21 June, 2006

Let's Talk About Summer Vacation

In case you hadn't noticed, we no longer have an agrarian society. Johnny doesn't need to have the fertile months free to help in the fields anymore. So why do we still have summer vacations in the school year? Yes, the nostalgia for long hot days stretching endlessly is nice. But how many of the kids are swinging over lakes on old tires and drinking Country Time, or playing jacks in the sand by the side of the road? I'm betting that Kids Today® are either in day care or some other societal veal pen just marking time until the next life event. They're not picking strawberries or corn or whatever the farm kids picked 50 years ago. After these 8 weeks of leisure they'll go back to school where a teacher will have to refresh them, they'll have to relearn study habits and adjust their sleep schedules back to early-rise mode. Then they'll grow up to work in an office where they're expected to show up 350 days a year, regardless of the weather. And they'll probably sit in the cube next to mine and whine about how they have to work during the summer and that isn't fair and maybe they'll just become a teacher.

Is this what we've made out of our society? That some people actually become teachers so that they can continue to enjoy summer break? Forget the molding of young minds. I'm in it for the extended tanning time by the apartment complex's pool.

Since I don't have kids of my own it does seem kind of lopish for me to have an opinion about changing the school year, but I do. I've watched too many "kids" come out of school and into the workforce with absolutely no appetite for working from June to September. And why would they? They've spent their formative years being programmed to accept those months as extended holidays. A year-round school system offers families the same amount of together-time, but more evenly spaced. It's easier for teachers to stay on top of the material, because the kids retain it better. It creates fewer problems for working parents who have childcare issues. Above all it better prepares kids psychologically for their eventual adulthood.

So let's do it.


At 6:27 AM, June 21, 2006, Anonymous Lesley said...

Let's not.

For one, there are still some kids who live on farms. I actually know several people who grew up on farms and still have relatives working them (this is not just a Tennessee thing--one of my friends is from Iowa). My cousin in Arkansas spent summers chopping cotton (and probably still is).

For two, a lot of people depend on the summer vacation. My company and other resort companies make most of our profits in July of every year and we depend on summer vacations. Other industries depend on the summer break as well (think of all the camps!).

Third, whereas there's an argument to be made about the catching-up thing at the beginning of the school year, I think it has lessened as the summer has shrunk. When I was a kid, school let out just after Memorial Day and started after Labor Day; I think it's about 3-4 weeks shorter now. But many kids use the summer to catch up from the previous year and others use it to get a jump on the next year or use it to otherwise supplement their education (I spent summers in art classes and/or in band sessions). Those opportunities would be lost.

But, like you, I don't have kids, so I don't feel like I have much of a say and I suppose if I did have them and I didn't like the school administration, I could just home-school them, but I still think getting rid of summer is a bad idea.

At 8:14 AM, June 21, 2006, Anonymous sbk said...

You might not have kids but you do financially support the school system. Please feel welcome to have an opinion.

At 9:54 AM, June 21, 2006, Blogger Chance said...

If only kids could still work in the coal mines. It's good for them. Puts hair on their chest.

At 10:18 AM, June 21, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Man, Lesley. Quit trying to make me think. Geez.

For one, there are still some kids who live on farms.

In Metro-Davidson? Sure, school districts that are heavily farm-populated should stay the same. They know who they are. But I doubt they're in Metro Nashville.

For two, a lot of people depend on the summer vacation.

Truer words were never spoken. Even in a year-round system there are summer breaks. It's just instead of all 8 weeks off being in the summer they redistribute 4 of the weeks evenly across the year. So there would still be a month off in the summertime.

But many kids use the summer to catch up from the previous year and others use it to get a jump on the next year or use it to otherwise supplement their education

That's a very good point. I spent one summer trying to rectify an abysmal Algebra grade. (It worked.) Still, the summer session can be as short as the summer itself. My algebra class was only 3 weeks.

At 11:03 AM, June 21, 2006, Anonymous sbk said...

What about high school kids who use the summer to get a job? Some of those kids need that money.

At 12:18 PM, June 21, 2006, Blogger dolphin said...

What about high school sports? I know very little about them, but I've heard people in the know discuss how year-round schooling could create a situation in which sports regulations and rules would have to be completely scrapped and recreated from scratch.

Also, I think the concerns about summer jobs are valid, not only for the students but the employers. Places like Busch Gardens (open only during the summer) absolutely MUST have high school students to fill their employee positions or they risk closing their doors (the bulk of people who take those kinds of jobs are high school kids or retire folk, and retired folk can't spend the time in the sun).

I'd be a bit more open to seeing elementary/middle schoolers in year round school, but the logistics of year round high school make it, at the very least, a daunting proposition.

At 12:59 PM, June 21, 2006, Anonymous Sarcastro said...

Let's look at the pros and cons so far regarding year round school.

Easier on working parents who can't afford all day child care.
Improved test scores due to less time spent reviewing last year's material.
Increased competitive advantage and academic improvement.

The 4% of Americans who work in agriculture will have their traditions ignored.
High school sports will need to be reorganized.
Busch Gardens will suffer a staffing shortage.

That about right?

At 1:00 PM, June 21, 2006, Anonymous Lesley said...

Well, I didn't know you were just talking about metro schools.

A month summer break? The beaches and theme parks are already crowded enough during the summer; I can't imagine what it would be like if everyone were there in just July every year. And getting people to go in other seasons doesn't always work.

Also, it seems to me that it would be more difficult to arrange for childcare/camps/etc for one-month intervals all year round than for 8-10 weeks at a time, but I could be wrong. Most of my summers were packed with trips to grandparents houses, camps, and school.

Dolphin brings up a good point about the sports schedules, too.

At 1:35 PM, June 21, 2006, Blogger SistaSmiff said...

I'm still not over the fact that my teen and almost teen are sleeping in til noon whilst I continue my rising at 5:30 routine....That said, I think the break does them good. I don' know why i think that's a good thing. Lord knows my kids don't lift a dang finger all summer.

At 2:32 PM, June 21, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Sarcastro, as usual you make me laugh.
Because that does seem to be a distillation of the argument from where I sit.

I'm not sure why we're worried about propping up the economies of summer theme parks at the expense of the larger economy.

Yes, Lesley, I'm talking for the moment only about Metro, because Metro is where I live and what I know. As far as this type of philosophy hurting industries like yours, I would assume that the reverse would be true.

It's sort of a chicken-and-egg thing. Your biggest season is the summer. Probably because that's when the kids are out of school. But if we change when they're out of school, wouldn't that change your season?

sbk mentioned in the Disney post from yesterday that there are places (WDW in her example) that suck in the summer time. I bet families would clamour to take kids to such places during an extended 2 week fall break.

As far as high school sports...not buying it. They had to reorganise due to Title IX, too, but they survived that okay.

At 3:00 PM, June 21, 2006, Anonymous Lesley said...

Actually, our biggest season is summer mostly because that's when people want to go to the beach. Most beaches north of the Florida peninsula. I've been in Destin in January and unless you're a geezer from Minnesota, it's no place to be. Nobody's in the gulf, I can tell you that.

That just gave me a great idea--I should get the AARP in on this. Their constituents don't want to lose their winter havens to kids and higher prices!

Hey, I'm just trying to protect my job, y'all.

At 3:04 PM, June 21, 2006, Anonymous Sarcastro said...

Rutherford County seems to be doing quite well with year round school. Check out the calendar here:

At 5:06 PM, June 21, 2006, Anonymous Lesley said...

Sar, thanks for the link (I've tried to hit up the CVBs for school schedules, but they're dragging). But, um, 11 weeks or so of summer break doesn't really seem like "year-round" to me. That's assuming they got out around May 30 of this year and using August 14 as the start date (first full day).

Eleven weeks is plenty of time for me to make my salary.

At 5:46 PM, June 21, 2006, Anonymous Sarcastro said...

Lesley, you should just go for each county Board of Ed. The CVBs are going to care less.

Year round school still consists of 180 school days, it is just spread out a little more evenly.

I was a traditionalist about this until working parents and teachers told me that my nostalgia for long, lazy summers didn't trump their real world practicality.

At 7:16 PM, June 21, 2006, Anonymous sbk said...

Gee, if the Rutherford Co calendar is an example my kids in private school here ARE in year round school and I didn't even know it. What a dummy I was to take them to Disney last week...


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