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[Susan notes: I violated my own rule: Keep letters short. I thought the Times might be interested in knowing that schools dumping children's play time was a front page story decades ago.

They aren't.

I'm still enraged by that Atlanta kindergartner being denied the opportunity to go outside and look for ladybugs.]

Submitted to New York Times but not published
05/17/2015

To the editor

David Kohn's Let the Kids Learn Through Play (May 17, 2015) brought to mind the New York Times Quote of the Day, April 7, 1998: "What's recess?" asked by Toya, an Atlanta kindergartner.

In a front page story Many Schools Put an End to Child's Play, this kindergartner confided to the reporter that she'd like to go outside and sit on the grass and look for ladybugs. The Atlanta superintendent of schools explained why her school had very deliberately been built without a playground, "We are intent on improving academic performance. You don't do that by having kids hanging on the monkey bars."

Enraged by this narrow vision of how children learn, I gathered info about other schools around the country and wrote a book: What Happened to Recess and Why Are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten?

I found that excessive academics don't just deform the school day. They intrude on family life. As parents participate in the homework battle, they forfeit the meaningful family time that is already in short supply. As David Kohn observes, early reading offers no academic advantage to later scholastic success. Neither does all that homework.

Narrowing the school vision to academic performance wasn't a pretty story in 1998 Atlanta, and the situation nationwide is even worse today. I hope that parents will call a halt to academic boot camp and demand more time for lady bug watching and hanging on the monkey bars.

Susan Ohanian


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