July 18, 2019 | 74° F

EDITORIAL: Political game is not child’s play

Mandatory 20-minute recess for grades K-5 is pocket vetoed


Many years later, most of us still have fond memories of recess. When that bell rang and signaled freedom from the small desk where you were confined and forced to sit and pay attention to a long drawn-out lesson about arithmetic, you charged to the playground or the area of open space where you knew you could play and let your creative and social capacities loose. Recess was a brief period of liberation when you were able to associate with classmates and exhaust energy by running around. Whether it was playing hide and seek or watching nature’s little creepy crawlers, childhood’s tender memories happened during those periods of emancipation in between the day’s classes.

Some students, however, are deprived of these fleeting moments of happiness during the school day. When there are budget cuts and increased pressure on academic performance, it’s often recess or gym class that is trimmed away. Students are then subject to sitting for long hours with scarce opportunities to walk around and receive exercise.

A bill that mandated recess is being reintroduced and pending the Senate Education Committee. It’s making a comeback after Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) pocket vetoed the first bill in the beginning of this year. The bill required 20-minute daily recess periods for grades K-5, and during an interview with Fox News Christie called it “stupid.” But it didn’t seem very stupid to state representatives, since the bill was a bipartisan proposal that unanimously passed through both houses of New Jersey legislature. During the interview, Christie elaborated on why he didn’t like the bill, and claimed that it would have forced children to play outside during inclement weather. By Christie’s logic, if there happened to be a thunderstorm or hurricane, children will still be forced to play outside for 20 minutes.

From a governor (quite a lofty political position), you expect basic reading comprehension skills. The bill’s language made clear that it would not force children to play outside and indicated a “preference” for outdoor play “if feasible.” A governor that lacked minimum reading abilities — if he did attempt to read it — is actually the best-case scenario. In the instance that Christie didn’t read the bill, then that’s far worse, as he demonstrates pure inadequacy in completing the requirements of his position. It shows even more, if it wasn’t blatant enough, how his priorities don’t lie in N.J., and the Garden State is merely a second-choice placeholder for grander political aspirations (i.e. presidency or vice presidency).

New Jersey is not exempt from the United States’ obesity epidemic, and we need competent governance that promotes citizens’ healthy development and growth, which is not what we’re seeing with our current governor. A report from the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences recommends that all students receive 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, and the N.J. bill also falls short of this and proposed a skimpy 20 minutes of recess. Although New Jersey has one of the lowest obesity rates in the country (11th lowest for adults), it’s still quite significant when 27 percent of adults are obese, 16.6 percent of 2 to 4-year-olds from low-income families are obese and 10 percent of 10 to 17-year-olds are obese.

The governor, who is far from the paragon of health, is preventing New Jersey children from getting an opportunity to exercise. Health and creative activity are so important, that the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recognizes the right of all children to play. These essential components for children’s well being should be incorporated into New Jersey curriculum. Hopefully the bill isn’t vetoed the second time it comes around.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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