little to develop thinkers and problem solvers. It is about drill and memory.

The plan starts with a threatening testing program that punishes any school that fails to narrow its focus.

There is no escape.

Ironically, the upper middle class parents of this nation would never allow their children to sit through classes dominated by such a narrow agenda.

Even though most Americans subscribe to educating the whole child, NCLB proponents have seduced many to adopt a factory style approach to learning and schooling that does just the opposite.


Recess - An AskERIC Response - May 2003 - Question: "What can you tell me about the importance of recess in elementary education?"

"Recess: Is It Needed in the 21st Century?" - Rachel Sindelar
2002 (Last updated July 2004)

© 2005, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved. This article may be e-mailed to individuals by individuals, but all other duplication, distribution, publication and use is prohibited without first receiving explicit permission. Contact for information.
Volume III, Number 4, April, 2005