Thursday, March 24, 2005

Summer vacation

We were walking to the bus stop this morning and David (age 7) was all excited about summer vacation. He was talking about all the things he plans to do this summer.

Summer vacation is a great example of inertia in society. Why do we have summer vacation? According to legend, it had to do with farming. If you look back a hundred years ago, the majority of people in the U.S. worked on farms. Children were an important part of the farm labor pool. So schools let out in the summer when the farm work was most intense.

Now here we are 100 years later. Look at everything that has changed:
  • Only 2% or so of the total U.S. population now works on farms.
  • Child labor is illegal.
  • A majority of families in the U.S. have both parents working or are single-parent households, so letting the kids out of school for any length of time is a major hassle.
  • We live in a highly dynamic technological society that is largely urban.
  • There is a hundred times more information than there was a hundred years ago needing to get crammed into kids' brains.
And yet, millions of kids will be out of school for three months this summer. The entire landscape has completely changed, yet we still have this archaic system of summer vacation. And even if your kid goes to a "year round school," the kid is still out of school 12 weeks a year (in four three-week mini-summer-vacations).

It takes us decades to react to changes in our society. Very sad....



At 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets not forget weekends too! Just because its some multiple of 7 days, it costs me more to ship stuff!

At 12:15 PM, Anonymous michael vassar said...

Well, while we're on the subject, the whole fact that we still have government mandated Prussian style industrial schooling is sad, appallingly anti-democratic, and incredibly destructive. Fortunately children today only have to accept it for part of the year (and not even then if their parents are responsible enough to home-school or "unschool" them, as is now legal in all states and reasonably convenient). I recommend reading about John Taylor Gatto and what he has to say on the subject.
Ironically, while parents feel pressure to keep their kids in school, for statistically disproven educational reasons (data shows far better than average mastery of school cirriculum among home-schooled and "unschooled" children") parents aren't even socially condemned for feeding infants formula instead of breast milk, which has been shown to impair IQ, the measurable part of intelligence. Considering how much important brain damage can be done without harming IQ, this is ghastly.

At 7:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank god for summer vacation! And winter break and spring break. There should be more of these... I just graduated high school but i remember how excited everyone was for those breaks. I agree that some school classes are completely pointless and a waste of time for students, but children should not be home schooled EVER! Schools (especially high schools) are a great place for students to socialize and not end up as home schooled anti-social freaks(which happened to 2 people i know)

At 5:10 PM, Anonymous michael vassar said...

I think that if you simply look at the life outcomes data for home schooled students you will find you are mistaken.
I am not aware of any evidence confirming your stereotype and am aware of much disconfirming evidence.
I basically consider sending children to school akin to imprisoning people without trial based on ethnicity. I'm confident that our decendents will look on it in that way as well.
Out of curiousity, what current practices do others think will some day be seen as not just foolish but as abominations.

At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you ask David if he is willing to discard his summer vacations? Or, if you had the chance to go back to the time you were a student, would you choose to go to school instead of enjoing your summer vacations? I don't think so... ;-)

At 5:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the hypocracy of the "babysitting" justification for public school. If the economy requires that kids be babysat, and their safety requires that they be protected from whatever bugaboos haunt the real world, then we should find school vacations, especially summer vacation, to be economically disruptive and/or chaotic bloodbaths. This doesn't appear to be the case.

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