Althouse has an article based on a study by Cornell University Anthropologist Meredith F. Small about the lack of activity by children in public school:
When we were an agriculturally based nation, American children used to work just as hard and contribute in the same way. But now, Western children are trained intellectually, in school, where they are taught to think about things as the entree to adulthood... Everyone sits quietly at their desks, thinking and thinking, just when they’d rather be out tending cows or weeding the garden. And then we think and think about why there's so much obesity.
Small goes on to state that education has become childcare in the United States and Althouse writes:
If what's really going on is taxpayer-funded childcare, then not only are taxpayers tricked into accepting paying for something they would reject if they knew what it was, but also children are being run through hours and hours of confinement performing exercises that are not honestly premised on benefiting them.
There's also that new study that says sitting is as bad as smoking. Since we wouldn't force kids to smoke, why are we forcing them to sit? We're even giving a lot of the kids drugs to overcome their disinclination to sit. It's like forcing kids to smoke and giving them drugs to help them smoke.
But not to worry, Joe Taxpayer and Mom and Dad! To combat the sitting required by the public school structure, you would think recess would help release those endorphins necessary for learning. Unfortunately, many recess times have been taken away from school schedules to make time for more testing and teaching requirements.
So what is a school to do? To settle down those pesky hormones and growth spurts of young children, some schools are calming those children instead of allowing them to expend energy by practicing yoga. The Wall Street Journal reports:
A three-year-old doing a downward dog? A four-year-old doing a cobra—and then helping a stuffed animal stretch into the same pose? .....Now thousands of schools across the country—as well as yoga studios and hospitals—are adding programs that teach children to do the exercises. In January, Paul Ecke Central Elementary School in Southern California added yoga to its curriculum for 650 students at $20,000 a year. Principal Adriana Chavarin says she has seen how calm and centered students are after practicing the techniques. At a recent assembly, students were getting restless as they sat on the floor. Then a few sixth graders spontaneously led the rest in yoga poses and breathing exercises.
"Every kid in the audience quieted down," says David Miyashiro, the district superintendent. "It's a different language they all speak now."
"It's a different language they all speak now." What language do you think that might be? What happened to children learning how to play at recess, create their own games and learn how to handle unstructured time without adult input? This is an important type of "language" children need to learn in free time. Is the type of "different language" children speak now necessary because they are not allowed to appropriately develop through child-centered play?
What do you do with children who need real physical release to function during the day? Some educators are concerned about this move away from recess. Here's a statement from The National Association for Sport and Physical Education:
"Recess ... may facilitate improved attention and focus on learning in the academic program. Cognitive abilities may also be enhanced by recess. Studies have found that students who do not participate in recess may have difficulty concentrating on specific tasks in the classroom, are restless and may be easily distracted. Recess serves as a developmentally appropriate strategy for reducing stress."
Many districts around the country (such as the Rockwood School District in suburban St. Louis) have reduced recess minutes to commit that time for mandated curriculum minutes.
Are we trying to make children adapt to the adult mandates placed on their day vs nurturing a child's physical and emotional development? Why do children need yoga to relax? Could it be because as recess is diminished, the students "may have difficulty concentrating on specific tasks in the classroom, are restless and may be easily distracted?" Is this a red flag that the daily schedule for children is not beneficial and creating stress? Is practicing yoga truly an acceptable replacement for old fashioned recess?