A Recess from the Diktats


Sometimes we can discern important principles most easily in relatively inconsequential contexts.  Take, for example, Senate bill 2669, which the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity did not consider substantial enough to include on its Freedom Index.

It mandates that “all children attending public schools… shall receive… at least twenty (20) consecutive minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free play recess each day.”  When Republican Senator John Pagliarini (Tiverton, Portsmouth, Bristol) initially stood up against the group-think and voted against it, Democrat Senate President Theresa Paiva Weed (Newport, Jamestown) chided him, saying “How can you vote against recess?”

Let’s be specific.  Voting against this bill wasn’t a vote “against recess”; it was a vote against the state government’s assuming that it is swooping in as the hero of recess to save the kids from horrid local committees and administrators bent on depriving children of unstructured play.

Just so, politicians in their vanity layer on mandates that make them feel good about themselves and give them something to brag about to voters with no strong base of information on which to make electoral decisions.  Rather than observing a problem (no recess) and investigating its causes for factors within the proper scope of their role (like eliminating other state mandates), the legislators go straight from intention (encourage recess) to command (thou must).

Sen. Pagliarini was correct in his first instinct.  His narrow-minded peers may fervently believe that children should have time to play in an unstructured way, but they can’t imagine that their neighbors can live without the detailed list of rules and requirements to which the legislature and bureaucracy add year after year after year.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    supervised, “safe”, and unstructured free play recess

    I have read several books lately, beginning with “state of fear”. Why is it necessary that we be held prisoners to “safety”. Why is the word “safe” even included here. Can we no longer assume it? Difficult as it is to recall elementary school recess, I suppose there were a few incidents that could have been prevented. But isn’t learning “self prevention” part of growing up?

  • guest

    I love it when you write in the 3rd person, Justin. ” the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity did not consider substantial enough”

  • Max

    You know we’re screwed when the GA’s only concern about the state of public education is every kid getting recess.

  • Lance Wilson

    One would think the GA would inquire with RIDE to first check how many elementary schools are not providing this activity to see if the rule was even necessary. That would actually give the term “held for further study” some legitimacy.

    To the extent any school was not providing this activity, my guess is that either it was half-day K classes or a result of the downstream impact of common core/NECAP as a graduation requirement (now since that had been dropped and full day K is mandatory, I’m thinking hardly any schools don’t have recess.

    Also, to the extent a school doesn’t, mandating this is another unfunded requirement as their is either a direct (somebody is getting paid for more time or supervision) or indirect (what will be cut from the schedule).

    Finally, Pagliarini seems like a voice of reason, you left off his quote as stated in PROJO.

    Pagliarini changed his vote: “20 minutes isn’t enough.”

    Hmm..that doesn’t sound like the points in your argument Justin..