Give kids their summers

Atrios and Yglesias, two bloggers who get gazillions more visits than I do — not because they’re better, heaven forbid, but because there’s an all encompassing cosmic injustice woven into the very fabric of the universe.  A thought: Is the fact I just wrote that last sentence actually irrefutable proof that they are, in fact, better than I am?  

Screw that.  It’s the injustice I tell you.

In any case, given that I failed to finish my first sentence above, I should move on.  Atrios and Yglesias seem to agree that giving kids lengthy summer vacations is an anachronism (although Atrios’ position is a little more nuanced). 

Speaking as someone who is way too old to be the father of six and seven-year-old boys but who nevertheless is, I beg to differ.  I would like someone to show me hard evidence that making kids go to school longer produces better adults.  I don’t buy it.  And I personally think that giving kids a break — a few precious months each year when they aren’t as booked up as adults — is reasonable.

I agree this presents practical problems for single parents and working couples, problems that should be addressed through creation of better resources for parents, but the school system isn’t supposed to be a babysitter.

This nation has become enamored with a more is better view of education — more class hours, more high stakes testing, more hours of homework.  I think we’ve lost sight of the real goal here.  We aren’t supposed to be simply trying to produce a new generation of cogs for the use and benefit of corporate America.  We’re supposed to be growing well-rounded citizens of a republic.  And there’s a hell of a lot more involved in that than cramming for tests.     

6 Responses to “Give kids their summers”

  1. Chuck Says:

    I understand that it is a bit of an anachronism. As I understand it it was originally meant to allow the kids to help with the summer farming chores. But, & this is a big but, people seem to forget that play and leisure are learning experiences also. In Japan & China & other places around the world, the focus on learning has become so intense that children, at least up to the age of about 18, have little social skills, other than those they’ve been indocrinated with within the school system. In Japan especially, the competition is so intense to get into University, especially the most presigeous ones, that when the get there they just throw off all that regimentation & party, play videos, neglect thir classes, and generally try to make up for lost time and lost childhood.

    Well I was going on & on about something, when all I wanted to say was, Hell yes! Let the little varmints play all summer and enjoy their childhood. My goodness, what’s wrong with free time? Most Europeans get 3 or 4 weeks or more off from their jobs every year. They travel to other countries, the learn new things and about other cultures. How can that be bad?

    Opps! there I go, getting carried away again.

  2. marmstrong57 Says:

    Amen, brother. Maybe if we let kids actually be kids rather than overworked overachievers, just maybe we could create a better society rather than focusing on a more productive society. Personally, I teach my children that it’s OK to take a day off every now and then. I want them to learn to live a balanced, happy life. If they don’t fit the cog mentality, then I’ll be a happy man.

  3. Larkrise Says:

    When I was a teenager, I wanted to skip a day of school to spend it with a friend who was moving to California. My mother, who was a First Grade teacher, said I shouldnt do it. My dad said it was okay, and stated:”Thirty years from now, you wont remember what you missed at school, but you will remember the day spent with your friend.” He was right.
    My grandson, who is ten, recently had a project in class that was equal to anything I did in college zoology. It didnt take into account that there are limits to the development of a 10 year old’s brain. Kids tend to be concrete thinkers until about 18-21. Abstract thinking is difficult for them, because that part of the brain has not reached maturity. (George Bush’s brain never has.)
    Anyway, age appropriate teaching is more productive than trying to force an early college curriculum, just so the educators(and blame-seeking politicians) can look lah-de-dah. It is all about testing and image these days. But, we arent producing critical thinkers. I agree that kids should be allowed to be kids, too. Then, we wouldnt have half the population on Prozac.

  4. RJHall Says:

    Deciding how long school terms should be kind of misses the real point of what kids are (being forced to) doing during those terms. It’s just like deciding how long military enrollment terms should be without deciding what enrollees should be doing during those terms, e.g. being sent to civil wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (and especially whether those terms can be indefinitely extended!). The latter question, of what the kids should/will be doing during those terms, trumps the former question of how long those terms should be.

    Speaking as someone who is only 40 but still too old to have a 5-year-old daughter (she’s in her second year of kindergarten now, first grade starts next year) as well as someone who went through American public schools with their shorter school terms but whose child is in Luxembourg schools with their longer terms, I’d say the longer school terms are better IF the children are doing something worthwhile at school! I agree with everybody that IF the American standard for what schools are for, training employee cogs in employers’ machines (and that is after all in practice part of what public schools are for in our society….), being overworked and overtested and overregimented etc., is what kids are doing at school, then yes, the shorter the better. But if, on the other hand, schools were REAL places for learning and education and inspiration and well-rounded citizen-building etc., then I would say, the longer the better. Here’s hoping that Luxembourg public schools will be a little closer to that than the American public schools I went to!

  5. bcredle0820 Says:

    I don’t think the kids need MORE days in class, but I have personally seen the benefits of year round school in my training as well as that of my kids. They forget less, spend less time reviewing at the beginning of the school year, have the opportunity to do vacations other than just in the summer when things are hot and crowded. I think ultimately, it is also a better use of school resources having more students use less crowded facilities.

  6. greycat Says:

    I think summer break is a good thing. It may be an outdated custom but without it kids might never notice that the seasons had changed.
    My daughter loves school. She started at a montessori pre-school when she was 3. She is 5 now. Last summer she got upset one night, crying “Mom I miss school.” Now I’m trying to figure out where to send her next year to keep her loving school. I live in a big city with a fairly bad school system.
    The solution to failing schools is not to spend more time there.

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