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Thus, while there are reasons for increasing educational offerings, the outdated agrarian model and international comparisons are not valid ones.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.

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