The idea of shortening summer vacation, a holdover from the United States' more agrarian days, is not exactly new. (In 1915, the New York Times condemned vacation's "demoralizing effect" on children.) But with President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan once again trotting out lengthened school days and shorter summer breaks as the cure-all for America's education gap with the rest of the developed world, bloggers are bringing some new quibbles and objections.
What are they saying? While nearly everyone admits that schools are in need of reform, many argue that American kids already devote plenty of hours to school--it's just that those hours are ineffective. The best reactions:
- More School Days Means More Teachers On the Huffington Post, Paras Bhayani argues that students want education, and wouldn't object as much as some might think. But, he adds, while American children may have comparatively short school days and years, the average American teacher logs more teaching hours than the average O.E.C.D. teacher, and with lesser pay. "The amount of instructional time," Bhayani concludes, "can only increase in a meaningful way if school districts do what they do in other countries: hire more teachers, and compensate them fairly."
- American Students Actually Spend Plenty of Time in School "It's worth noting," writes Below the Beltway's Doug Mataconis, who favors state and local-level regulation of schools, "that the old argument that American children have a shorter school calendar than the rest of the developed world isn’t entirely accurate." He points to a report that American children spend more time in school than their Singaporean, Taiwanese, and Japanese counterparts who "persistently outscore" them in math and science. "Obviously," he argues, "students in those Asian countries are using their time much more productively than American students are, so adding an additional 10-20 days a year to the school calendar isn’t going to help if the time isn’t being used right." He suggests the government focus on productivity, not counting hours.
- Actually, It's About a Shift in Values A reader, ChrisD, of the Detroit News Politics blog also thinks hours might not be the culprit. Here's his personal take:
From his firsthand experience, my father ([a] teacher) drew the conclusion that it was withdrawal of parental involvement from the educational process over the past 30-40 years and a parental shift in perception from "a resource to obtain your education" to "a place to put the kids where they are to be taught something."As long as it goes unresolved, the case will continue to get made. This is exactly the position Conor Clarke--a facetious advocate of cutting vacation entirely--elucidated earlier this summer:
Thusly, the perceived value of the education (something given vs. earned) dropped along with the effort and parental attention alloted to it
[S]ince the case for getting rid of the long summer vacation in American schools is pretty solid, and since the vast majority of American students still have a summer vacation, and since I can take pleasure in being a callous childhood joykill, it's probably worth writing again and again and again.