Suppressing Summer Vacation

Obama thinks the school day should be extended and the summer vacation shortened.

It won’t take me much work to write a post about this, because I pretty much already did it, three years ago…

(August 01, 2006) Stopped at a store while driving through Georgia today, and the man mentioned that this is the first day of school for the local children. Googling around, it appears that lots of Georgia school systems are starting classes sometime this week. And the longer-school-year trend is by no means limited to Georgia.

This is really very sad. Children need time to be with their families. They need time to develop their dreams. They need time to learn things that are not part of any formal program.

Educational “experts” will try to justify a longer school year with the argument that “there’s just so much more to know these days.” Such claims are highly exaggerated. The truth is, most public K-12 schools make very poor use of the time of their students. They waste huge proportions of the millions of hours which have been entrusted to them–waste them through the mindless implementation of fads and theories, waste them through inappropriate teacher-credentialing processes, waste them through refusal to maintain high standards of performance and behavior.

When an organization or institution proves itself to be a poor steward of the resources that have been entrusted to it, the right answer is not to give it more resources to waste.

Just a few points to add to the above:

1)I can’t imagine anyone with less moral authority than a leader of the Democratic Party to demand that kids hand over an even higher proportion of their lives to the public school system. It is this party that has resolutely blocked any meaningful reform of the system, either via serious performance standards or via enablement of large-scale competition.

2)Once again, we are seeing Obama demonstrate a far greater interest in expanding the power of government than in making more productive use of the powers and resources it already has. I’ve sometimes encountered people like this in business–the guy who unceasingly lobbies for a larger organization, but has little interest in making effective use of the resources with which he has already been entrusted. Occasionally such people get promoted a couple of levels before they self-destruct: almost never do they contribute anything useful to the larger enterprise.

3)It seems Obama will not be happy until every moment and every activity, throughout the life of every individual, is under the control of a government official.

12 thoughts on “Suppressing Summer Vacation”

  1. Easy enough to belittle the entire school system or in fact any other enterprise, but what can you offer that is positive, worthwhile, a change that might be tried–with of course some ideas on funding–rather than simply making fun of those who would fix things? And of course, for those of us not believing in The State, there is always the option of home schooling…try this and ignore the larger mess. In sum: go your own way.

  2. Unfortunately, many families are now doing just as poor a job of raising children as the schools are in educating them.

    Solid and intact family units are now compelled to defend themselves against the indoctrinations that take place in public school systems and to avoid the horrible behaviors – bullying and threatening – of those students from dysfunctional ones. Making good kids spend more time in school won’t help at all. Making dysfunctional kids attend more school won’t help.

    In the end, this will only benefit the teachers unions, who will demand more money for more hours worked.

  3. Public schools = day care. Most families have two parents working. Summer is a pain in the neck. Two parent families want the kids to be warehoused during the work week all year

  4. Home schooling works better than public schools from what I have heard. My wife taught for NY City schools and she is ever grateful to not have to put up with that zoo anymore. The problem was incompetent administrators picked by politicians, which made teaching a difficult and thankless task.She loved the job, when she was allowed to teach and given proper support,which wasn’t often. Fact is ,it is not about the kids and never will be under the present regime in big cities-it is about politicians buying union support.
    This can no more be reformed than Communism-let it be replaced by private schools.
    Fact is sh*t rises to the top in politics and then contaminates everything else.

  5. Children need time to be with their families.

    The state is their family and Barack Hussein Obama is their father.

  6. anon..”but what can you offer that is positive, worthwhile, a change that might be tried”…there are plenty of “ideas” on how to improve the schools, many of which are just basic common sense and don’t really even deserve the label “ideas.” Like allowing incompetent and even criminal teachers to be fired without multi-year appeal processes. Like allowing teachers and administrators to remove repeatedly-disruptive students. Like breaking the stranglehold of the education schools and their bizarre theories du jour.

    “with of course some ideas on funding”…not all improvements require additonal funding, and the public schools are now spending on a truly massive scale. As I suggest above, one pretty sure indication of an inadequate executive is that he is perpetually focused on gobbling up more resources than on effectively using the resources he already has.

  7. I think I have to agree that the primary motivation for this is to use schools as daycare. Certainly, the summer vacation is a problem for poor families especially single parent families. Unfortunately, it says a lot that we allowed our sense of individual, family and community responsibility to degrade to the point where we view schools primarily as places to warehouse children.

  8. Some time ago, when I was still listening regularly to NPR, I think I recollect hearing a story about an inner-city public school which was moving along the lines of having their pupils stay to all hours, and even sleep on the school grounds, because their pupils’ families were so disfunctionally horrible that the school itself was their only hope for having something resembling a calm and organized and supportive presence in their lives.
    I think it may have been about the same time that I read about an author-commentator-minor-intellectual presence who wrote about living in an orphanage; it wasn’t anything like having a functional family – but that was his point; the orphanage provided a stable and supportive presence, adult mentors worth patterning themselves after, a fairly good education, and a reliable grounding. No, it wasn’t like a loving and supportive family, but it worked well enough for him and his fellow orphans – most of whom weren’t technically speaking, orphans – just offspring of parents of parents, who for one reason or another, couldn’t cope. I wondered at the time, if the school authorities at the first, were trying to provide something of the second with their school.
    About this time, I took a long holiday with my then-elementary-school-aged daughter, during the middle of the school year. 3rd grade, I think – and this was a two-month long holiday back in CONUS, at my parents’ house. She had lessons from her school-books, taught by myself or my parents for a couple of hours a day, and returned to her classes at level. I thought it was purely amazing; but she had the complete tutorial attention of one person, for maybe two hours a day, which apparently bettered the attention of one person, split among twenty students for six hours a day.
    If it it been possible for me, I would have home-schooled her, at least until high school. (It wasn’t – I sent her to a strict and old-fashioned Catholic girls’ school, instead.)

  9. In NC and Washington, some of our year-round school systems offer 3 three week breaks and 1 2 week break. This seems ample time for children and their families to enjoy time together. I also agree its more about daycare for some parents. What is good is that for children whose parents are not doing anything special or can’t afford to go on vacation (or are unable to because of work commitments), the schools maintain local volunteer programs on campus that allow for some transition teaching (i.e. shifting from pre-algebra to algebra, from early US history to post-Civil War history, etc.) and skills reinforcement (i.e. writing clubs, math competitions, self-paced computer modules, etc.).

    I don’t agree with the Feds getting in on the act like this, but in states that do this, if they do it right, it can give MORE time for kids with their families (by halving the summer and adding in an extended break in the fall and late spring) and also improve the education situation not only for low to low-mid SES students but also the better off.

  10. I’m sure you all know about the “achievement gap” between poor and rich kids. I’ve seen a few studies showing that one of the major factors is that rich kids often go home and do educationally valuable things (museum trips, scouts, etc.) and therefore spend more of their total time learning. In contrast, poor kids generally go home and do things that have no educational value. Just by extending the school day for poor kids at certain schools, the gap narrows substantially; IIRC there was a post about that here on Chicago Boyz not that long ago.

    Mind you, I’m not saying an extended school day or extended school year is a good idea overall. Working with the public schools as much as I do, I know the system itself is broken and many of the people it attracts don’t live up to the standards teachers should live up to. Giving a broken system more control over kids’ lives is definitely a bad idea. But if the system itself was repaired in some of the ways David Foster mentioned, then an extended school day or year would be a pretty good idea.

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