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Thursday, June 30, 2016
Get Back to School -- or Else!Posted Sunday, August 10, 2008, at 2:52 PM
There is a young man of our acquaintance who sees return to school this week as something akin to Dickens' character in Tale of Two Cities who on his way to the guillotine laments, "It is a far, far better thing I do than any I have ever done." Our young friend begins his senior year at Northview, as most seniors will, under the delusion that something is coming to an end. There is a reason high school graduation exercises are called "Commencement", it marks the beginning of education.
School does seem to start too soon. Growing up in St. Louis from elementary through high school (a very happy 15 summer vacations) the Fall semester never began until the day after Labor Day. Officially this had to do with tourism and vacation schedules. The fact there was no such thing as air-conditioning may have played its part, too.
Summer vacation is said to have come from the need to have kids available for farm work. I know this was still going on as recently as the 1970s. My mother worked in a school down in the Missouri Ozarks where parents would routinely come to school and pull their kids out of class to work that day in the fields. It was so common at that time no action was taken by the school district to intervene.
Every once in a while you hear of another attempt to have year-round school. "We are," the argument goes, "no longer an agricultural economy. Children need more education" it is said, "than in olden days." In one situation this was implemented for financial reasons -- too many students, not enough buildings. The result was some students got their "summer" break in the middle of winter. One would think such a vacation would leave much to be desired. Whatever the schedule which might be worked out, I've never been a supporter of year-round classes on any level. One summer day when driving down a county road I noticed two boys, about 11 or so, walking down the road carrying fishing poles. I don't know whether they caught anything or not, but farm work or no, I wouldn't take summer vacation away from any kid for all the educational "benefit" which might be conjured up. As the immortal sage Opus proffered, a summer is a terrible thing to waste.
As our children were growing up I had something of a self-imposed "rule." Through five kids (and more years and schools than I can count), I always tried to arrange to be home the morning of the first day of school. As I now recall it in the euphoria of old age I only missed once. Hospitalized in Indy that morning I called home -- collect -- to be sure our youngest knew daddy was thinking about him. I always wanted each child to know their parents thought education was important and that we cared about what they did. For the most part my rule seems to have helped (except for that thing about a certain soccer game).
So, Cole, summer vacation is a good thing; but now it's time to get back to school -- or else!
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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