A Culture of Doing reaches into Elementary Schools

“Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they don’t know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it.”

Sir William Haley


Remember when you had recess with that funky soft rubbery ball you kicked around and played a random version of kicking type baseball. Or maybe used that same ball to bounce it in that four square thing (which looking back on how could you ever suck at that game?).

Or maybe you did nothing just hanging out with your friends talking about the new video game or games or whatever.

Well. No more my friends.  The world of school for young people has changed fairly significantly as we adults go nuts over “preparing our children for the future.” Its not only technology and “creating digital natives” but the ‘culture of doing’ <kind of a warped nurturing Taylorism”> has entered into childhood. I was reminded of this as i scanned an old NY Times piece: “Forget Goofing Around, Recess has a New Boss.

They (someone in their infinite wisdom) has decided there will be no more sitting around, goofing off with friends or simply doing nothing and, in general, they are reining in recess because they believed it was breeding bullying and behavioral problems. Apparently schools were getting concerned because students left to their own devices during recess “ran into one another while playing, squabbled over balls and jump ropes or monopolized the blacktop while exiling their classmates to the sideline.”

(lions and tigers and bears  … oh my)

So. Now we are paying a “recess coach” who organizes games and activities so there is a more regimented recess.

Ok. Before I say something really stupid and probably wildly inappropriate I am gonna take a deep breath.


(deeper breath)

Ok. This is fucking stupid.

I guess the interesting part to me is that this action is the epitome of what Clotaire Rapaille pointed out in his study on Culture Codes as the essence of America’s ‘code’ which is one of “doing.”  It is a belief we Americans are only happy when we are doing. And, yes, America is a little maniacally unique on this.

In many other countries when they get free time they relax.

In America when we get free time we look to fill it up with something on our ‘want to do’ list (because we, as a country, never have enough time to do all the things we want to do).

Now. This was an unhealthy culture code when viewed as an adult thing (leading to a variety of other issues like stress, burnout, imposter syndrome, drugs, fast food, anxiety and, well, whatever else you’d like to add). Doing, in and of itself, certainly has some positive attitudinal aspects but we Americans have a nasty tendency to attach “efficiency” to whatever doing we do.

That is an adulthood issue we have yet to resolve. But now that we are trying to inject into our children’s lives that it is not okay to have any down time, well, that seems kinda nuts. In addition, so this also starts feeding into their little minds that they cannot manage their own time and always have to have someone do it for them.

Oh. And it also starts teaching them that they will always be protected from bullies in their lives.

Oh. And it also teaches them that they will never be relegated to the sidelines.

Oh. And it also teaches them that squabbling over balls doesn’t teach them anything.

Oh. And, well, I will stop here.

This is nuts. This is stupid. This is teaching our kids the wrong things. In fact it isn’t teaching our kids diddly shit about life. Ok. It IS teaching them something about Life and it is the wrong thing. It teaches them that efficient doing is all that matters and begins sucking out all the creativity and imagination and all the inefficient things random play brings to Life. It makes my head explode that someone, far smarter than I, ignores the long term consequences of stupid decisions like this.

I have written ad nausea with regard to how business bleeds into society and how business needs to accept that responsibility. On the other hand, society (and educations systems) need to stop applying bad business lessons into kid’s lives. Simply because business looks structured as a way to be productive does not mean that being structured is THE way to be productive. Just because business has unhealthily embraced Taylorism does not mean that Taylorism is THE way to not only being productive but how to bring up our children.

Recess coaches. WTF.

What’s next? Nap time Neurological testing? Crazy stuff.

Written by Bruce