The Death of Recess in America – A Documentary by Spencer Taylor

By: GIANNA LUGLIANI

What impact does the American educational system have on the way kids’ creativity is formed? Do our schools encourage or shut down creativity in its students? According to filmmaker Spencer Taylor, the whole way we educate these children is in dire need of updating. In his new documentary called The Death of Recess, Spencer highlights the damage the educational institution has on young minds by forcing them to do constricting amounts of schoolwork and limiting their time to play and experiment with their interests. Even Albert Einstein has said, “it is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”

Starting as early as first grade, an excessive amount of information is shoved into kids’ little brains on the daily, causing entire generations to learn to think in the same close-minded manner. Playtime is limited, with breaks for recess and free time becoming increasingly smaller as they progress in grade level. While school is obviously a place for learning and expanding the mind with knowledge, it is also extremely important to have a good dose of social interaction time in the mix. For a healthy childhood development, kids need time for having fun to be mixed into their studies. The school system penalizes students for being wrong, which can be argued that is an incentive for them to work harder in order to improve, but in other cases, it can be discouraging and too harsh. Lower grades are equated to lesser intelligence, even though that is not always the case. Standardized testing is also viewed as a top priority because higher scores bring in more money for schools, but these are also not an accurate way to measure the intellectual capabilities of children. 

In the documentary, the beginning of the American education system is explained, showing the reasoning behind the way it was set up at its origin. During the industrial revolution, the purpose of education was to prepare young people for a lifetime of working in factories. They would learn how to complete tasks quickly and efficiently, with no emphasis on individuality since assembly lines required uniformity. Although schools have undergone changes since then, the fundamental process of constant fact memorization just to pass the unit test and then move onto the next one has stayed relatively the same. A recent study on this has shown that “that children have become less emotionally expressive, less energetic, less talkative and verbally expressive, less humorous, less imaginative, less unconventional, less lively and passionate, less perceptive, less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things, less synthesizing, and less likely to see things from a different angle.” This is incredibly discouraging and once again shows the urgent need of a repair to the education system. The Death of Recess documentary’s purpose is to find a way to teach kids in a healthier method that doesn’t destroy their individuality or creativity at the expense of fast-paced learning. Spencer Taylor hopes to inform and create a lasting change to the system through this film, which is set to be released soon on YouTube. For now, the trailer can be found by clicking on this link: https://youtu.be/tpna7wOHOpc 

The film is set to focus on the main differences between America’s schools versus schools in Finland, which have been proven to be much better for their student’s mental health. Finland’s “educational system is labeled as the best in the world with school hours cut in half, little homework, no standardized tests, 50 minute recess and free lunch.” A shift like this within US schools would be highly beneficial in the path of reforming the system and creating a friendlier educational environment for children to thrive in.

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