Breaking news: President Obama’s approval rating plummets in elementary schools around the country.
Why? He wants to steal summer vacation.
Because? Kids get too much vacation already. Luckily, third-graders can’t vote, so who cares if they’re pissed off.
In truth, the president says he wants to shorten summer vacation, implement longer school days, and offer open school on weekends so students have a “safe” place to be. The first two are proven strategies for improving test scores and skills in fields like math and science (fields where U.S. students lag behind most of the rest of the developed world). The latter offers security for kids who might otherwise be hanging out on street corners or unsupervised.
Edgy Girl reads the daily newspaper for sports scores, but a recent headline about Obama’s plan for less summer vacay caught her attention.
“I love Obama. But summer vacation is already too short,” she exclaimed. This from a kid who spent most of her summer playing math games, reading books, and pretending to be a reporter by surreptitiously writing down entire conversations (since forbidden due to new parent-enforced home privacy law).
The boy was even more horrified by Obama’s ideas. He recently asked if he could be home-schooled because he thinks that would leave him doing whatever he wants all day — which it would, because I don’t have the time or the inclination to home-school him.
Of course, our president already knows changing the educational system will be, well, akin to negotiating universal health care.
“Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas,” he said earlier this year. “Not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom.”
Malia and Sasha are in sixth and third grades, and while I hear that having your dad as president can give a kid instant popularity (for the wrong reasons), having dad become the summer vacation Grinch might damage these girls’ street cred.
Jokes aside, what are the realities of our current U.S. educational system? Our system is still based on a once-predominant culture that now exists for only a few — agrarian society. Summer wasn’t vacation time in the past — it was work on the family farm time. But that’s so no longer the case (same with daylight savings time — make it stop, please?) My kids helped weed our tiny suburban gardens a couple of times this summer, but they certainly didn’t need 10 weeks off for that.
Back when I worked in education (yes, I used to have a real job), I researched “full year” school. And I liked the idea. There’s less vacation, but vacation isn’t all concentrated into one steamingly hot time of the year. Instead, kids typically have 10 or 12 weeks on, then two weeks off, 10 on, two off, etc., throughout the year. Imagine being able to take a vacation in October or February. Could be fun.
The research shows that students that get shorter vacations lose less knowledge. Teachers then spend less time reviewing and more time introducing new material. And yes, test scores typically improve.
I also don’t mind the idea of longer school days, provided that all homework becomes schoolwork. Having an extra hour or two of independent work, supervised by teachers instead of parents, appeals to me immensely.
On the other hand, I’ve come to enjoy the slower pace of summer, even though it messes with my work schedule. Not having to jump out of bed at the crack of dawn and get kids organized and out the door every morning is natural Valium for me. But then, I mostly work from home. For my friends who work full-time, summer vacation can be a pain. They have to find camps, daycare, or sitters for their kids — not only time-consuming, but also expensive.
So I’m not sure what’s the answer, but I’m leaning toward agreeing with Obama. The pros of his ideas seem to outweigh the cons. And the Edgy Kids can learn to deal with it. Remember, childhood is not a democracy.
Anne Fitten “Edgy Mama” Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.