Good To Know: Education Priceless, If They Take It

This segment is on WCCO in Minneapolis and this is Don Shelby. He’ll be retiring soon but I thought this was a very interesting “Good To Know.

This is what Don said.

“President Obama has called for the lengthening of the K-12 school year. He says we’ve fallen behind other nations whose kids are smarter than ours. Don Shelby said opponents of the idea ask, “Who is going to pay the bill?”

We teach our kids about 180 days a year. Kids in countries who spank us in student achievement levels give their kids about a month more schooling.

That month will cost a lot of money. The price of everything is going up. The largest chunk of the state budget is education, and property taxes keep going up to make up for the state’s shortfall.

Then, there is the cynical argument that says, “Why pay more to educate our young when so much of America’s enterprise is being sent overseas?”

Most Americans would send their kids to year-round school, and pay for it, if they were guaranteed their children would be smarter and have a brighter future.

But with 30 percent of American students never graduating, an extra month of not hitting the books doesn’t sound like the whole answer to me.”

What’s your opinion?

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42 Responses to Good To Know: Education Priceless, If They Take It

  1. Joy says:

    I didn’t mean to post this now. Dang!! I was organizing and hit publish instead of save!! Deleting means I have to redo the whole thing so it’s gonna stay. I’m too lazy to do that.

  2. Ellen says:

    What I am concern about is, that the question is risen not to pay for a month more school for the American students. I think, that is not so much the case. I believe there should be more homework. From what I see with my stepson and other high school kids, the most homework they have is about 45 minutes a day and not even every day. In Europe, the children in Elementary schools have about 20 minutes/day homework and high school about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours a day. That will give more work for the teachers, but it will give the students more knowledge. Also, why is it necessary that high school kids have every day PE classes. The amount of time that takes: changing clothes, 45 minutes PE and then shower etc. 2 times a week would be enough, I think. Of course I am an outsider, and I do not have all the information to be certain of my opinion. It is just my impression about this subject.

    • SKL says:

      Ellen – just saw your comment. I agree with you about the amount of quality work that gets done within the school day. I totally agree with you about PE. It has always been a pet peeve of mine – for many, PE is more of an outlet for bullying and other negative behaviors than anything else. A lot of kids don’t even like PE, and they are not necessarily the “ones who need it most.” Yet it is mandatory. I know there have been studies showing that activity throughout the school day improves performance. But US PE classes are far from the kind of activity examined in those studies.

      • Laura says:

        Well-run PE is a benefit, I really believe that. I understand where you’re coming from, I was in the same predicament for too many years – I’m not very good at team sports, preferring instead, the individual sports that are generally not a part of PE curriculum (swimming, skating, equestrian).

        But I can also remember days when I was so beat up mentally that it just felt good to have a low-pressure class where we got to run around and blow off steam.

        And for several years, I had PE teachers who understood that mentality, and strived (strove? … endeavored) to make it fun as well as educational. That was when it was really worth it.

        But I do understand how it could be unproductive, especially with co-ed (sorry to be sexist, but it’s true) classes, and a teacher who is less than engaged.

    • Laura says:

      I don’t think I agree on the homework thing, although in my personal experience, Josh’s homework is just about right for a first-grader – he has a math worksheet on Mondays, math flashcards almost daily (daily, if I can help it), and nightly reading. Occasionally, there will be something else – bring something special for art, or a special worksheet, but that’s it for now. Mostly to get him used to doing homework. But I have a friend who has triplet 5th grader girls (yes, offer a silent prayer for her), and she’s often talking about how MUCH homework they have – several hours each night, which seems WAY out of line for daily homework.

    • Joy says:

      I also lived for PE. I loved swimming and gymnastics. I had a really hard time with school but athletic things came easy so I felt comfortable. I was always pretty good at what I tried but I could see where it wouldn’t be for everyone but nothing is for everyone. I hated math and I only took what I had to take and thank goodness because it’s a required subject every year now. It wasn’t back when I went. When you feel stupid and you really have to work on things, school can be a nightmare. I didn’t feel stupid doing physical things.

      • SKL says:

        I don’t necessarily mind them offering gym, but why should it be mandatory? I used to walk about a mile each way to get to school, had walking paper routes over about half of our town, shoveled snow, hauled wood, did 20 loads of laundry weekly, and spent much of my free time walking, biking, and doing other physical stuff. I was very strong and healthy. And I always ended up getting gym either 1st or 8th period – what is the point of being there at all? Why should I have to be graded based on whether I took a shower between gym and walking home? Or start the school day by getting sweaty right after coming to school? I would have much rather been in advanced math than gym. But I didn’t have the choice, and that wasn’t good for anyone.

        • Sue says:

          I think it’s mandatory because it’s the only exercise a majority of kids get during the day and with the growing
          obesity problem, it’s not the end of the world to have to run around for 30 min. Yes, it’s a lot of wasted time in
          between running around, but it’s good for you.

          • SKL says:

            How much actual moving do the kids do in gym, though? Most of the time is spent waiting for your turn. (As a former ed student who took a class in teaching gym, I have studied this stuff. There are better methods, but few schools implement them.) There are a lot of negatives that cancel the positive of a tiny bit of exercise for many kids. Body image issues, bullying, social pressures, the time it takes, the opportunity cost.

            Another thing – what about kids who are in sports or have a physical job, and want to use the school day for academics? Shouldn’t it be enough that they have plenty of activity outside of the school day? Besides which, whose business is it anyway if somebody wants to be a couch potato? Some people are born to be heavier, so why don’t we accept folks who don’t make great efforts to fight nature? I mean, don’t dare try to treat any other “different” group the way we treat chubby kids.

            I just don’t see this as what schools are for. We are talking about catching up with other countries academically. Obesity is a separate issue, and it’s not everybody’s issue. I feel gym ought to be an elective. If that’s one’s only opportunity for exercise, fine, sign up for it, but don’t drag healthy kids in kicking and screaming. Ugh. Can you tell I REALLY HATED gym? And it was always my lowest grade. Not because I couldn’t do everything quite well, but because I didn’t pretend to enjoy being there. How is that helping the USA to improve academic standards?

            And as for blowing off some stress via exercise, how about plain old recess? Or, here’s a novel idea – how bout giving kids the summer off so they can play?

  3. Laura says:

    well. This is a multi-faceted problem. I’ll try to put aside my cynicism about the public school system and the monetary waste for a moment and concentrate on the year-round issue…

    I can see benefits to having a year-round school year. Most kids thrive on a regular schedule. They can handle short breaks – weekends, even a week or two. But it seems like (and I really have no evidence other than observation) more than that, and they start getting restless. Christmas break – if it lastsd longer than two weeks, the kids are getting squirrely and cranky, and they’re ready to get back to the schedule that they’re used to. When kids are off for three months over the summer, by the end of August, they are sooooo ready to go back. And during that three months, parents are casting about, looking for ways to keep their kids busy. More and more parents are putting their kids in daycare during the summer. Myself, I kept checking with the community center, and signing Josh up for one sports program after another – swimming lessons, soccer, baseball – whatever I could to keep him from getting bored, because let’s face it…Mom is exciting for about three seconds.

    Further, as the kids get older, more and more extracurricular programs (sports, band) are just ignoring summer and continuing on through with practices. Come to think of it, teachers are doing the same thing. I talk to my friends who have high school kids, and they talk about the long list of summer homework that their kids have – mostly reading of lengthy novels and writing reports on them – due in the first week of school. Many upper-grade kids are also filling their summers with Summer School, trying to lift a GPA, or get a jump on college.

    So, on that side of things, I’m all for a year-round deal – because I can see how it might keep kids more focused and engaged. And in many situations, it already kind of exists. I think that a three-month-on, two-weeks-off method has been proposed, and that seems like a decent solution.

    On the other hand, we have tradition – those three months off started long ago when the kids had to be home for harvest. Living in a rural area, I can tell you that harvest is still a big deal. The farm across the street (dairy/corn, primarily) is crazy-busy during late summer and early fall. Their combines are running day and night. All but one of their children has grown and moved out – and their youngest is out of college and still living at home because that farm is his life. But to the point – I think that youngest boy, while he was in HS, probably missed more than one day of school because his family needed help on the farm. I can’t, however, use the “harvest time” excuse for probably 80% of the schools in the country – kids in New York City, for example, don’t need a single second off for harvest.

    Families take vacations during that time. Although, I can make a really good argument for spreading out the vacation through the year, not synching it up with other schools, and perhaps the lines at Disney wouldn’t be so insane if there was no “Summer Season” — aaaaand, for that reason alone, I see the schools staying on the schedule they’re on. The summer tourist season is too profitable to let it go.

    Two other arguments exist in the “against” column, but I said I would leave my cynicism out of it, so I will only mention them, not explain: the budgeting/financing of the public school system, and the teachers’ unions. I could write six or seven posts on that alone, and I’ve already babbled on far too long.

    • lucy says:

      What an interesting discussion. I’m coming to it a little late… but better than never 🙂

      As much as I LOVED the long summers when I was in school I think they do a disservice to children as well as society. The money spent on extending the schools days beyond 180 would be saved in other ways (e.g. increased achievement, reduced school drop out, reduced crime levels). One issue that research clearly supports is that the children that are hurt the most by long summers are low income children. They lose a lot of knowledge over the summer compared to their higher income counterparts. This is for a variety of reasons. Higher income families can pay for summer school/camp/high quality child care and they might even afford to take some time off for traveling. Statistically speaking higher income parents are less stressed and have better mental health and are more likely to provide their child with a cognitively stimulating environment. Low income children do not have the same opportunities. They are often left home alone, are minimally supervised by a relatives, or put in low quality child care because their parents cannot afford anything else . Children have more chance to get into legal trouble because they are in worse neighborhoods and spend more time there over the summer. Parents tend to be more stressed out and have to worry about paying bills and having enough money to get food, which is often an added burden over the summer because their children eat all their meals at home (whereas they might be getting free or reduced priced breakfasts/lunches at school). They are less likely to provide their children with a cognitively stimulating environment. The only benefit to longer summers is that many older children can work during this time to support their families.

      So by the time these children come back to school in August/September higher income children are right where they are supposed to be and have experienced many intellectually stimulating environments whereas low income children are more likely to have forgotten much information and not had the same chances to learn as higher income children. This is one reason why US schools struggle because children lack the foundations they were supposed to have learned in the previous year. So teachers have to spend time reviewing this information or children just continue to fall further and further behind. Of course long summers are not the only reason for this, but research has shown it is a contributor!!
      Personally I think that investing in longer school days would actually save money because it increase low income children’s performance and achievement and very likely reduce crime (which is a huge money saver!)

      Ok… getting off my soap box now. Thanks for listening 🙂

      • lucy says:

        not sure why it was posted as a reply here… but oh well 🙂

      • Joy says:

        I agree with you Lucy. A lot of the kids who need it the most are the ones left home alone. I sometimes think people only think of their own children and tend to think everyone else is that fortunate. Had I not been employed in a public school for 15 years I wouldn’t have seen it. I also worked in a very high end school district and the poverty and neglect was still there and I felt so bad for so many kids who didn’t have anyone who gave a rats ass about them.

        • SKL says:

          I have to say there were probably people who “pitied” me and my siblings, but our parents were on to something good. All 6 of us are high achievers, none of us has become a “statistic.” A balanced approach is always better than either extreme.

      • SKL says:

        Maybe offering poverty-indexed summer camps for low-income kids would be a better solution, though. Because making summer school mandatory for all would cost much more AND prevent education-minded families (at all income levels) from pursuing potentially richer opportunities.

  4. mssc54 says:

    I beg to differ with the ascertion that we teach our kids 180 days a year. Sure they may be in school 180 days but what exactly are they doing during those days? Take a closer look at what school days looked like when America was at or near the top. The “Three Rs” used to be Reading, Writing and Arithmatic. Now what is it? Where is the focus now? Sensativity, Billy has two mommies, acceptance, sex education and any number of other politically correct time waisters!

    How about just educating the students in the original “Three Rs” and cut out all the rest of the hogwash!

    • Joy says:

      I’d also love to go back in time because I think a lot of things were much better back then but there’s been to much “progress” for things to be done the way they used to be. I think the #1 thing is kids are left alone too much. It’s a two economy paycheck now in order to make ends meet and I feel if we could have one parent home with the kids would make a difference but that’s just not going to happen. Nobody loves our kids as much as we do and face it, daycare providers are in it so they can be home with their own kids. Kids now are left in daycare and then they get to a certain age and they sit home alone because “they’re old enough” and that leads to trouble of one kind or another.

      • mssc54 says:

        Far the most part I agree. Where I disagree is that it doesn’t always take a two income hosehold to “make ends meet.” However, if you want a bigger (than you really need) house and a bunch of toys in your garage/yard you have to sacrifice something. That something, for the most part, is time with your kids.

        Seriously, think about all the people you know who have to work for two incomes. Look at their house, the cars they drive, the “toys” they have, the various memberships they have. How much of their “stuff” is really necessary?

        But my view point is very controversial and even less popular.

        • SKL says:

          Well, the thing is, when I was a kid, the kids with the SAHMs were at least as likely to get in trouble! Maybe more so. I venture to say that would not be different today.

          I think another big thing that has changed is that kids are less likely to have siblings or to have a feeling of responsibility for the siblings they do have. So if they were home without parents, in my day, at least there was some sense of responsibility and looking out for one another. Sure, we got bad ideas from each other too, but on balance, having siblings was a big benefit.

        • Nikki says:

          I happen to agree with you on that Mssc! 🙂

        • Joy says:

          I wish I believed that one young person’s income could support a family but it’s pretty tough being a one income family especially if you’re a blue collar worker with no education. Paul and I wouldn’t be able to make it now if we had small kids to put glasses and braces on and pay to fill their bellies and all of the things we had to pay for. I guess one income is okay if you really want to live with the bare minimum of things and just barely make it. I like a little bit more of security and knowing that I have a little stash put away. Emergencies scare me. I’ve been broke when MAYHEM hit and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. There area lot of jobs that you can do and be with your kids but they’re hard to find. I don’t know how the young people do it now. Groceries alone! I couldn’t imagine it the way my two boys at in their Tweens.

  5. Joy says:

    I pretty much agree with Laura and without bringing up money or all the school closings there are now, (with my school district facing that possibility, that’s another post for next week) but in general, I think year round school with a few weeks off at a time scattered through would be a really good idea.

    When school first lets out there’s all your “lessons” and they keep you buys for quite a while but you hit the middle of July and August, there’s nothing for the kids to do and a lot of them sit in daycare. I feel for working parents this is also a good thing. Once kids hit a certain age, then they sit home alone and we all know what that can lead to.

    I also feel for the employee’s, this is a good plan. I’d vote for it if anyone asked me. I think everyone would be more even tempered and less bored. A lot of kids won’t admit to wanting to go back but I know I talked to Bailey, Trinity and Christopher before school started and they all were excited for it. Trinity REALLY missed her friends.

  6. SKL says:

    I think adding a few more weeks in June would be sufficient. I think there are too many cons to year-round school. In short:

    1) Having to air-condition schools or let kids come half naked faint in school.

    2) The lack of a set time when families can plan full-time family stuff without worrying about missing school work.

    3) Some kids get very stressed by school and really need the break. I have a brother who probably would have needed a psychologist if it hadn’t been for summer break.

    4) Being able / required to determine one’s own life full-time for a part of each year is good for kids. One could argue that it’s more valuable developmentally than following a curriculum within a pre-set routine for the whole year. Even if a child is in summer day care, at least they should have an extended time period when they get to decide what they are going to wear, whom they are going to hang with, what (if anything) they are going to read / write / design, etc.

    One of the things I plan to do with my kids when they are school-age is take long car trips to relax, have fun, AND engage in meaningful, hands-on learning – about history, geography, geology, cultures, biology, industry, economics, etc., etc. I would challenge anyone to prove to me that their time would be better used in a public school classroom in July-August. And I know the argument is going to be: what about those kids whose families can’t afford summer educational activities? I say: bunk. A trip to any park, store, library, or free day at the museum or zoo can be an educational activity. Ask me – my parents were lucky to be able to take us “primitive camping” for the July 4 weekend. We were never bored during the summer and we are certainly not stupid. In fact, when I went to a respected university for my MBA, it was learned (to the horror of some) that my GMAT score was far higher than that of all my elite foreign classmates – and I didn’t even prep for the test. All that cramming in school isn’t the main reason for the international education gap. It has a lot more to do with, e.g., being brought up in a culture that highly values education. And by the way, have they checked to see if these brilliant foreign students know how to do anything else besides calculus – such as sweep a floor or crack an egg?

    • Laura says:

      Your ideas are good, SKL, the problem is, most of society doesn’t think like us. I was brought up similar to you – every summer, we hit the road. We primitive camped all over the country, and by the time I was 16, I’d been in each of the Lower 48. I’d camped in many state and national parks, and at one point, I wanted to be a Park Ranger because of it. At age 7, I was in the Bluebirds (sort of like Brownies), and we went on a “campfire picnic” with them… only problem was… NONE OF THE MOMS knew how to start a campfire!! But thanks to my parents, I could make a wicked fire, so Mom and I split the group in half (there had to be 15 groups there), and we went around teaching each group how to start their campfires. So yeah, the skills you learn doing what we did are extremely valuable. But….

      You and I were lucky enough that our parents could get time off during the summer to do that (and that they were willing to do it). My dad was a teacher, Mom was a SAHM. And they budgeted, so we had time and money to take these vacations (even though we did them on the cheap).

      But seriously, I hear so many people talking about (1) how they simply cannot take their vacation for fear of losing their jobs, or (2) how they’ll leave their kids in daycare during their work vacation, because they are taking a “mental health vacation” with their spouse. And then there are the others who don’t consider it a vacation unless it’s on a cruise ship, or on a tropical island or whatever… and there MUST be cable TV, room service, and plenty of organized stuff for their kids to do.

      Many parents can’t be bothered to educate their own kids. I know it’s not all of them, but there are a LOT. And they see that 3-month summer break as anything BUT time for them to have one-on-one learning time with their children. Like I said, they’re putting their kids into daycare because they have to work, or letting them stay home, and in the house, playing video games. At this point, most of summer is just wasted time.

      • SKL says:

        Just to be clear, my parents both worked and didn’t get vacation when I was in elementary school. When I mentioned the July 4 camping, the point was that the July 4 weekend was the only time we had 3 days to do something together. BUT we learned a lot without our parents being there all the time.

        I agree that many parents don’t take their role as educator seriously enough. This is partly because the school system has told them not to! How many parents have been admonished against helping their kids learn to read early, etc.? And by giving tons of homework, the school prevents parents from using that time for an educational opportunity of the parents’ choosing. But, sitting in public schools during the hot summer, are you sure they are really going to be learning more than they would, even on their own, outside of school?

        When I was a kid, we walked to the playgrounds, parks, library, public pools, and the zoo (which was free one or two days a week), checked out new (very inexpensive / cost-free) hobbies, taught ourselves how to play piano, worked puzzles, made gifts, played games, drew, wrote and thought, formed clubs, dreamed, pooled our allowance and budgeted to meet group goals, nursed injured animals, shopped, cleaned house, cooked, gardened, and yes, sometimes watched TV and got into (and out of) mischief – all without our parents involved. What is so different about today’s kids that they would be sitting and drooling all day? I think the problem is that our society has forgotten the value of kid-led activities.

        There are already options for working parents of young kids during the summer. Usually they are a combination of learning and playing. For kids whose parents stay at home, they should be encouraged to find something to do! There is no excuse for a child sitting around doing nothing productive. I can’t believe we are turning to the government to deal with this.

        Aside from the fact that it’s wrong to make something mandatory for everyone, just because it might benefit a minority.

        Remember we’re talking about the public schools. The ones that think it is more important to teach about masturbation and hand out condoms than to teach geometry and hand out dictionaries. The ones who would rather teach about gay sensitivities and abortion rights than the right to free speech and religion or (God forbid) the right to bear arms. How do you think they would use those extra months in the classroom? If they really considered the three R’s to be a priority, they would not be spending so much time on all these other things. Do you think they teach gay rights in Indian elementary schools? (No offense to gay people, but that does not need to be a school subject!) I know you said that you didn’t want to get into the problems with the public schools, but I think we have to if we’re going to talk about putting America’s kids in the classrooms for three additional months each year. Honestly, I feel the time kids spend doing basically nothing in public schools is already way too much.

        • Laura says:

          well, a lot of the things you addressed I agree with, but they fall in my self-imposed “forbidden discussion” category, namely, the fact that the entire system must be overhauled before we impose year-round schooling. There is so much waste going on, so much goofy learning (sexual indoctrination), that the entire thing needs a massive fix.

          I just I see the good points to year-round schooling, as long as those other issues are addressed/fixed, as well.

          And yes, I realize that I’m pretty much describing a utopian situation.

        • Joy says:

          The sad thing is that kids can’t explore freely like we used to be able to do. If you let your kids run free and let them go to libraries and such, you probably be reported for not watching them and if parents are at work, then kids are just running wild.

          Like I said in response to mssc. I’d love to go back a little bit in time because in this instance, things have gotten worse.

          • SKL says:

            I think you are right up to a point. But I also think parents need to just be brave and do things that are no longer conventional.

            Having said that, you are entitled to say “I told you so” when I get thrown in jail . . . .

            But seriously. A lot of what stops parents from doing what their own parents did boils down to sensationalist fears. Such as:

            – Fear that a horrible, terrible, devastating thing will happen if we ever let our guard down – even though the USA is a much safer place for kids than ever before.

            -Fear that if you trust your kids and your instincts, you will lose them to CPS, or get charged with a crime. I am not sure how much, but I think this fear is also exaggerated.

            – Fear that if something happens that happened to lots of kids in our day, our kids won’t be able to bear it. Whether it’s bullying, getting a broken limb, or being fondled by some weirdo. Genetically, most of our kids should be tougher than we are! Like the immune system, a healthy psyche needs to be developed by exposure to things, not protection from them.

            It’s hard to read about a child who is a near-vegetable due to a car accident, and then allow our kids anywhere near a moving vehicle. But we have to do it for them, in my opinion. I can’t imagine how I would function as an independent adult if I hadn’t had the independent experiences I had as a kid. A generation from now, America is going to be acknowledging that big mistakes were made in the early 2000’s. I don’t want to be bullied into being a part of that.

          • SKL says:

            Are a lot of comments getting lost today? I lost another one . . . and I just saw some earlier ones for the first time . . . .

  7. Nikki says:

    I like having a break for the summer, but I do think it gets to be too long for the kids. Not for me, but Bailey gets bored. I would even say having only 6-8 weeks off. 3 months is just too long. I’d pay for it a heart beat. 3 months is a long time for kids to retain what they learned. However a break of some kind is needed.

  8. SKL says:

    Another thought. How about cutting down the number of holidays the schools take off? Make it more like the usual corporate holidays? Those random dates when most working parents have to arrange child care are a pain, as well as a disruption to the curriculum.

    • Nikki says:

      Like Fall break we are having now. The kids haven’t even been in school for 2 months and they get almost a week off. I welcome breaks, I love having Bailey home. But unselfishly, I wish they wouldn’t take so many.

    • Laura says:

      This, I can agree with. At this point, Josh has a half-day every other week. Plus they call a late-start or early-out at the first sign of fog or snow. They start the same time every year (last week of Aug), but seem to get out EARLIER than ever (before the end of May).

      Unfortunately, asking them to have fewer days off or going longer in the school year opens the can of worms involving the teacher’s union that I vowed not to open.

      • SKL says:

        Oh what the heck, I don’t mind opening it for you, LOL! But supposing the holidays are set in stone – at least they could assign some homework for the days off!

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