“Monday morning found Tom miserable. Monday morning always found him so — because it began another week’s slow suffering in school.”
— “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” Mark Twain
Sunday morning found this newspaper reporting on the intensifying push to make public school year-round.
As illustrious colleague Diette Courrégé Casey wrote, “Education reform advocates and elected officials, including President Barack Obama, have supported an extended school year, and the nation has seen an increasing percentage of schools adopting a 12-month schedule, according to the National Center on Time and Learning.”
So far, only five schools in this state — none in our tri-county — have gone year-round. And in 2006, the General Assembly, swayed by coastal-tourism interests, passed a law making it verboten to start school before the third Monday in August.
But individual schools can — and do — get exemptions from that S.C. rule. And across our region and nation, as year-round school keeps gaining ground in the name of the children, the children continue to lose fun time.
OK, it’s silly to lament that factual Charleston in 2013 isn’t the same as fictional St. Petersburg, Mo., in the 1840s.
Yet it’s cruel to keep reducing youngsters’ freedoms.
Many U.S. kids already have lost a month of summer vacation since my old times not forgotten at St. Andrews Elementary, Junior High and High School, when June through August was all ours.
In these modern times, the mantra of “the children are our future” often trumps common sense — and fair play.
From Sunday’s story on year-round schooling: “Some see it as a way to boost achievement and prevent summer learning loss, which is the research-backed reality of students losing knowledge during an absence of education and enrichment.”
Here’s my “research-backed reality”: Nearly all the grown-ups touting year-round school didn’t go to school year-round.
On constant restriction
Now ponder other burdens placed on 21st century children by adults who didn’t carry those loads as 20th century kids:
We Americans born in 1953 (and many years before and after) weren’t strapped into straitjacket-like car seats at a tender age.
We were far less likely to wear bike helmets and school uniforms, and far more likely to be venture into deep water.
We weren’t subjected to a relentless decline in recess time.
We usually weren’t prematurely branded academically gifted, average or slow.
Most of us guys west of the Ashley, reflecting a liberating trend across most of the land, roamed woods, marshes and other suburban wilds — and even hitch-hiked to Folly Beach, downtown and other alluring destinations.
We were far more likely to find jobs after graduating from high school or beyond — and far more likely to find our own affordable places to live.
We didn’t have to borrow huge sums to go to college.
We were allowed to legally drink alcohol at age 18.
And look how well we turned out.
Just don’t look too closely.
At least kids these days can still fight — and die — for our country at age 18.
Sure, the rise of the drinking age, like the rises in the use of car seats, seat belts and bike helmets, has produced a fall in fatalities.
Sure, our education and economic systems must compete against countries with year-round school.
Still, there’s a double-standard taint to enjoying wide leeway as kids, then severely curtailing youthful happiness pursuits for subsequent generations.
Blame the rich again?
There’s also this alarming shift for the young at heart who resist the swelling all-school, all-the-time ranks:
The pitch for it now taps into our nation’s contagious, debilitating case of wealth envy.
From an overwrought column last week by Slate business and economics correspondent Matthew Yglesias:
“Summer vacation is a disaster for poor children and their parents, creating massive avoidable inequities in life outcomes and seriously undereducating the population.”
Invoking the children to cheat children is simply shameless.
Invoking the poor is a guilt trip of mass distraction.
Then again, Tom Sawyer wasn’t rich — at least until he and Huckleberry Finn dug up that buried treasure in McDougal’s Cave.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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