In an effort to give American students an educational “edge,” President Obama has proposed lengthening the school day, and shortening summer vacations. According to the President, our children spend too little time in the classroom, which positions them at a disadvantage with other students around the globe. Education Secretary Arne Duncan agrees.
“Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students,” Duncan said. “I want to just level the playing field.”
Some parents may be dancing for joy at the prospect of increased time in the classroom for their kids. Others may be happy that teachers may lose their “cushy” jobs and summer vacations. I, however, do not share that mindset.
I well remember my school days. Despite being an honor student, I had a watchful eye on the clock at all times, and couldn't wait to get out of class. By 2:23 pm, the end of my school day, my mind was “stuffed” with learning, and I simply couldn't take any more. The pressure I experienced “back in the day” was nothing compared to the experience of today's students. My son, a high school junior, for example, is learning more difficult subjects at a much faster rate than I ever did. Perhaps that's due to the current mind-boggling technological advancements, but the reason matters little. Our children are under extreme pressure. Rather than increasing education or the appreciation of the process, lengthening the time spent in school will raise the drop-out level, and lead to student and teacher burn-out.
Summer vacation, in my opinion, is not a “perk” for students or teachers. It is a mental health necessity, and anyone who doubts it should try their hand at teaching, standing daily in front of a classroom full of kids of all personalities and ability levels. It's no easy task. Teachers, and the school system, are not babysitters. They should not be expected to supply child-care for parents in need, and when you strip away the rhetoric, that's exactly how many parents will regard increased time in the classroom for their children.
President Obama is aware that his controversial proposal to lengthen school sessions will not be popular.
“Not with Malia and Sasha,” the President said. “Not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom.”
I think he is missing a major issue.
Life is a constant challenge to maintain balance between work and leisure, something we adults have a difficult enough time doing without thrusting the same burden upon our children.
Obama has two school-age daughters of his own - one in third grade and another in sixth grade. He said that he knows that longer school days and school years are "not wildly popular ideas. 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." Obama also proposes opening schools on the weekend so kids have a safe place to go.
I want my kids to like learning, to appreciate education. And if it winds up being a nearly all day year-round thing, they surely won't. What is it they say...absence makes the hard grow fonder?