Preventing Play Poses Peril to Pre-pubescents

Hello Friends,

What a nice alliteration, don’t you think? Too bad it conveys such an unfortunate message. I recently read an article in the Oregonian which disturbed me, and I wanted to take some time and give you my two cents on the subject, and hopefully start a conversation.

The Portland Public School system has actually suggested cutting Physical Education classes for a majority of Portland Public schools in the coming school year. Can you believe that? Apparently, there is something like $19 million dollars that will be cut from next years budget, and since many school have already removed their creative arts and music programs, PE classes are next on the docket. Why is it always about the money? Seriously, whose pockets are being filled at the expense of our kid’s education?

This budget cut could potentially eliminate as many as 65 teaching positions, adding to Oregon’s already high unemployment rate, as well as increase the workload for classroom teachers, who would be expected to “offer students the opportunity for movement and activity during the school day”. It can also be assumed that the number of fat kids in Portland would also jump dramatically, and no one really wants that, do they?

All joking aside, how can anyone think this is a good idea? I am not well-versed in Oregon’s tax system, or the trickiness of macroeconomics, but I think it should go without saying that actively preventing children from engaging in physical activity and play, for whatever reason,  is a bad idea.  Because this is an economic and political issue, it also makes me wonder about the effectiveness of a system that would consider taking such drastic negative measures against future generations. It makes me wonder about the intentions of people who were elected as political representatives, and who have power to make decisions in situations like this that can affect the lives of millions of people. It makes me wonder about the profiteers who will, no doubt, benefit monetarily from deals like this. It makes me wonder about our priorities as a community, and question whether we know what is good for us as a species. It makes me wonder, as an advocate for social justice, why it is always the poor schools who must give up their art programs, and their music programs, and their PE programs? It seems wrong on so many levels, doesn’t it?

My son in currently enrolled in his second year of public school. My daughter is attending kindergarten at a publicly funded school. Knowing that they may not be “allowed” any time to express themselves in a physical way worries me. They are both extremely active, and learn best when they can move around and interact with their environment. Physical play also helps balance their energy levels, so they can sit relatively still and pay attention when they need to. I don’t like the idea of my kids being cooped up all day in a classroom, and I don’t think they will enjoy it either.

So, what are some ways we can fix this? How can the people of Portland, on a community level, take direct action to prevent this from happening to our schools? How do we bypass the bureaucracy of city government and contribute to a positive solution that can serve the best interest of everyone involved? I have a few ideas, if you will please indulge me…

1. As parents, or rather, anyone who cares about the physical and mental well-being of a child, we should take some responsibility and make a concerted effort to play with out kids more. Spend time as a family, being active and engaging life on some physical level.

2.  Re-evaluate our methods of mass education and socialization, and see if there aren’t some changes we could make that might be more positive for children who  populate those systems. Perhaps we are not teaching our children in the most effective manner, and perhaps the content of what we are teaching them is not as interesting or intellectually stimulating as it could be. Perhaps, by conforming to some kind of standardization, we are killing their creative spirit, and showing them a skewed way of interacting with the world around them. We need to change all that right now.

3. Change the method of government and economics we practice in consumer capitalism. How is possible that our teachers are paid so little, given the significance of their job? How is it possible, that we cannot tax ourselves appropriately to ensure the community has access to such simple amenities as health care, decent education, and livable wages? How is it possible that the people elected to represent the rest of the community can offer legislature that would surely lead to negative, unpleasant effects for their constituents? We need to change all that right now.

What are your thoughts? Is this happening in other places as well? Do we see this as part of a growing trend of behavior? Are there simple solutions we are not implementing that could prevent scenarios like this? Drop a comment and let me know what you think. Until next time…


One thought on “Preventing Play Poses Peril to Pre-pubescents

  1. Assuming you meant play with OUR kids instead off play with out kids, I agree 100%. Not every family can afford alternative education options. My circle out here talks a lot about unschooling, but that requires some parental figure to not work outside the home and have the creativity, resources and ability to pay close attention to the child’s interests 24/7. It requires less structured (good), child-led (better), organic (best) learning that, in theory, while be remembered by the learner. While it looks good on paper, like I mentioned above, not all families can afford to not work, have access to the resources for knowledge enrichment, or were equipped by the broken system to even know how to learn simply to quench our curiosity. For that matter, curiosity itself is lacking in our culture. I for one dont know how to foster creative, curiosity driven learning in a child without the freedom of movement.

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