Nothing gets me angrier or more upset than hearing that students in the Bronx, and other high needs communities, have almost no access to physical activity during their school day, both because they lack gym access and school teams, and because schools are now now using recess and gym for test prep because they fear being closed or subject to outside "intervention" if their test scores should go down
only does this hugely magnify health issues among students, ranging
from obesity to circulatory problems, it has an even more negative
impact on student behavior and academic performance. Asking young
people to go through entire days sitting in their chairs, devoid of any
regular physical outlet, is to ask them to do something entirely
unnatural for any human being, much less a child. It will make students
restless, make them angry, and inhibit their ability to concentrate on
the material authorities want them to master. And though an emphasis on
improving test scores is often promoted as a vehicle to promote
educational equity, having test prep dominate the school day to the
exclusion of physical activity, or artistic expression, is a
prescription for long term academic disaster.
something I know from first hand experience as well as the available
academic research. I could never have had the patience to sit for hours
doing historical research, something I started doing in high school and
began to adopt as a regular routine in college, had not I gone through
an extremely demanding regimen of physical activity. In high school,
that consisted of daily gym class as well as being on a school team; in
college it consisted of playing two hours of basketball several evenings
a week after having tennis team practice every afternoon. It was that
expenditure of energy that allowed me to spend three or four hours in a
library at a time; the activity which ultimately became the basis of my
career as a scholar and teacher. There is no way I could have done that
without huge opportunities for physical release.
pains me to think that there are brilliant young people all over this
country whose intellectual or artistic potential is being squandered
because their schools give them no exercise opportunities whatsoever!
To put the matter bluntly, I would never have become an historian if I
had to go through school with little or no exercise the way many Bronx
youngsters do today. I might have even ended up in jail, because I
would have been so angry and restless that I would have done something
We are doing a terrible thing to our children by denying them exercise.
This has to change and change now, even if it means a moratorium on
testing. Come to think of it, that may be exactly what we need.
James Brown spoke for millions of children, including me, when he said "
I have ants in my pants and I need to dance." That is a fundamental
human need which current education policy makers are suppressing in
their panic to raise test scores.