Beware kids, while you’re signing his praises, the President is thinking about getting rid of your summer vacation:
WASHINGTON – Students beware: The summer vacation you just enjoyed could be sharply curtailed if President Barack Obama gets his way.
Obama says American kids spend too little time in school, putting them at a disadvantage with other students around the globe.
“Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas,” the president said earlier this year. “Not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom.”
The president, who has a sixth-grader and a third-grader, wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go.
“Our school calendar is based upon the agrarian economy and not too many of our kids are working the fields today,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a recent interview with The Associated Press
While I think that it is a good idea to talk about modifying the 180-day, September-June school calendar that has become as much an American tradition as fireworks on the 4th of July, I don’t quite see the need for this to become a national issue, or for the Federal Government to mandate that schools modify their calendars based on a decision made by a bureaucrat in the Department of Education. As with most things in the education field, this is a matter best left to school boards at the local and state level and to the parents of the children being educated.
It’s also worth noting that the old argument that American children have a shorter school calendar than the rest of the developed world isn’t entirely accurate:
While it is true that kids in many other countries have more school days, it’s not true they all spend more time in school.
Kids in the U.S. spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the U.S. on math and science tests — Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days).
It’s not just a matter of the amount of time that kids are spending in the classroom, then, but what’s being done with that time. Obviously, students in those Asian countries are using their time much more productively than American students are, so adding an additional 10-20 days a year to the school calendar isn’t going to help if the time isn’t being used right. Maybe that’s what we need to concentrate on.