Two stories, one in the Sun-Sentinel the other in the Palm Beach Post, combine to paint a damning portrait of the way America is raising our children these days. The first, in the Sentinel, is about record levels of childhood obesity in the country. Reporter Nick C. Sortal focuses on the fact that obesity has doubled at the same time more children are participating in youth sports. I've been around little league quite a bit the past six years and can say that a lot of serious baseball families fatten up their kids to help give them power at the plate or more weight behind their pitches, but that's neither here nor there. The bottom line is that kids are fatter than ever. Then, in the Palm Beach Post, Sonja Isger writes about the American Academy of Psychiatrics coming out with a treatise on the important need for children to ... play.
That's all, just play. This dovetails into the issue of recess, a lost outlet in Florida schools. My son goes to Seminole Middle School and he never gets any recess. I hear tales from his gulag all the time and can only tell him that, as a kid, he has to pay his dues. His teachers are also obviously stressed out -- they call here every other day complaining about silly things he's done. "He talked out in class and left his seat for a moment," they'll say. I'm like, "Yeah, so the fuck what? He's 11." I discipline him after the calls, and I'm not completely without sympathy for the teachers' plight, but I know I wouldn't have lasted a week in that school. Why? Because when I was a kid, kids were still allowed to be kids.
The veritable imprisonment of Florida children has gotten worse, of course, since the institution of the FCAT -- which I'm increasingly convinced has done nothing but make school boring and miserable for smart kids and horrifically stressful for those less so. It's time to kill the damn thing. And, while the Legislature is at that, institute a law that says every school in the state of Florida must have no less than 30 minutes of recess everyday. No exceptions.
After the Jump: A Christmas Consumer Tip
Ever heard of Floam? Sounds like a horrible industrialized bastardization from which no good could ever come, doesn't it?
It is, too.
Floam -- billed on TV as a "modeling fun" agent for kids sold as an alternative to clay and play-doh -- had somehow gone under my radar until Saturday, when my son (damn this is a domesticated post -- must be the holidays) bought a small tub for $6.99 at Eckerd's for his four-year-old sister. She was clamoring for it and the boy decided to do a good turn for her, though he was obviously intrigued himself. The first indication that this was a bad purchase came when the check-out woman warned, "Wash your hands when you use that. It can cause bacteria to grow under your fingernails."
Nice. At home, he pulled off the lid and started playing with the bright Neon green goop inside. It's like Slime, only it has tiny Styrofoam balls in it, oozes out all over the place, and sticks to your skin. Think oatmeal mixed with a lot of glue. The boy was like, "This doesn't work very well." I picked up a little of it and a dab dropped onto my leg and got stuck in my leg hair. It was obvious that it would stick to anything -- clothes, furniture, carpet, dogs -- and make a huge fucking mess. My four-year-old had it in her hands and didn't know what to do with it. I took her and washed it off in bathroom sink. She was only relieved to be rid of that crap and would never want to see it again.
My son kept trying to play with it. The only instructions are on the lid: "Mix and Mash before using so beads blend it." But it wasn't getting any better. "They've tricked me!" he said. "This doesn't work."
He couldn't get it off his hands, so we went outside and hosed it off of him. I'm glad we didn't wash it down the sink because I've since learned that the stuff hardens and has been known to totally block the pipes. A news report found that fungus grows nicely in it as well.
So here's the tip: Don't buy Floam.