Duke It Out: Longer School Years?

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Class all year? FML.

[It’s pretty obvious that the average CollegeCandy reader has some very strong opinions. Opinions that she likes to share with everyone on the site. We love a strong woman, so we thought we’d give her a real forum to discuss her thoughts, feelings, and perspectives. Every Friday I’ll be featuring a hot topic (like what is cheating!) and leaving it up to you, the readers, to duke it out. So, read it and get your debate on in the comments section below!]

There’s been some debate recently about increasing the number of days public school kids have to spend in class, and while you may be thinking “man, I’m glad I’m not in high school anymore,” think again. Colleges, especially public ones, generally follow the patterns set up by lower levels of schooling, which means that if they cut back on summer, you could kiss it goodbye too.

I’ll give you a moment to go find a paper bag to breathe into.

Proponents of adding school days to the calendar – including President Obama and the Education Secretary – note that American kids go to school fewer days than other countries, the same countries that tend to do better in math and science than we do. And, they claim, adding days has proven effective in some places in the U.S.  Loathe though I am to say it, they do have a point. Test scores do rise in schools that have longer school days and years.

They also point out that summer can really hold kids back academically, with many of them forgetting things or taking extra time at the start of the year to get back to the level they were at before the vacation (exhibit A: my Calculus grade last fall). Kids from poorer families get hit especially hard because their parents don’t have the opportunities to keep them enriched through things like museum trips or new books, so they fall behind even further than the rest. And it is true that our system is based on a time when most families were farmers and needed the kids around to help with the planting in summer – a system that most of us just don’t live under now – so summer isn’t really needed, it’s just something we’re used to.

Still, there are some good reasons to avoid adding on to school time. For one thing, even though Americans go to school fewer days than some other countries, we tend to be in school more hours, even than the countries that outscore us! (Could that mean there is another reason for our falling scores? I think so.) Also, in a time when we constantly hear about how kids are growing up too fast, that they need to play outside more and are under too much pressure, giving them what is essentially a 9 to 5 job probably isn’t going to lighten the load any.

And, as we’re still in the middle of some serious economic times, it’s definitely worth noting that keeping schools open longer not only adds to the school’s costs, but it also takes money away from vacation based industries that rely on the summer trade, like camps and resorts. Let’s face it, that camping trip doesn’t sounds as good when you have to struggle through Chem lab with a hangover and sunburn on Monday.

And let’s not forget: summer is awesome. Isn’t that enough to keep it around?

So whether it’s just  for solidarity with the little kid you used to be or the ramifications it might have on your class schedule, what would you pick? Would you be willing to give up a few days of free time to finally understand what ax+bx-y=r means (Nothing! They’re LETTERS!)? Or would you rather keep your break and forget about being top on the international education pile?

Would this schedule change even make a difference? Duke it out, CollegeCandies, duke it out.

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