Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer Vacation

I largely agree with Conor Clarke's argument that schools ought to get rid of "summer vacation." As a matter of equity, kids from less well-off families tend to fall behind when they have months in a row with little intellectual stimulation. Perhaps more cynically, one of the major purposes of schooling (society might as well admit it) is to provide a place for parents to stash their kids while they work, and a 2 or 3 month vacation makes things difficult for parents.

Eliminating summer vacation doesn't necessarily mean lengthening the school year, though. You could have a similar amount of vacation time interspersed throughout the year. Shorter vacations wouldn't allow kids to forget everything, nor would they be quite as difficult for scrambling parents to handle.

I'd be somewhat surprised, however, if the teachers unions go for it. I still remember how hard it was when I finally got out of school, and actually had to get a year-round job (I had always worked during the summers, but at least it was a complete change that provided some variety to the year.) About the end of May, I'd find myself thinking, "Wait, why am I having to keep working at this same job? This is no fun. I should be getting at least a few weeks off, and then transitioning to something different."

I eventually got used to working year-round at the same job, of course, but most teachers and administrators have never really had the experience of doing the exact same thing 12 months a year. Most of them have had summer vacation for their entire lives -- in elementary school, middle school, high school, college, and then their jobs. And even if they're doing some kind of work over the summer (say, professional development classes), it's a change of pace from what they've been doing during the school year.



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