More problems than benefits in attending school year round

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Most of my best memories of childhood are from summer vacation. It seemed to last forever, but by the end, I was rested and ready to get back to school. Now, some people think that children will benefit more by going to school year-round, and while I can understand their argument, I disagree with this idea.

In a recent Post-Gazette article, Brigid Schulte discussed her children’s experiences with a year-round school calendar. She pointed out that it was more convenient for parents to have shorter breaks and that her kids seemed to enjoy it. The article contains quotes from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who thinks that children should be going to school more than they do. The idea is that the U.S. is falling behind other countries in education, so we should make the school year longer to teach the kids more. Problem solved — except that it isn’t.

While the system described by Schulte in her article seems to be a lot of fun, it has its problems, too. The system offers a five-week rather than 10-week summer break during which students — or their parents — can choose to take more hands-on classes at the school. Schulte believes that this is better than a traditional system, as it takes some of the stress off parents to find camps and arrange transportation, to find babysitters, and to arrange work schedules around their kids.

Schulte assumes that the majority of parents put their kids into these camps, which is not necessarily true. A lot of families use the summer to go on vacations or take part in activities like summer camps and sports. It’s important for children to have these experiences, as they introduce them to new people, situations, and interests that cannot always be found in a classroom.

There are problems with this sort of system in general, though. While I agree that these sorts of hands-on classes are very beneficial for students, and I fully support schools that choose to offer them, eliminating a much-needed summer break is not the way to go about solving the education problem. Instead, schools should make an effort to teach in less traditional styles during the traditional school year.

There are also a few practical problems, including funding. Schulte notes that schools have had to revert to traditional calendars because the activities are not cheap, which means that the students who would benefit from year-round schooling are likely those who attend schools with more resources. Schools in lower income neighborhoods would be unable to offer these programs due to their budgets.

In addition, one of the problems with education isn’t that students don’t go to school enough — it’s that the teachers are ineffective. A New York Times article suggests that this problem can be solved with stricter requirements for becoming a teacher, and I think that this has merit. If our teachers were more effective, more time wouldn’t be necessary.

Education should be a main priority, but that doesn’t mean that it should be a year-round time commitment. Education happens outside of the classroom, too, and these experiences are just as important.