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Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

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 kayanddavid@joink.com.


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David:

Yes time for the kids to get back to school and get their heads wrapped thoroughly around their studies. On that point we totally agree. While I also agree that summer vacation is a wonderful thing, it may get harder and harder to justify those buildings not being utilized year round. Our local budget is getting tighter and tighter and while the property taxation has eased off a bit, we are eventually going to have to make up for the loss in some fashion. Sales tax isn't doing it and is putting the poor into a deeper hole. Will we come to a point where curriculum is lost because we are more committed to the buildings and summer vacation than to the academics? I hope not. If you look at a winter or fall vacation from another standpoint, it can have benefits. Might be more fun to go to Disney World in January than in July? Might be able to coordinate a vacation with relatives who work for park service or other vacation industry as they rarely can take much time off during the peak summer months with their children. Then there is ice fishing in winter, skiing, hockey. All fun winter activities...or a fishing trip in the deep south even? Still plenty of time for a kid to be a kid. Right now we have that coveted summer break, but life is about changes and choices. How we choose one day will determine what choices we will have in the future. We have to weigh the trade offs. Both our local and national economy is not very promising right now. Do we trade down our ability to compete even more just to keep the summer vacation? What good will it do if our future taxpayers won't get the available jobs to pay for one...or to pay taxes so future students will have a better chance than they? Something for all to think about. There will come a time when we can no longer can have our cake and eat it too and we will all have to make a choice. Pay up front as an investment for the future of our society, adapt to changing times in order to fit into the changing world, or keep our summer vacation and our funding commitments the same and let the futures of our children slide down the slippery slope. Nostalgia is a look back and doesn't pay the bills. Looking forward to see how we can be that one puzzle piece that will be the good fit for what the world is going to need is planning for success. Year round school isn't an issue right now but I think we all need to think about which way we are looking when we get to the point where we all have to make a choice. Have a good day.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Mon, Aug 11, 2008, at 2:20 PM

Sometimes, we as people, learn more just getting off to ourselves and enjoying life while we can. Kids need time to be kids. I agree with you 100%

-- Posted by Ninesy on Mon, Aug 11, 2008, at 10:24 AM


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