Monday, January 22, 2018


Adults habitually ask young children who they've just met about their favorite part of school, to which the stereotypical response is, "Recess." That was my response right through elementary school and would have likely continued to be my answer had such a thing as "recess" existed in middle and high school. Of course, the adults never accept that answer, clarifying, "I mean, what is your favorite subject in school," because, duh, if adults remember anything about school it's that recess is the best part of everyone's day.

I suppose there may be some kids who would choose, say, science class or choir or math over recess, but they stand out as the exceptions that prove the rule. After all, recess represents freedom and who doesn't choose freedom?

When people ask children from Woodland Park that question, however, recess is never the answer. That's because we don't have recess, or rather, ninety-percent of our time together would qualify as "recess" in a normal school. When ask, these kids might answer, "The water pump" or "play dough" or "painting" or "building with blocks." Some might mention the songs we sing or their friends or even "Teacher Tom."

Humans were made for freedom, we chose it whenever it's offered and rebel when there's not enough of it. None of us like to be told what to do, no matter or age. That's because every second we spend doing what others expect of us, is a second we spend not asking and answering our own questions about our world, which is part of our biological imperative to educate ourselves. 

And all children know instinctively that the best way to do that is though play, which is what we do when other people aren't telling us what to do, like during recess. We all know that animals like elephants and tigers and orca whales don't develop naturally while in captivity, so how can we possibly expect our children to develop naturally when we limit their freedom to a few minutes per day of recess?

The very existence of schools, even ones like mine, is evidence that we are failing as a society because one that truly served our educational needs would be one where children (and adults for that matter) were free to pursue their education without the compulsion that characterizes our institutions. In a heathy society, education (i.e., play) would be incorporated into our lives as naturally as it is into the lives of animals that live wild.

When children say that recess is their favorite part of the day they are expressing this great truth, one that emerges directly from their human souls that always yearn to be free.

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