Here is my husbands' guest post this week:
While the media is fixated on under-inflated footballs in the NFL, there are a multitude of bigger problems that should be addressed in this country such as the desperately needed overhaul of our public schools' values.
I really want to believe that public schools can provide my child with a good education and positive skills for life. So far, I'm sorely disappointed just half way through kindergarten. Most of my complaints revolve around the fixation of immersing our students in technology rather than focusing on a healthy balance of technology, exercise, social interaction, and education.
For one, recess has transformed from running around a playground to sitting in a room playing teenage mutant ninja turtle games on an iPad because the temperature is below 40°F outside. Yes, a few years ago a teenager was outside without a coat because she refused to wear it. She got cold, told her parents how mean the school was and now the district made a rule to not let the children play outside if temperatures fall below that magic number. What does that mean? Children here will never have recess in the snow again. No snowball fights or king of the hill. Nothing. The playground equipment just sits there empty 9 months of the year except for the very beginning and end of the school year. To top it off, the cafeteria and gym are split. It's too much work to move the tables out of the way for the kids to play, so instead they sit in their rooms for recess. With the lack of exercise, there has been a problem with disruptive behavior in Paul's class. They don't burn off that excess energy from running around a playground. Most of the children are obese. Again, not surprising, between the poor diets and lack of exercise, anyone would gain weight.
Another big surprise we got this week was that field trips now consist of seeing movies (specifically Paddington Bear) in a theater. Really? How is this educational? Some children watch more TV at school then they do at home, and everyone wonders why our test scores are so low. There's one thing about letting them watch educational programs, but cartoons and mainstream movies. Come on!
The fixation on "screen-time", as we call it, is deteriorating one of the core principles of childhood - learning how to communicate and get along with others. Kindergartners are not communicating with others when they are on their iPads, Kindles, and computers at school - there are no social skills being built there. I see a time and a place for computers, but the saturation that occurs on a daily basis is not healthy. Most kids come home from school and flip on a screen of some sort for entertainment. I remember how sad it was a few years ago on a beautiful fall day; we took a walk through the crunchy leaves and sunshine, and to our amazement their were no children voices or much noise at all on a suburban street in Portland, OR - one of the most "active" cities in the country. No, just the wind and leaves crunching beneath our feet. As we walked, we saw through the windows of over a dozen houses kids playing video games or watching movies and TV. It was just sad.
There are always exceptions and I'm sure some schools around the country do a much better job than here. Our particular school received a GreatSchools.org rating of 6 out of 10 and this district is considered one of the best in the state. We are going to have a discussion with the principal, so hopefully we can post an update with the positive changes that have resulted in the next month or two, but I'm not counting on it. Are we alone here or is this a much more widespread problem?