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All Year Round

You may be familiar with the restaurant joke that goes like this: two guys are complaining about a bad restaurant. The first says, “The food is just horrible”. And the second says, “Yeah, and the portions are so small!”

Looks like our nation’s educators didn’t get the joke:

Five states were to announce Monday that they will add at least 300 hours of learning time to the calendar in some schools starting in 2013. Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee will take part in the initiative, which is intended to boost student achievement and make U.S. schools more competitive on a global level.

The three-year pilot program will affect almost 20,000 students in 40 schools, with long-term hopes of expanding the program to include additional schools — especially those that serve low-income communities. Schools, working in concert with districts, parents and teachers, will decide whether to make the school day longer, add more days to the school year or both.

The big force behind this is Arne Duncan. Duncan is a bit mixed. He supports charter schools and enraged the unions by being civil to Michelle Rhee. But his “race to the top” mainly forced national standards on everyone. And his record in Chicago was, at best mixed.

Duncan is really big on expanding school. And by that I mean he thinks we should have school six or seven days a week, 11 or 12 months of the year.

Yeah.

Apart from the destruction of childhood this would entail, I am not convinced it would improve things at all.

Year-round schooling would only sour more children on education. By making it even more demanding than a job, children would feel like they were in prison. By not giving them breaks for vacations and family time and just running around enjoying life, you would squeeze some of the joy out of life. When I was in high school, I knew people were desperate to graduate just because they were so damned sick of school. We put kids in schools that much, they will all feel that way. I realize this trade-off may sound fine to a government hack like Duncan who sees children mainly as assets of the state needed to create wealth and power for him and his Harvard buddies. But most of see children as, you know, people. So even if this did improve education — and I don’t think it will — it may not be worth it.

(Yeah, I know that’s a nasty thing to say about Duncan. Fuck him. He wants to place a nasty burden on children.)

Year-round schooling really crosses me as just another twist of the “spend more money” paradigm that has defined Democratic education ideas for time out of mind. When they figured out that “spend more money” didn’t fly with the public, they rebranded it as “hire more teachers” or “make classes smaller”. But now the public has cottoned on to that, so they need a new euphimism. That fact is that year-round school means hiring more teachers, as came up in the recent Chicago strike. I have to think that’s at least 60% of the motive here.

But even if we ignore the shrinking of childhood issue; even if we ignore the spending issue; I just don’t think it will work. As I’ve noted before, our children actually perform reasonably well the first few years of school. It is only at higher levels that the performance falls. The problem is not that children aren’t manacled to their desks often enough. The problem is that we have a school system that is bloated, administration-heavy, has erased accountability and tried to make up for it by destroying any education freedom for students, parents and especially teachers. In one of his books, Phillip Howard describes DC regulations that micromanage teachers’ classes down to the minute. And, of course, no educational reform can overcome parents and students who just don’t give a shit.

You know what this reminds me of? Homework. For years, we were told that increasing homework loads were good for students. It made them study more! But recent studies are indicating that heavy loads of homework show little educational improvement but impose a huge burden on parents, students and teachers. They make children loathe education rather than embrace it. And many schools, including our local one, are backing down to more reasonable levels of homework.

The solution to bad schooling is not more bad schooling. If children can’t learn in the time they are already allotted, an extra 300 hours isn’t going to help. And it’s only going to make life more difficult for the students who are learning and the teachers who are teaching. I realize that there’s not a teacher out there who hasn’t gotten to the end of school year and felt like they didn’t get through all the material. But, at some point, you have to close the books for a few weeks at least.

I suspect this program may show some results: small carefully managed pilot programs often do but then those reforms fail when applied to a much larger sample. But we should oppose any attempt to expand this. It’s just not the solution.

8 comments

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  1. Argive says:

    The three-year pilot program will affect almost 20,000 students in 40 schools, with long-term hopes of expanding the program to include additional schools — especially those that serve low-income communities.

    They’re trying to figure out how to keep kids in high-crime neighborhoods off the street. OK. But the risk that this will just mean more warehousing of kids, more busy work, and more teaching to whatever national standards test is coming up is pretty high. None of that is going to help.

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  2. AlexInCT says:

    They’re trying to figure out how to keep kids in high-crime neighborhoods off the street. OK. But the risk that this will just mean more warehousing of kids, more busy work, and more teaching to whatever national standards test is coming up is pretty high. None of that is going to help.

    The problem is with you and others that think like you for believing school should actually educate people. That ended decades ago. As you yourself have pointed out, schools have become warehouses for urban kids. Government feeds and entertains them, hoping they do not have too much free time left to end up committing crimes or killing each other off. The other function of schools is to brainwash kids to become touchy feeling leftists.

    Unless your kids are super bright and motivatted and/or you happen to luck out and live in some of the few areas where schools actually still teach something, your taxes are basically paying for babysitting. Home schooling looks more and more attractive as time goes by.

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  3. salinger says:

    I suspect this program may show some results: small carefully managed pilot programs often do but then those reforms fail when applied to a much larger sample.

    Sort of like charter schools and their real track records.

    I agree more of a bad thing is not the answer. The first real reform that would make a difference in the schools would be to get the people who know nothing about education out of the education policy business. i.e. Bill Gates, legislators, business tycoons etc.

    New standards are introduced every ten years or so simply to create a fresh market in which to dictate and sell new programs. Subsequently teachers are forced to jump through pointless hoops to satisfy some bureaucrats idea of how education should be measured.

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  4. Miguelito says:

    I still think it was a pretty good sign that our public school system was headed for disaster, and that all to often the unions care far more for numbers and jobs then actually teaching, when someone like Jaime Escalate was essentially pushed out of the system. Here was a person showing real results. He was actually getting plenty of kids that others mostly gave up on (or they didn’t think they had anywhere near the potential they did) and was making huge strides. Yet the school admin, some other teachers (apparently) and especially the union were against him in many ways.

    Basically, he made too many of them look bad and pretty much proved the limited classroom size mantras wasn’t really based on facts.

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  5. dbaggins says:

    More teaching =/= smarter students. As is the case with anything, quality always trumps quantity. The point of school isn’t to fill kids with as much knowledge as humanly possible so they can move up the curve on some standardized test to show that your country isn’t a education backwater on some international list. The point of education is to begin the process of endowing children with the necessary critical thinking skills and sense of accountability that’s going to make them responsible adults with the independence of mind to make their own pursuits in life and contribute to society. Public education typically fails miserably at this and it’s a damn shame because it leaves young people in my generation in a state of naivety and intellectual laziness that carries all the way through to university, leaving them thoroughly unprepared for the real world. I went to a public school in Canada but had the fortune of being accepted into the International Baccalaureate program that put me in the classrooms of amazing teachers who actually cared. Like most ap-level programs they force a lot of material into the kids but at the same time also stress pursuits in the arts, regular community service and the ability to think critical about an argument and view and expound on that. The difference in the quality of education that I received compared to kids in the rest of the school was night and day and I really credit that experience for making me a more driven and accountable person. I really suggest anyone with children headed into the second half of high school look into the program, if handled by the right teachers it not only offers access to the same course materials as AP programs but also classes and long-term assignments that really push kids to think.

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  6. salinger says:

    You know, there are districts, mostly in the south, where parents and church groups oppose the international baccalaureate because it has the word international in it.

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  7. balthazar says:

    You know, there are districts, mostly in the south, where parents and church groups oppose the international baccalaureate because it has the word international in it.

    Proof or your a lying douchebag.

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  8. salinger says:

    http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/content/international-baccalaureate-anti-american

    http://www.thethinkingstick.com/ib-program-under-fire-in-the-us/

    Here’s two quick ones I’m on the road.

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