Small Wonders: Make school as important as war

June 03, 2011|By Patrick Caneday

Summer vacation is here. I know this not because it's hot or because I saw it on the calendar. I know it because Burbank schools let my kids out for the year the Thursday before Memorial Day at 12:55 pm.

Not Friday. Not 1 or 2 p.m. — Thursday May 26, at 12:55 pm. As if they calculated to the minute the minimum amount of time the budget allowed them to have kids in class — factoring in furlough days, standardized testing days, prep days for standardized testing, and hours kids spent in informative “assemblies” where they learn how to sell cookie dough and wrapping paper for a small percentage of the profits after interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

That’s understandable.

With summer really still weeks away, and my requests to the Burbank Unified School District for a rational explanation unanswered, I'm left to imagine for myself why we’re starting summer vacation in the mild days of May, only to return in the heat waves of mid-August when kids will be forced to stay inside air-conditioned, over-crowded classrooms on smog-alert days. Glendale schools will be adopting a similar schedule beginning 2012-13.


It’s a decision that appears made not with our children's best interest in mind, but that of administrators who like the tidiness of getting an uninterrupted semester in before Christmas, and the orderliness of seeing first-graders follow the same schedule as graduating high school seniors bound for college.

So, since that’s the mindset, I think it's time to go whole hog. And I'm not talking barbecue. I’m talking year-round school, and not just because I have 11 weeks to keep my kids entertained and dread the cost of summer camp.

OK, maybe a little.

But with so much talk every campaign cycle about the importance of education, why on earth do we continue to accept fewer and fewer classroom days for our kids? We’re not preparing them to compete in a world getting smaller day by day. This might insult some peoples’ patriotism, but other countries may be doing a few things better than we are.

According to the Program for International Student Assessment — a study done every three years by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development comparing students in the world’s 34 principal industrialized countries — America is hardly leading the way when it comes to education.

American 15-year-olds were 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.

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