Sunday, September 27, 2009

More school 

It is hard to know how hard this proposal will be pushed, since the AP piece by Libby Quaid does not contain any new quotes that would indicate it is an item high on the agenda of the White House, but the headline reads -- "More school: Obama would curtail summer vacation:"
"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."
I confess that my first reaction was, hmmm, I don't think that unionized teachers will be too crazy about that idea -- longer school days and more days in school -- and why would President Obama alienate one of the key constituencies of his party (approximately 20% of the voting participants at the last several Democratic Party conventions have been unionized teachers)? Of course, there is always the chance that it could end up being a negotiated contract providing lot more money for teachers for a little bit more work, a trade-off many would make. Some teachers enjoy the months away during the summer and work making a few thousand dollars more at a summer camp, so there is potentially an opportunity cost involved.

Based on the reaction of some of the students interviewed in the article, the future base of the Democratic Party could be alienated! The President's daughters would likely still be on board, however. As private school students, they may not be covered by localized changes in the public school calendar.


By Blogger Foxfier, formerly Sailorette, at Sun Sep 27, 09:00:00 PM:

Challenges of a new century demand better teaching methods... this bloody "teach the dumbest kid in the class and then do social promotion" thing bites the wax tadpole.

*growl* *grumble*  

By Anonymous silvermine, at Sun Sep 27, 09:12:00 PM:

In the new century, we need workers who can work longer hours, therefore your children need to be trained to do this too. ;)

I homeschool. In my state homeschoolers are classified as private schools and the state does not get to tell us when we have school.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Sep 27, 11:14:00 PM:

When did the US became such a centrally planned country that the President gives out instructions on how long the school season should be? Does he have anything better to do?


By Blogger Foxfier, formerly Sailorette, at Sun Sep 27, 11:19:00 PM:

He can't-- but he can't fire the head of companies, or that auditor that was protect by the law he voted for, either. Rules only matter if they're enforced.  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Sun Sep 27, 11:23:00 PM:

Before Obama says another word about education, he should make his personal school transcripts publicly available.

Let's see how rigorous his education really was.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Sep 28, 03:21:00 AM:

JPMcT: Your abject racism in your charges that Dear Leader is a dummy is duly noted. Big Brother will arrive shortly to properly educate you.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Sep 28, 02:17:00 PM:

There are two important reasons to change the school schedule.

First, there's reliable evidence that the long summer break allows students to forget a lot of what they learned in the previous year. Most schools spend at least 4 to 6 weeks on remedial material, before starting anything new. So even if you didn't increase the total number of hours/days in school in a single year, and just spread them more evenly, students would benefit. For a committed, motivated student, the break is not much of a problem. But for many students, it's a yearly setback in their education.

Also, keep in mind that the no-school-during-summer schedule was created solely to allow farm families to use their kids as cheap labor during the summer. We don't do that any more, or even if we do, it's only relevant to a tiny fraction of the population, whereas in the 19th century American was still largely a rural country, and farms were largely powered by humans and beasts of burden, not tractors, combines, and other efficient machines.

Second, American children simply spend less time in school than Chinese, Indian, or even most European children. Now, that's an observation, and not necessarily a recommendation. But it is a fact, and we should *consider* the impact of less time spent on children's educations.

I am not suggesting at all that the USA should imitate foreign schools. Chinese students spend an incredible amount of time in school, and while this certainly produces some superstars, it has a stultifying, homogenizing effect on many more. India's schools are influenced by politics far more than American schools are (because education receives massive public subsidies, and because India uses this to try to correct the abuses of the caste system). So these are not models to imitate. But they are the systems that are producing the people that will compete with our children.

I am the father of a young boy who is about to enter school, and so all of this is directly relevant to me. I loved summer, and I want my son to have those long days of undirected exploration, but at the same time, 3 months of idleness is just too much. I would much rather have that time scattered around the calendar, and possibly reduced a bit, if it will give my son a better education.

I'm a bit surprised at the anti-liberal whining here. I expected to see more substantial support for hard work and its rewards. Regardless of whether it's coming from the Dems or the 'Pubs, the idea may (or may not) have merit. And honestly, I don't care that much about Obama's personal education history. I care deeply about the policies that will affect my son; I don't care much at all about the educational history of some remote politician. (And I didn't care when people were whining about GWB's history, either.)  

By Blogger Foxfier, formerly Sailorette, at Mon Sep 28, 02:40:00 PM:

Anon- your history of summer break is incorrect. Same type of BS that tries to pin daylight savings on farmers and ranchers.

That said, most education will rest unused for long periods of time-- teaching people early to learn, not use it and then call on it again is a very useful tool. (Same way the military teaches folks while they're dirt-tired-- it makes it so you can still use your training when exhausted!)

I'm a bit surprised at the anti-liberal whining here. I expected to see more substantial support for hard work and its rewards.

Don't worry, when your son gets into school, you'll start to understand it-- and realize it's criticism, not "whining."
Just wait until you get a look at the pathetic excuse for "integrated math books" that are now standard.  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Mon Sep 28, 06:24:00 PM:

"And honestly, I don't care that much about Obama's personal education history"

Well, Anon, let me continue to comment(ie. whine)about why it's important.

Our military policy, our energy policy, our financial policy and our healthcare are all undergoing catastropic and potentially irreversible changes because those that we chose to put in power have no knowledge of history, no apparrent knowledge of mathematics and no scientific analytical skills.

These are the people who will determine how your child is educated, the oppotunities that will greet you child when the education is finished and the safety of the very ground upon which the child will stand.

Pardon me, sir...but I think that's kind of important.

Elections matter.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Sep 28, 06:25:00 PM:

I actually read the article link that you provided. Ok, fine, the *specific* reason for our summer schedule is not the original rural calendar. That does not invalidate my point that our summer break is done more for inertia than for any considered reason. The school year / schedule should be determined by what is best for educating children (balanced with the scheduling needs of parents), not simply because we did it that way last year.

... and realize it's criticism, not "whining".

Complaining about proposed changes by a government body that does have that authority (whether you like it or not), without giving any substantial reason for complaint, is whining.

You should lay off the "you'll start to understand" condescension.  

By Blogger Foxfier, formerly Sailorette, at Mon Sep 28, 06:30:00 PM:

Actually, the office of the President does not have authority to set the school year.

Thus far you've demonstrated a lack of care for the fact involved in history and factual information about our political system, compounded by rather poor reasoning in support of your argument-- why on Earth should we take you seriously about the best way to educate the population?  

By Blogger exhelodrvr1, at Mon Sep 28, 06:47:00 PM:

Year round school (with 3 week breaks between the quarters) addresses one issue.

I agree with those who said that the issue is not so much the amount of time spent in the classroom as it is the quality of that time. I think that is caused by a combination of discipline issues (which is primarily a parenting problem) and by those teachers who are mediocre-to-poor. (Certainly not all of them, but too many.)

More homework would be better than more classroom time, but that doesn't work unless the discipline/teaching weaknesses are addressed.

There should also be more vocational training available. The goal should not be to have everyone go to college.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon Sep 28, 09:33:00 PM:

Like most people, I spent 13 years in the gods forsaken cesspool of ignorance and wasted time that was public school. And let me tell you, 'more of it' is not the answer.

Things I 'learned' in school include: there are three states of matter (not four), Patrick Henry gave his Liberty or Death speech on the side of a road (not the Virginia House of Burgesses), atomic weaponry was invented in 1918 (not 1945), the US launched a surprise invasion of Mexico in 1846 (rather than Mexican troops attacked a US position in disputed territory), and that Abraham Lincoln freed all the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation (rather than the 13th Amendment to the Constitution).

Homework was typically a waste of time. It simply padded the score books. The exception to this was mathematics and foreign language study (i.e. memorization of vocabulary).

These are issues of quality, not quantity.

If we're looking for a way to grind students into the dirt with more work and turn them into unhappy, perpetually oppressed, homogenized and brainwashed zombies, and dump 1/3 more money into schools to pay for buses, food, electricity, (especially air conditioning for the summer!) faculty salaries, and other associated costs with running these institutions, year-round school sounds great.

For delivering decent educations, more is not the answer. More shit is still shit.

I love learning DESPITE my years in public school, where my inquisitive nature and individuality were squashed at nearly every opportunity. Dress codes, speech codes, "you're only a sophomore in high school, you have no business questioning authorities," (concerning my assertion that the teacher's interpretation of Lord of the Flies as Christian allegory was a bunch of crap) sit down shutup and repeat what I say, don't ask questions, then go home and do this load of pointless homework (which people apparently want to increase). And do this for THIRTEEN STRAIGHT YEARS.

I guarantee incidents of school shootings will go up. Probably teen suicides, too. (a dirty little secret of the Japanese school system)

Kids need to be able to be kids. How in the hell are they supposed to learn how to operate on their own if they spend most waking hours of every weekday every month for their entire childhoods from ages 5 to 18 in school under the thumb of school administrators? How could you expect them to have decent relationships with their parents and siblings when in the few hours away they do get, they spend on homework? When are they going to built forts, or go to baseball games with their dads?

And what will you do with the ones who rebel against this absurdity? Fail them? Punish them for trying to act their age? You'd better be prepared to do that.

This entire idea is an irresponsible appropriation of children's lives by the state, an attempt to rob children of what little freedom exists in their lives in order to produce more perfect, more efficient little workers for the benefit of said state.

Well fuck that.

If we really want to help students get more from school, we can start by purifying text books of politically correct and hyper-safe bullshit, teaching actual history and interesting things, and by removing redundant classes and replacing them with introductory vocational classes in medicine, engineering, science, chemistry, law, and other *useful* things.

Want to foster interest in literature? Stop censoring the literature. In the age of Google, you're not protecting anybody's fragile little mind.

Want to foster interest in sciences? Build fireworks, assemble engines, and fire potato guns.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon Sep 28, 09:34:00 PM:

History? Teach *real* history and not the watered down, vague, spend the same amount of ink on an inconsequential stone-age Indian tribe from the Texas coast as on the Civil War garbage that gets printed in school text books.

I'm passingly familiar with a High School in Vero Beach, FL which gives its students choices in which topics to study; they choose a sort of major, like medicine, and get introductions to the discipline by nurses, doctors, and techs in nearby hospitals and clinics, including the opportunity to observe a surgery.

That's the road we should be exploring.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Sep 29, 12:30:00 AM:

I lumped together a bunch of articles I wrote along with a couple articles a couple wise women wrote which discuss education over on my site. If you research the material there, you will see documentation that shows home school is better than private Christian school is better than public school. You will also find documentation that 7-month school with far less money (even considering inflation) was far more rigorous 100 years ago than 9-month school is today.

We don't need more school, more money, more government. We need better school and less government intrusion so parents can once again hold sway over their local schools.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Sep 29, 10:53:00 AM:

There is no question that Obama is dumb, lazy and dishonest. He does exactly what he us told to do by the people who own him.
They want to build a cult of personality and kids are the perfect target and the summer recess is the perfect time. These will be the "Hitler Youth" of Obama's new day.
Teachers? They don't need teachers; they have an organization with just the skills to guide the young. Obama has promised millions of otherwise unemployable ACORNers, good government jobs. Just so many of them can be used on the death panels. Many of the others will begin indoctrinating youth, turning their black racism into pro-Obama zeal.
Federal issue? Certainly not, but who doubts that Obama's orders, i.e.,those of his masters, would be followed in Detroit, Chicago and almost any other city run by the dem machine.  

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