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In Praise of Recess

Updated on April 30, 2010

I've always been in favor of recess. I don't know anyone who isn't. Everyone loves recess. Kids love recess, teachers love recess. I think the only people who don't like it are those poor souls who are forced to be recess monitors. I only know one person in the world who can handle recess, and at a private school at that. I think she was once a prison warden. Either that or she was in prison. You gotta be that tough.

As all of us remember, recess was the only time we could let loose. Anything and everything you held dear happened in that magical fifteen minute interlude. Recess brightened up an otherwise dull and oppressive day in the grind of elementary and secondary education. Teachers everywhere breathe a sigh of relief when the recess bell rings, because it's their chance to go into the staff room, smoke a quick one and bitch about their young charges. Really, wouldn't they be better off if they just ran around outside with the kids?

After all, recess is, essentially, freedom. What did you do at recess? You ran around, you ate, you solved and created social problems in your personal soap opera  -  -  that fifteen minutes of fame you had with your peers in which to mess or fix up your social life. Who cared about the rest of the day? Recess, that's where the action really happened. If you were one of the unfortunates who was biologically programmed to use the bathroom at recess, then alas, you made but a brief appearance in your daily soap. If you were lucky or had an especially large bladder, you could defer and excuse yourself to the bathroom during a commercial break.

A girl in my sixth grade class, who was very beautiful and aloof, was forever kicking boys in the shins at recess. Those shameless love - pups would chase her around the schoolyard, pull her braids and tease her and she would turn around and thwack them in the shins. She was a future field hockey player. And clogs were in, you dig? This girl literally left a throng of bruised and lovestruck boys in her wake.

Girls would spend a lot of time on the playground running from the boys who would try to pull their skirts up to see if you were wearing the right "day - of - the - week" underwear. Little girls would wear those standard sundresses with the ties on each shoulder and the chest crushing elastic (the only outfit good for late bloomers, excellent camouflage for flat chests). My classmate Jenny was once ambushed by a trio of testosterone  -  -  one lad unstrung each shoulder and in a beautifully - timed maneuver the third pulled her dress all the way down to her ankles. But Jenny had outsmarted them. She was wearing shorts.

My friends and I always viewed recess as a kind of rehearsal for real life. When we grew up, every minute would be recess, and we could run around and swing and slide and be free forever. Little did we know that we'd grow up and get real jobs and find that recess no longer existed.

Why don't we have recess anymore? Sure, in theory anytime you're not working it's recess, but all grown - ups know that's a lie. There's homework, housework, relationship - work, overtime, taxes, parking tickets, then, if you actually have kids yourself, you'll be lucky that they'll tell you about what they did at recess.

If we actually had recess as grown ups, wouldn't life be better? We'd be able to depend on fifteen minutes a day with no phone calls, faxes, beepers or meetings. We could all run around outside our offices and workplaces eating Bugles and pretzels from ziplock bags. And these days modern technology being what it is, they have the really cool bags with the yellow and blue lines that merge to make green when they're closed properly. Now that's progress.

Recess should be instituted internationally. It could significantly cut down on crime, war and all that other horrible stuff that grown - ups do because they don't have enough time to play. Our world has become so fun - deprived. Why not make recess law? Then we'd all have at least a quarter of an hour in which to let loose, run around chasing each other and pulling the braids of people we like.

Hey, it beats the alternative.


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