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Slashdot Asks: Should Schooling Be Year-Round? 421

Around the world, American schools' long summer break is viewed as an anomaly, and the long summer seems to be getting shorter. While most American primary and secondary schools used to start after Labor Day, more and more of them now open sometime in August (and that's not counting the ones that have gone to a year-round schedule). Some of my younger relatives started a new school year last week (in Indiana), while Baltimore schools start later this month. Both Seattle and Portland's kids have until after Labor Day (with start dates of the 3rd and 4th of September, respectively). The 4th is also the start date for students in New York City's public schools, the country's largest district. Colleges more often start in September, but some get a jump start in August, especially with required seminars or orientation programs for new students. Whether you're in school, out of school, or back in school by proxy (packing lunches or paying tuition), what time does (or did) your school-year start? Would you prefer that your local public schools run all year round, if they're of the long-summer variety? (And conversely, if your local schools give short shrift to summer, whether that's in the U.S. or anywhere else, do you think that's a good idea?)
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Slashdot Asks: Should Schooling Be Year-Round?

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  • by ZorinLynx ( 31751 ) on Saturday August 09, 2014 @07:03PM (#47639339) Homepage

    Kids should have at least a couple of months out of the year when they can just not worry about their studies and have fun and BE KIDS.

    I mean, jeez! You only get to be a kid once. Let them enjoy those summer vacations. When I think back to my childhood, my fondest memories are during those summer vacations! Why the heck should we take that away from our future generations?

    Leave summer vacation in place. And stop freaking shortening it.

  • by CheezburgerBrown . ( 3417019 ) on Saturday August 09, 2014 @07:15PM (#47639419)

    Umm, Summer Vacation was never for kids to go out and screw around, summer vacation was intended for children to go home and provide labor for their families since the kids screw off the rest of the year in school.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 09, 2014 @07:16PM (#47639423)

    Schooling as we know it has become industrialized

    Young children becomes the raw input

    Teachers / administrators become the robotic hands to turn screws

    Textbooks and all other teaching aids become the paint / lubrication

    And out goes the finished product - something that has all its innate creativities and curiosity wiped

    The industrialized schooling method might have worked in the 18th, 19th or even the 20th century but in the 21st century and beyond, what the world needs are human beings capable to tap into their FULL POTENTIALS, not some drones regurgitating whatever they have been programmed with

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Saturday August 09, 2014 @08:17PM (#47639679) Homepage

    This is from a Norwegian perspective, so anything here may or may not apply to the US. Here in Norway the three last weeks of July are extremely common to take vacation in, it's known as the "fellesferie" = "common vacation". It's a leftover from when many industries literally stopped in the summer, with the exception of those doing maintenance/upgrades. Basically where it's hard to run with half the staff, everyone gets the the same forced vacation. There's a huge network effect so everything is closed/on skeleton crew because everything else is too. What it practically means though is that every vacation resort or activity is crowded and overbooked, prices are insane and those who can avoid it.

    For this reason being able to take vacation before (June) or after (August) or really any other time has become a perk and so it's been spread relatively thin. The school vacations though, they're like forced vacations so yes they're roughly 8 weeks to accommodate when their parents have time off, and even that is challenged as they want to travel in the off season. If the vacations had been shorter, all the parents would all have to squish together in those same weeks. Either that or you'd have to make the school vacation flexible, but then you'd have to run it all summer long for those who happen to be there at that time.

    As I recall, in summer school was always a place to send your kids to if both parents had to work and you needed someone to take care of you, but that was not school. There were no teachers, no classrooms. It was more like supervised play, basically they kept track that you didn't get lost or hurt but we were left to make up our own activities with those we wanted to play with and there was no forced participation in anything, though they did try to get something going if all looked bored. I suppose in retrospect I'd call it big kid daycare, that's really what it was but there was a completely different level of freedom to it than school.

    Nothing beat the sense of freedom from NOT going there though, to really be unsupervised even for just a few hours. I think it's a natural part of growing up, if you're always in school with people looking after you and then always with your parents looking after you then sooner or later you're going to drop off a cliff when you're on your own. I'm mostly glad I didn't have a cell phone as a kid, I couldn't go crying to mommy and daddy and they couldn't be overprotective as independence was sort of a necessity. I think as a parent today it would be awfully hard to let go simply because you have the technological ability not to.

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom ( 2244874 ) on Saturday August 09, 2014 @09:09PM (#47639855)
    I agree. Don't take away summer vacation. Smart kids can use it to educate themselves independently. And all of us citizens of Earth need to educate ourselves over our entire lives. This whole "Done at secondary education" stuff doesn't fly anymore now that we can study on the Internet.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 09, 2014 @09:49PM (#47639957)

    I used to be able to do differential equations and matrix multiplication and derivations and all kinds of other advanced mathematical techniques practically in my sleep.

    And then I left school, and promptly never used any of those techniques for about 15 years. At this point, I'd be hard pressed to solve any of these types of problems without a significant amount of time spent re-familiarizing myself with the techniques through study. I'd certainly remember how to identify the technique I should use, but I've largely forgotten the mechanics of how to do it.

    Does that mean I 'never actually learned' how to do these things? Anybody who claims that they're as adept as they ever were at *everything* they've ever learned to do is full of shit. If kids forgot it over the summer, then they're human, and leave in the real world - anything you spend time learning, and then never actually apply, is going to fade quickly.

  • by Gavagai80 ( 1275204 ) on Sunday August 10, 2014 @08:19AM (#47641261) Homepage
    India has a 74% literacy rate and the average Indian spends 5 years in school (source: http://www.thehindubusinesslin... [] ). That's not something for Americans to envy. You only meet the lucky few Indians who got the very best education.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2014 @08:20AM (#47641263)

    Some of the school districts near Chicago are paying as high as $120k to faculty who've been in the system a while. Yeah, they start low, but they grow over time, and usually end up making more than retiring administrators. The cost of living adjustments, annual raises, and step increases are far above what the typical staff see. Tenure and union contracts give a crazy amount of negotiating power. In the same locations, the average annual income of people nearing retirement is far short of 6 digits. Even the administrators and staff in the schools don't typically make as much, with the exception of the top - the superintendents and/or principals. When I hear teachers complain about the low wages, first thing I ask is how low they are. Usually, they're making 30-40% more than I am while complaining.

  • by Zero__Kelvin ( 151819 ) on Sunday August 10, 2014 @12:38PM (#47642299) Homepage
    If you met my doctor or lawyer you'd know those degrees are bullshit too!
  • by Dan1701 ( 1563427 ) on Sunday August 10, 2014 @06:13PM (#47643805)

    You've never tried to teach kids, have you? You're basically trying to regulate the behaviour of a group of somewhat-socialised hyperintelligent monkeys, and you're trying to reinforce the hyperintelligent bit whilst stamping down on the monkey bit. This is why homeschooling often works; one-on-one attention lets you mould behaviour much more effectively because the parent has only a few kids at most to control, not a class of thirty or so.

    However, we who live in the real world know that homeschooling only works with a good parent or two about; quite often the parents are dumb as a box of rocks themselves and are incapable of teaching the kids anything, and have next to no inclination to do so. I suspect a torrent of existential abuse from that last statement, but the honest fact is that homeschooling requires a parent with a brain and if the parent lacks this, then the kid's innate talents will be wasted.

    The original posting here brought up something that most teachers know: kids are only civilised because they are taught to be so. It takes time to impose the conditioning on kids not to start showing off to each other and to settle down and concentrate on the matter in hand, and the long summer vacation is so long that the conditioning wears off. The kids forget how to be civilised in large groups, they lose some ability to concentrate and they forget things that they knew before the summer vacation, as they've had a long period of doing not very much.

    Yes, the few memories we as adults retain from these years are very nice, but we forget much and retain very little. More shorter vacations spaced through the year, possibly even with some "floating" vacation time that the kids/parents can take whenever they choose (to allow flexibility in planning vacations) would greatly reduce the phenomenon, and would improve learning in children. This is precisely why it is being suggested.

"Laugh while you can, monkey-boy." -- Dr. Emilio Lizardo