This just in: President Obama wants to make the school year longer, and possibly the school day longer as well. I get the reasoning behind it: the USA has begun to lag dangerously behind the rest of the developed world in education, and our current system is based on atavistic rules stemming from farmer kids planting and harvesting crops.
Shit, if you want to cry for America’s future, just take a look at this test given to high school kids in Oklahoma: 77% couldn’t name our first President, and 57% couldn’t name the two political parties in America. These are the people we’re going to have to deal with for the rest of our lives, my friends. [UPDATE: this poll is most likely totally bogus -ed.]
But I don’t think lengthening the school year or the school day is the right thing to do; in fact, I think it should be shortened. School is like a regular office job in America – you spend vast, untold hours of the day doing absolutely fucking NOTHING. Before your start sending me emails, YES, I KNOW THERE ARE PLENTY OF EXCEPTIONS, but if most office workers were truly honest, they’ll tell you they could blitz through their work in two hours and go home, if only the Man would let them.
The same applies for school. The inefficiency of time is stunning. If school were radically rethought, so that students had an immersion course in two subjects for a month instead of seven subjects spread out over four, I’d bet test scores would explode.
Think of it: say October is Biology and Early American History month. You spend all morning for a month immersed in experiments/dissection/taxonomy, and all afternoon diving into the lives of the Mohicans, Henry Hudson, and John Peter Zenger. Put on plays, make videos, kick ass, nobody is left behind.
Hank Hudson, yo
Think it won’t work? Ever been to summer school? Lifetime math failures get A’s in summer school, and I was one of them.
Also, with the different schedule, you can start class an hour later when teenagers are actually able to function. I’ve mentioned this before, but school should never start before 9:30am, for a host of reasons linked in that blog entry. I mean, why does school have to be so goddamn miserable, when you can actually increase test scores, aptitude, sports and happiness by letting kids sleep another hour?
Here’s the other thing about lengthening the school year – the 3-month summer vacation is truly a national treasure. Not only can you actually live somewhere else for the summer (if you have the means), but those three months allow a teenager to reinvent themselves, especially if they didn’t particularly like the phase they were in. It’s a bit of a “reset” button.
I’ve done the European school thing, with the 6-week summer, and it sucked. Sure, the crazy month-long Easter break was pretty awesome, but give me the unending possibility of a vast summer over 6 weeks of impending doom anytime.
I dunno, maybe I’m the wrong person to ask. I fucking hated school and have spent years on this blog whining about it. But I thought school was a jail sentence, and if we re-imagined the whole thing, kids like me wouldn’t. We’d actually be psyched to throw ourselves in each subject, giving it 100%, immersing ourselves with the kind of intensity that comes from knowing it won’t last long.