Sunday, July 22, 2012

Get Rid of Summer Vacation?

I agree with this author:
Did anybody else read this anti-summer break piece by Peter Orszag and feel the urge to give the author a tremendous wedgie...

Recall that Orszag was director of President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget who touted the long-term effects of the government taking control of even more of America’s healthcare system. He argued that Obamacare could “bend the cost curve” of health care down...

The problem with American healthcare, from my point of view, was not a lack of government meddling but a surplus of it. About half of all funds spent on healthcare in this country come from federal, state and local governments and those funds come with some pretty crazy strings attached.

U.S. governments arguably underpay for medical services and so those people with private and employer provided insurance have to make up the difference through increased premiums and fees and — let’s not forget — lower wages...

Orszag took in this true cornucopia of problems and said, You know, the real issue is that there is not enough government control. All of the parties should be forced to behave in certain ways and voila! the costs will come down.

So now Orszag turns to K-12 education, a field much more thoroughly dominated by government than even healthcare. He finds that the kids are getting “dumber and fatter during the vacation.” Though he says he has no intention to “declare war on summer,” he really would like to extend the school year and all but eliminate summer breaks.

Let’s grant that there is some evidence of summer slippage. But to look at the vast wasteland that is American public education — the poor teaching, the awful curriculum, the low standards, the anemic achievement, the institutional resistance to needed reform — and say that the real problem is summer vacation takes a special sort of mind.
Yeah, what he said. Those who look for a silver bullet are like the blind man looking for a black cat in a dark alley.


Darren said...

We had a comment on this topic posted under the wrong post, so I'll put that comment, and my reply to it, here, where everyone can follow what's going on :-)

allen said...

Fourteen paragraphs of which only two have anything to do with the subject the rest being a belaboring of Obamacare. Sadly the two paragraphs that reference the subject of the piece have nothing more to offer then that the author doesn't like the idea and there's lots of other things wrong with American public education.

While it's certainly true that there's plenty wrong with public education I'm still trying figure out why the author opposes doing away with summer vacation. I'm not sure what there is to agree with in this piece, at least with regard to the value of summer vacation or lack there of.

10:35 AM

Blogger Darren said...

I'm sure you meant to post this under the "Get Rid of Summer Vacation" post, but OK :)

The piece I quoted was an attack on Peter Orszag's column attacking summer vacation. The piece I quoted discussed Orszag's convoluted thought processes regarding Obamacare and essentially says, "After all that, why should we listen to this guy regarding summer break? And where's the evidence that summer break is really a problem?"

allen said...

It's due to global warming. If temperatures weren't elevated I would have posted that comment properly. All hail the carbon tax!

Yeah, I was dumping on Lott who barely managed to get out that he didn't care for Orszag's column spending the majority of his critique on the evils of Obamacare.

Probably an attention deficit disorder. I can relate.

As for the subject at hand, I can't think of a good reason to have summer vacation. If education's important then it ought to be important enough to manage the year round.

I know having three months a year off is pretty sweet but from the perspective of getting kids educated I have never heard a particularly worthwhile defense of summer vacation.

My suspicion is that as the changes in public education go forward the convenience of the school board and administration will diminish in importance as the school board and central administration diminish in importance and more constructive considerations will take the fore. Schools will get more responsive and flexible but they'll also get more efficient and capable.

One of the casualties of that trend will be the summer vacation. Not immediately and comprehensively but over time the summer vacation will just sort of evaporate.

Anonymous said...

Actually, it makes a bit of sense.

The worse that a system is, the less tolerant the system is of error or depreciation. And the US education system is not especially good.

If we did an better job teaching our children, things would be different. If we used the philosophy of teaching to mastery, for example, summer vacation would be a non issue. If you've actually mastered a skill, that mastery doesn't devolve much over a two month hiatus.

But imagine that you HAVEN'T mastered a skill. That's the normal US practice, where we use a "spiral" curriculum." If you haven't mastered it, and/or haven't received good quality of instruction, then you will suffer much more from a two month break.

Stopping summer vacation makes sense. If you had the opportunity to put a 20% greater effort into our curriculum, you might not get much. But if you put in 20% more school days, you would have a better return.

It is BECAUSE our curriculum sucks that we can't tolerate a break.

momof4 said...

For some kids, like those who spend the time watching TV, playing video games and getting into anti-social mischief (or worse), schooling through summer probably makes sense.

For kids who do summer reading and math at home, visit museums and local places of interest, try out new activities, compete on the local summer swim team, play another sport, go camping/hiking, work around the house, yard, farm, visit a national park or new area of the state or country - probably are better of without summer schooling.

Some of the issue is undoubtedly related to SES, but I saw plenty of kids in the leafy suburbs who could have done many desirable and enriching things during the summer who did nothing but play video games and eat (and at HS ages, drink and smoke).

I agree with the previous point about curriculum.