Friday, July 3, 2015

To Teach - or not - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

As we prepare to celebrate America and the idea of independence, I am thinking about the novel that has long been the voice of our heritage for many people. There is no "sacred book" in the high school canon that absolutely must be taught for a student to have a valid experience in literature. Granted, some English teachers believe it to be an abomination to graduate high school in America without having studied The Great Gatsby, 1984, The Catcher in the Rye, The Scarlet Letter, Pride and Prejudice, or others. That is, however, not true. There are far too many great works to determine that any one is indispensable, but it's important to understand and evaluate why or why not a teacher would teach a certain novel.  And, one that tops that list of either "sacred" or "taboo" is Mark Twain's seminal 19th century work Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Growing up on the banks of the Mississippi, I am partial to Twain in a way that many may not understand. In fact, my son's middle name is Twain. In completing my master's degree I was adamant that I take a class called "Twain and the Rise of Realism," and I have taught the novel on numerous occasions to various student populations. It is a watershed accomplishment in American writing, and it offers countless lessons and rich experiences on many levels. However, it remains one of our most controversial choices. That controversy is the heart of a piece of commentary from education writer Kent Oswald who offers "A Dissent on Teaching Huckleberry Finn," published in EdWeek. Now, I am not an adamant supporter of the teaching of Huck, and I respect any person's decision to teach it or not, but Oswald is dissenting and abandoning the book for some of the wrong reasons.

We should not - and cannot - turn away from viable and monumentally significant literary works because they are edgy or controversial or, worse, that "few high schoolers gain any sense of why Twain is revered, [or] understand what the book is even about." Granted, Oswald argues that the book may be better reserved for college level readers, and I don't dispute that.  Unlike Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huck is not a children's book, and I do believe it is wrong for middle or early high school.  And I studied it in both my undergrad and graduate work. Certainly, choosing other works by Twain is a viable and valid alternative.  But we must remember that guiding students through the tough stuff - the ideas and works they won't and can't access on their own - is precisely the purpose of formal education.

For those considering teaching Huck - or not - I highly recommend a PBS video called Born to Trouble: Adventures of Huck Finn. It offers some excellent guidance on the book, the teaching of it, and the controversy surrounding it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

How Generation X Hacked Society

This past week has been an extraordinary moment of progression and change. The recent conversations on race (and relegating the racist confederate flag to history and museums) and the historic Supreme Court ruling which granted nationwide marriage rights to gay couples represent progress toward true societal change with a revision and improvement on traditional structures. And, that idea, of breaking with tradition to see what new can be created, is integral to the "hacker ethos." Obviously, most people associate the word "hacker" with a computer specialist who breaks into and breaks down computer systems. That is, no doubt, the origin of the word. However, it has grown to become synomous with "breaking down traditional walls" in order to improve outcomes. That is what is known as "life hacks," or tricks to improve overall quality through greater access. And, the idea of "hacking life" or "hacking society" or just "hacking" is truly a Generation X characteristic. In my view, the incredible progress on gay rights with the achievement of legal status for gay marriage is the ultimate societal hack. While the "tolerance" among the Milennial generation has long been noted in media and sociology, it is the "whatever" attitude that was foundational to Generation X which ultimately paved the way for a world where such tolerance could grow. And, that's a good thing.

There are so many ways in which the "slackers" of Generation X have hacked society, as they've simply chosen to live life on their terms, and they have never much cared for what anyone thinks about that. Some of the most prominent Gen X hackers who have changed the rules by just going about doing what they want regardless of others saying they can't are people like Elon Musk and Peter Theil and Jimmy Wales. Musk is the ultimate societal hacker for basically changing the rules on automobile manufuacturing and sales at the same time he literally "hacked" the concept of space travel by moving it from the public to private sector. Peter Theil made similar hacks to the economic and finance systems with PayPal (of which Elon Musk was a contributing partner/creator). And, Jimmy Wales hacked the world of knowledge and information access with the creation of Wikipedia. All these areas and industries are better for the hacks of these men. And, it was by "breaking the rules," so to speak, that they hacked society as a way of improving it.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Food Network Star 2015 - Rosa's Sandwich Fails

If you can't talk about food in an engaging way, you will never be a Food Network Star. That said, if you can't make really tasty, interesting food on a daily basis, you won't even have a chance to talk about food in an engaging way. And, that's what happened to Rosa this week, as she was eliminated during the annual 4th of July barbeque episode because her portobella mushroom sandwhich just disappointed. Thanks for playing, Rosa.

So, I am a bit late to the competition this year, and this is my first Food Network Star post of season 11 in 2015. In fact, I had been unaware that the season started, so I just tuned in for the recent 4th of July episode. And, I have to note that I disagree with Bobby Flay's comment that this is "the strongest group of contestants FNS has ever had." If that's true ... well, that's not true. But I am reasonably impressed at this point with a few: Emilia Cirker definitely has "it," as she knows how to cook and can effortlessly talk the talk. She's a frontrunner.  I like Alex McCoy and Jay Ducote at this point as well, though Alex really needs to get some command of his "food talk." Jay is easygoing and can flat-out cook.

I will have to wait a week and see if anyone else rises in expectations. At this point, it seems like Dom is the perfect example of a good cook who won't be able to bring it in front of the camera. No matter how much coaching he gets, he will never be comfortable and engaging enough to anchor a show - and the judges know that by now. The others have their stengths and inconsistencies - as does the show. I was late coming to this season mainly because the last two winners have been so disappointing. And, I have documented my opposition in this post on Lenny, as well as this one lamenting the elimination of Nikki Dinki.  After the last two seasons, the show lost a lot of its entertainment value.

Hopefully, this season will redeem it. And, I hate to say it, but I'm kind of glad that Alton isn't back - his cynicism had just become ... wrong.

So, game on, Foodies.

Friday, June 26, 2015

"Seat Time" at Issue in Colorado School Funding

School funding is always an issue, and who gets how much money can be impacted in convoluted and arbitrary ways. One of the challenges for schools is the dreaded "October count" where schools must prove full time attendance in order to receive state and federal funding based on the number of kids in seats. A more convoluted issue is the question of "Seat Time," or the number of minutes/hours those kids are "in class." And, just how much time is necessary to be considered adequate? How long must the school day and week and year be? How long should a "class" session be?  Is a 47 minute class less effective than a 51 or 55 or 59-minute session?  I certainly have my criticisms of seat time and the Carnegie unit, and I've expressed them before. These ideas simply promote a misguided standardization and uniformity in public education. Seat time requirements are arbirtary and ineffective.

Now, the issue has reared its head in Colorado, as the Colorado Department of Education has ordered the Douglas County School District to pay back $4 million in state funding after an audit revealed that a certain number of students had not met the necessary requirements to be considered "full time students." Thus, the district can't claim full funding. The DougCo School Board fought back this week, arguing these "seat time" requirements are ineffective, and that in many cases, students missed the required time "by seconds." And that's just crazy.

The district contends the students should be considered full-time. Some fell just a few seconds short a day and some graduated with honors, it said. "Our District completely rejects the Department's position as arbitrary, capricious and not the result of reasoned agency decision-making," school board president Kevin Larsen and vice president Doug Benevento wrote. "We intend to pursue our remedies in the Colorado courts with all deliberate speed." Noting that Dougco is often at odds with the department, they wrote, the department's actions "convey the unmistakable whiff of policy retaliation." Citing budget challenges, Douglas County moved from seven to eight periods in its high schools, leading to slightly shorter periods.

Now, I don't agree with DougCo Schools and the DougCo School Board on a great many things. And the information that they shortened the day and class periods because of budget issues can be troubling. The DougCo area is one of the wealthiest in the country, and they are pinching pennies and burdening teachers in an almost intentional way of harming public education. Yet, they are correct in that seat time requirements are arbitrary. And if, as they claim, some of these classes missed legal requirements by seconds, and the students are succeeding anyway in shorter classes, then CDE needs to back off.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Did Generation X Destroy Adulthood - and Is That Bad?

As is appropriate for the "slacker" Gen X-er in me, I am coming a bit late to the conversation about the end, or changing nature, of adulthood in contemporary society - a discussion which was kicked off last fall by astute NY Times critic A.O. Scott in his piece, "The Death of Adulthood in American Culture." Scott initiated a firestorm of discussion, specifically because he conceded a bit of contempt for today's adults who still want to act like kids with their "X-boxes" or "flip flops" or other child-like amusements. Doesn't anybody want to act like an adult anymore? He also deftly anchored his discussion on popular culture, specifically with the death of sterotypical TV men like Mad Men's Don Draper or Tony Soprano. And, he connected the ideas to literary criticism by icons such as Leslie Fielder. It was an engaging bit of commentary, and I like looking at it from the perpsective of generational attitudes, specifically Generation X. The group of people who came of age in a time of low fertility, rising divorce, latchkey childhoods, and a sputtering economy were certainly likely to view "the adult world" with suspicion and contempt. On that note, I particularly enjoyed Scott's acknowledgement of this tradition in American thought. From Huck "lighting out for the territory" and Holden desperately trying to "hold in" childhood to avoid being phony to Rabbit simply giving up and starting to "Run," our opposition to "growing up" is part of the American DNA. This is the basic idea behind the "American Adam" concept, and it might just be that Generation X was the first group to actually have the opportunity to make it happen on a societal scale.

Y.A. fiction is the least of it. It is now possible to conceive of adulthood as the state of being forever young. Childhood, once a condition of limited autonomy and deferred pleasure (“wait until you’re older”), is now a zone of perpetual freedom and delight. Grown people feel no compulsion to put away childish things: We can live with our parents, go to summer camp, play dodge ball, collect dolls and action figures and watch cartoons to our hearts’ content. These symptoms of arrested development will also be signs that we are freer, more honest and happier than the uptight fools who let go of such pastimes

I know for years that my wife and I used to joke about that moment at which we would stop feeling like we were playing "dress up" every time we went out to a nice restaurant. Not sure when it happened ... but it did. But perhaps it wasn't that we really grew up and entered adulthood, but that we simply stopped worrying about what people might think. I do know that it seems like Generation X might be the truest embodiment of the American Adam concept simply because it simply and soundly defied and eschewed the corruption and lack of authenticity that typified the adult world. Lines got blurred because Generation X committed to the idea of choosing lifestyle over career, and we entered all the phases of life, from school to job to home ownership to parenting with the same "fast casual" attitude that came to define our youth and coming age. And, that's not at all a bad thing.
Maybe it was time to give up and let go of the adulthood myth, and Alexandra Petri of the WashPost says, "Good Riddance" 


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Generation X Grew Up - and We're Still Trying to Figure Out What That Means

Most of the writing about Generation X - that quirky post-Boomer/pre-Millenial group born in the 60s & 70s - acknowledges the realities of the first generation of divorce and the first group of latch-key kids. It was a time when kids first faced the possibility of growing up less successful and prosperous than their parents. And, while no catastrophic world events defined the era, it was truly a "Cold War" childhood. Yet, by now the average Gen X-er is in his/her forties, and has most likely casually slid into middle age, going about parenting in the laid back way most would have imagined. So, for the group defined by John Hughes films and Douglas Coupland books, the idea of growing up is complicated.  A couple interesting takes on the idea of childhood and growing up are in the pop culture news cycle now. Philosopher Susan Neiman asks us an important question in the title of her recently published book - Why Grow Up?  Neiman looks to Enlightenment-era thinking to ponder the twentieth-century invention of childhood, adolescence, and maturity. And, critic A.O. Scott offers an insightful analysis of her thesis:

Nor, in spite of its subtitle, is her book a critique of contemporary mores. The “infantile age” she has in mind goes back to the 18th century, and its most important figures are Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant. “Coming of age is an Enlightenment problem,” she writes, “and nothing shows so clearly that we are the Enlightenment’s heirs” than that we understand it as a topic for argument and analysis, as opposed to something that happens to everyone in more or less the same way. Before Kant and Rousseau, Neiman suggests, Western philosophy had little to say about the life cycle of individuals. As traditional religious and political modes of authority weakened, “the right form of human development became a philosophical problem, incorporating both psychological and political questions and giving them a normative thrust.”

Another important work at, perhaps, the other end of the cultural spectrum is the new Disney-Pixar film Inside Out, which is garnering hugely positive reviews from all corners. Lisa Damour writes for the New York Times that perhaps the best quality of the film is its "convincing argument against happiness in childhood." That perception would seem to hit home with the Gen X parents out there.

In other words, the movie begins where most parents begin: We tend to treat dark feelings as unwelcome intruders into the idyllic childhoods we had in mind for our children. At the extreme, we can act as emotional offensive linemen, throwing our bodies in front of anything that may knock our children down and equating a happy childhood with the absence of distress. Pixar doesn’t buy it. And neither should we. Though Fear carries on like a neurotic mess, he’s rightly charged with keeping Riley safe. Anger seethes throughout the movie and often loses control by pushing the levers at the mental command deck to full throttle. But Riley’s success as a hockey player is credited to the healthy aggression that zips her around the ice. While avoiding spoiler territory, I can tell you that Sadness more than holds her own. “Inside Out” doesn’t just stick up for dark feelings, it also recognizes that growing up comes with evolving emotional complexity. We meet Riley as a baby, when her rudimentary mental apparatus delivers emotions that are straightforward and pure. We really get to know her as a preteen when Joy loses control of the command deck and gets lost, along with Sadness, in the now-complex recesses of Riley’s mind, while back at headquarters, Anger, Disgust and Fear jockey for position.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Voices of Generation X - Hughes & Coupland

There is little doubt that the naming of Generation X (those born between roughly 1963 and 1983) belongs to Canadian author Douglas Coupland. Coupland's book Generation X: Tales of an Accelerated Culture was published in 1991 (soon coming up on its 25th anniversary), and the media and marketing communities quickly jumped on the term to define a diverse group of post-Baby Boomers. However, Coupland never intended to be the definer for or voice of a generation. That moniker is probably much better reserved for a man who preceded the generation, but provided the films that held the most meaning for it. John Hughes (a Baby Boomer by age) is the director of the primary films that spoke to, for, and about the kids of Generation X. The characters of Coupland's book represent a specific sub-group of people who, in an attempt to find meaning by choosing lifestyle over career, chose to diverge from the classic paths to adulthood that had defined previous generations. X-ers were a group that was simultaneously defined by and alienated from an ever-growing consumer culture that overewhelmed their identities as it sought to cater to them. That sense of conflicted alienation is nowhere more clear than in the movies that appealed to many different personalities of Generation X. As "Generation X" approaches the 25th anniversary of its naming, and Hughes classic The Breakfast Club passes thirty, it's worth looking back at the man who gave voice to the teens and young adults of the 1980s. Kirk Honeycutt's book John Hughes: A Life in Film is a good place to start. 


Friday, June 19, 2015

Colorado Response to Charleston Shooting - #OnlyLoveCanDoThat

"You cannot banish hate with hate - only love can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

The tragedy at the AME Church in Charleston was another in a long line of senseless gun violence and racial hatred in this country. There will be much soul searching as society responds and reacts to the situation. And, of course, any time a politician acts in response to such issues, the action is in some ways politically motivated. But, that shouldn't diminish the positive response and reporting of Colorado State Senator Michael Johnston's "letter of love and support for the AME Church in Denver."

Johnston "felt compelled to get out of bed in the middle of the night" and tape a note to the door of the chuch. After doing so, Johnston posted an image of the note on his Facebook page and urged white America to “ ... blanket these churches with such overwhelming expressions of love that no one could walk through the doors of an AME church without feeling a flood of love and support from white men whose names they don’t know, whose faces they can’t place, but whose love they can’t ignore.”  He also noted his understanding of white privilege and never having to be "an ambassador for his race" or answer questions to justify actions other than his own based simply on the color of his skin.

Johnston's actions can certainly be seen in a political way, but it's nice to know that he did something. He reacted in a meaningful way, which is far more than many leaders who wring their hands and consult their advisors and wonder what the right thing to do is. This tragedy, like so many, demands that we reflect and question and search. And hopefully some of us will gain new perspective and personal growth from this public loss.

As a white man I have never been called on to be an ambassador for my race. I was never the only person who looked like me in a college seminar when the room uncomfortably waited for me to speak up on behalf of my people, I have never been the one at the cocktail party confused for “the help.” And when America met Timothy McVeigh or Ted Kascinzki or Dylan Klebold I never for a minute worried that their illness said something about me.

Tonight is different. When a white man walks into a church full of black folks deep in prayer at one of the nations historic AME churches and begins shooting, it has the catastrophic power to reignite a racial stereotype centuries in the healing: the seared image of white man as racial predator. I imagine that if I drove through the parking lot of any AME church tomorrow morning I would inspire the locking of car doors, holding your children a little tighter, faces paralyzed with fear, and for good reason. 

That was why I couldn’t wait until tomorrow. The history is too long and the hurt is too raw.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Keeping Score - Profile of a Scorecard Vendor in St. Louis's Busch Stadium

Did you know the "K" used for strikeout comes from the last letter of the word "stuck"?

In this digital age of convenience and instant gratification, the classic act of "keeping the book" in baseball is becoming a lost art. But for a few, the tradition is still sacred. And for them we can be thankful that protectors of the game like Joe Palermo are still standing at post, selling the classic scorecard in stadiums of Major League Baseball. And, we know this because St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Dan O'Neill recently took time to profile Palermo as "Cardinal Scorecard Vendor Joe Palermo Marks 50th Year." 


Palermo turned 85 years old this spring. He began working Cardinals games when the team moved into a new downtown ballpark in 1966 and kept going when it moved into a newer downtown ballpark in 2006. A half-century is a while, no question. Palermo, who also has worked Blues games since the team arrived in 1967, started out in the ballpark commissary. But for the past 35 years, he has sold scorecards and programs. Both the peddler and the product have come far.

Baseball historians have traced scorecards as far back as 1845. English-born sportswriter Henry Chadwick is generally credited with creating the science of keeping score a few years later, the first to use abbreviations like “K” to designate a strikeout. The “K,” represents the last letter in “struck,” or struck out. The first letter, “S,” was occupied by “sacrifice.” Scorecards have been a part of the baseball experience ever since, kept by presidents, researched by historians, shared by parents and their children. Before the Cardinals played the Brewers on a recent Tuesday night, 12-year-old 

Thomas Taylor purchased a scorecard from Palermo. He was there with his mother, Amy Taylor, who introduced her son to baseball bookkeeping last year. “My dad taught me,” said Amy Taylor, of Cape Girardeau, Mo. “I was probably 7 or 8 at the time. My dad passed away, and the Cardinals are a family tradition.”

There is something soothing, almost zen-like in scoring a baseball game. My son learned to score from one of his teachers at school years ago during an immersio study of our national baseball game, and I have regularly "kept the book" at his games growing up, both as an asst coach and just a team parent. My wife has always appreciated when I keep the book because it calms me and keeps me from jawing on the umpires. It truly is an accent to the game, and I've enjoyed attending MLB games with a friend when one of us keeps score, and we discss the craft as we complete it. Keeping score represents true engagement with the game.

Thanks to Dan O'Neill and Joe Palermo for reminding us about the beauty of this aspect of the game.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Bittersweet Pastry Shop & Cafe is Chicago's Best

There are bakeries and pastries ... and then there's Bittersweet Pastry Shop & Cafe in Lincoln Park, Chicago. Judy Contino's high end, classy shop on Belmont is truly a step above the rest, and anyone looking for sweets in the City by the Lake should put Bittersweet on the agenda.




Twenty years ago, we were introduced to the culinary magic of Judy Contino when my wife secured a job in Bittersweet's kitchen. We had moved to Chicago for my wife to attend culinary school, but when she got the chance to work in Judy's kitchen, the true education began. Bittersweet is a truly classy cafe and bakery where the exquiste style and presentation of the pastries is only bested by the rich array of flavors. On a recent trip, we reveled in the espresso ganache tart, the rasperberry ganache, and a strawberry-rhubarb tart. We also brought home a chocolate torte and a slice of the famous "apple bistro," which is a wonderful balance of pastry, apples, and caramel.


It's hard to imagine going anywhere else for sweets, when a shop like Bittersweet is in your town. Judy Contino has been featured in magazines like Gourmet and Bon Apetit, and her reputation for beautifully delicious wedding cakes is legendary around Chicago. Next time you're in the Windy City, make sure to take advantage of the best in pastries.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Cafeteria Worker Della Curry NOT "Fired for Feeding Hungry Kids"

Della Curry is a school cafeteria worker who was supposedly "fired for giving free food to hungry students." I'm a little suspicious of her story ... and so is the Denver Post.

Della Curry has become something of a celebrity, having been interviewed by major media outlets around the country and even abroad. And her story, that she was fired by Cherry Creek Schools for giving hot lunches to students who didn't have the money to pay for them, is instantly compelling.
Except for one serious problem: The district vehemently disputes her version of events and insists she was fired instead for "numerous documented incidents." A classic she-said, they-said standoff, right? Not so fast. The district could divulge details of Curry's personnel file with her permission, and then we'd know the truth. But Curry hasn't signed a waiver. Until she does, her story ought to be taken with a handful of salt.

Since the story broke of Della Curry's dismissal from Food & Nutrition Services in the Cherry Creek School District of suburban Colorado, there has been reason to scrutinize the story of this seemingly innocuous woman and her surprising story. The problem is Della and her story have "gone viral" in an amazingly quick and seemingly well-orchestrated fashion. The story of Della's dismissal made the local news in Denver, and the public perception wasn't helped when the Denver Post lead with the controversial headline, "Cherry Creek Schools Fires Employee Who Gave Free Lunch to Hungry Kids." Clearly, the scintillating headline did its job, for the story has garnered nearly 250 comments, which is rather unheard of for the DP. Yet, the whole story hadn't come out - and still hasn't - because schools are forbidden by law from discussing the details of personnel issues. Fortunately, the Denver Post allowed the district to respond within its legal rights to clarify the issue a day later in the story "Cherry Creek says lunch lady wasn't fired for giving away free food."

Cherry Creek School District on Wednesday disputed claims of Della Curry, a former kitchen manager who said she was fired for giving hot lunches to students who didn't have the money to pay for them. "It is important to share that the Cherry Creek School District has in place a practice that ensures that every student receives a nutritious meal regardless of their ability to pay," the statement read. "Ms. Curry was not dismissed for giving free food to financially disadvantaged students. Numerous documented incidents resulted in the action taken by the Cherry Creek School District."

Certainly, this is a story worth some local attention. But, call me conspiratorial, it seems like there is a well-orchestrated machine behind Della Curry's story - at least behind the national and international coverage. People following the story should note that this is a school board election year, with three open seats on the Cherry Creek board. And, anyone familiar with Colorado and local education issues knows that the controverial board elections in Douglas County and Jefferson County by "education reformers" have used similar issues to divide communities and influence the election of candidates who seem to have decidedly anti-public education views.

Was Della Curry really "fired for giving free kid to poor, hungry children"? It seems doubtful. And, isn't it strange that in a matter of days, or even hours, this "lunch lady" has two Facebook pages with more than a thousand followers, as well as a website and a Go Fund Me page? How did this simple food service worker end up with such a well-crafted media message and "social media" platform that her story is picked up on CNN, FoxNews, ABC, NBC, CBS, USA Today, Good Morning America, Washington Times, and the Daily Mail (in London)? Della Curry is not so savvy, and this story is not so significant, that she and it should be receiving the coverage they are. Someone is pulling the strings behind the "Della Curry story." And, there is an agenda that seems directed at discrediting the Cherry Creek school board and the Cherry Creek school district. There's no doubt other forces are at work.

The only questions are:  Is it the Far Right, or the Far Left? And what is the endgame?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Why Not End, or Shorten, Summer Vacation?

So, as school lets out and summer heats up, the "vacation haters" in the ed-reform movement are at it again. Like clockwork, June tends to bring out a slew of editorials decrying summer vacation from school. And, this year, at least in my sphere, it's Jeremy Meyer of the Denver Post Editorial Board who asks why we can't "Make the School Year a Full Year." It's the same old arguments based on the  myth that summer vacation comes from our agrarian past and drawing on concerns that long weeks off in the summer lead to "summer learning loss." I've addressed these issues before, and it's worth reminding people of the flaws in Meyer's argument.

Thus, while there are reasons for increasing educational offerings, the outdated agrarian model and international comparisons are not valid ones. Yes, a longer school day and year can positively impact some students. However, many others are actually well-served by the numerous summer activities that enhance and add to their education as well-rounded citizens in ways that more classroom time drilling for standardized tests doesn’t. Many American high schools have large numbers of students taking Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Concurrent Enrollment college classes while still in high school. These students earn college credit while in high school, and do so with the current 180-day schedule and a lengthy summer vacation. If anything, many students can get through K-12 effectively in less time, not more. If we are going to have effective discussion about education reform, we need to dispense with the perpetuation of myths by the misinformed, and move beyond the idea of a one-size-fits-all education system. While a summer slide can be an issue in some schools, the existence of a real summer vacation is not the problem. “Making summer count” by improving the summer experience, rather than eliminating it, is the best curriculum for America’s children.  

Today, a former student stopped by to visit, and we ended up discussing the article, as he was curious about my reasoning about the challenges faced by poor kids who don't have access to the sort of summer activities that prevent the summer loss among middle and upper class kids. And, the reality is this: The argument against long summer vacation is based on the flawed premise that the only and the best learning comes in a classroom. That's not true. I am a critic of a single, uniform, conformist and standardized education system that demands a common course of study for all kids as the only possible "education." We must not make decisions based only on narrow academic skills, and we must not declare that all kids learn the same things at the same time at the same pace.