Just 19 Minutes More-Route 91 Tragedy

gard jameson

By Dr. Gard Jameson, PhD, Nevada Medical Center, Board Treasurer

I recently had the joy of watching as elementary students were welcomed back to the playground to play as part of their school day activities at Long Elementary School. The joy on the faces of the children was palpable. Nearby, I witnessed school gardens for every grade at that school. Standing with a group of community leaders was Katie Decker, the remarkable Principal of Long, Bracken and Hollingsworth Elementary Schools. She commented that within a week of implementing the new play program, Playworks, the number of discipline events at Hollingsworth went to zero from 7 disciplinary referrals each day. Before Playworks there were 12 daily health office visits/injuries; after there were 0 to 2 each day!

Also joining us was Jake Via, the supervisor of the program provided by Playworks. He shared that their program is designed to teach kids self-mastery around issues of safety, relational skill, and empowerment, the basic instincts of all human beings. Leadership skills are invoked, as well as learning how to play well, with fairness and equity. The program was sponsored at Long Elementary School by the Nevada Medical Center and the Greater Good Council, a council of philanthropic families. John O’Reilly, Chair of the Nevada Medical Center, shares: “I’ve learned from personal experience and from mental health professionals that play is a critical piece of the answer to many of our social issues, ranging from politics to economics to social behavior.”

It was back in the 1960s that Texas Governor John Connolly asked a young psychiatrist, Stuart Brown to do a psycho-history on a young man, Charles Whitman, who had just shot and killed 19 students from the tower at Texas A&M. This was the first such mass shooting in American history. Dr. Brown’s primary conclusion was that Charles Whitman suffered from a massive deficit of play, engaging with other in a meaningful and playful manner. He was an isolated individual who had very low emotional intelligence. There was no particular motive in this senseless act of violence.

As we search for motives in the most recent mass shooting here in Las Vegas, may we reflect that we might find similarities in the psycho-history of Stephen Paddock. Indeed, if we examine many of the recent mass shootings, from Sandy Hook to Columbine, might we observe deficits of emotional intelligence, relational skills? Might we imagine that structured play might be a beneficial influence in the lives of children?

Katie Decker’s words to me were clear and unambiguous, Nevada needs to step up and provide at least 19 more minutes in the school day for such play activities. The Assistant Principal, Michelle Wheatill, suggested that play opportunities had literally been squeezed out of the curriculum due to the focus on math and reading scores. Could it be, perhaps, that a little more play might actually benefit test scores, along with reducing bad relational behavior both within and outside the school fence?

Nevada needs to step up and make it happen. Just 19 more minutes, please.

If we would honor the memory of all victims; just 19 more minutes, PLEASE!