Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Summer vacation

The Washington Post recently published an editorial somewhat critical of summer break for students. While I am ambivalent about it myself, the author makes some strong points.

Can our kids afford to take summer vacation? Right now, about 50 million children are on summer vacation across the United States. Many are discovering new interests at summer camp, playing ball at the Y, or traveling with Mom and Dad. But millions of others are loitering in parking lots and shopping malls, cruising iffy websites, and slouching toward academic disaster. For this second group, it's time to take a fresh look at the traditional summer break.


Summer vacation can also be a massive inconvenience for today's middle-class families. In the 1960s, reports the Population Resource Center, more than 60% of families consisted of a father working out of the house, a stay-at-home mother, and multiple children. Now, as U.S. Census data show, two-thirds of American children live in households where two parents work or with a single working parent, meaning no one is home to supervise children during the summer. For these families, summer vacation can be more an obstacle than a break. Parents must find ways to occupy their children's time and to monitor their socializing and web usage from work.

On the other side of this argument, students already feel the pressure of high stakes tests, and more school (and thus less time for summer jobs and summer leisure) could produce more pressure on today's kids. With No Child Left Behind, it seems the mental sport of the day is thinking of ways to make school more stringent, arduous, and loooong. However, the article's solution makes sense:

Let's be clear: This is not a "national problem" or a uniform one. Summer vacations are still a wonderful time for many families and communities. Legislators need not pursue one-size-fits-all solutions to "fix" the school calendar.

Rather, it's time to acknowledge that 19th-century school practices may be a poor fit for many of today's families. It should be much easier for interested families to find schools that operate into or through the summer.

I agree that schools' policies no longer need to be "one-size-fits-all." Maybe each district, and maybe even each school, could look at different schedules.

Read the entire article here.

1 comment:

Jake Dunkin said...

I agree. Also..with traditional summer employment positions being filled with non-students, more and more kids are being left at home, in the malls, and on the streets to fend for themselves. This begins a cascade of conditions that we, as a society, are now beginning to feel the effects.