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Learning is a year-round task

In this column last August, I examined the efficacy of year-round schooling given that our present school calendar is based on a completely agrarian economy in which it was necessary to have the family’s children at home on the farm to assist with duties of the growing/harvesting seasons.

At the same time, our present economy is moving more toward a service-based platform girded by technology and all its advancements.

August’s column presented the following evidence in support of year round schooling: “Education World in September 2004 made the acute observation that year-round schooling offered many advantages, and few disadvantages. ‘In addition to increasing school-building capacity, reducing class size, and maximizing use of facilities,’ reports Education World, ‘Advocates of year-round scheduling say it:

– reduces teacher burnout, student stress, drop-out rates, and discipline problems;

– increases student retention and achievement;

– decreases the amount of school vandalism and the number of burglaries; and,

– allows families to take vacations at times that are more advantageous, avoiding crowds and inflated rates.'”

Of course, my position was met with less enthusiasm than the Auburn football team receives at Bryant-Denny Stadium – even in my own home!

My teenage daughter pleaded with me not to write that column, since it would be yet another form of her having to suffer embarrassment at the hands of her “old” father.

Well, India, I’m sorry, but this is something that we’re going to have to face sooner or later, for the simple reason that it just plain makes sense!

Why do we remain tied to an antiquated educational schedule which does nothing to continue the promotion of learning for at least three months – consecutively!?

Then I read the lead editorial in last Friday’s Demopolis Times.

If you have not yet read it, go out and find one today.

It adds fodder to my position for year-round schooling.

In that well stated piece the entire fulcrum of my argument is balanced.

Schools are, in fact, doing things in the summer.

They’re just not “organized” like the “regular” school year.

There are “special” programs for a wide variety of interests in our schools.

There are programs sponsored by the City and, of course, the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Hence, one could freely argue that we already have year round schooling!

Of course, but students do not earn credit toward graduation or grade promotion for attending. They can sign up to become better artists, dancers, athletes, and the list goes on and on.

And this, too, is “learning” in its purest sense. The learners are participating in those things that they like, thus, their learning index and interest are much higher.

It is almost as if the “fun” in summer programs at schools is “fun” because students don’t associate it with learning.

It is just plain “fun.”

And there may be a message in our pedagogical approaches there, but that is grist for another column.

The present point is that while communities are doing what they can to keep our children’s interests in the entire learning process on mark throughout the summer, we need a strong push to extend our school year for all types of learning.

As the Times’ editorial points out appropriately, “Just because it’s summer, doesn’t mean everything needs to be dropped.”

Indeed!

In the real world today, I know I am still shouting into an echo canyon with cries for year-round schooling.

But if America is to remain the anchor of the world’s economy, it must reconsider the cost-effectiveness of a school year that averages around 175 days per year.

There is just too much for our children to learn to waste three months a year because they are needed back on the farm – which they are not.

Add to this some of the truly frightening test results we have found in various parts of our country and we have a formula that undermines the very foundations upon which our nation has become the world’s leader. While children in other industrialized nations are studying algebra in July, our kids are looking for “stuff” to do.

In short, our children want to continue learning and when we abruptly stop that process on a formal basis after nine months, I believe we are inviting a kind of disaster down the road somewhere.

There are a number of year round school districts in our country and a number of calendar options for year round schooling.

Perhaps it is time to re-examine our school calendar – after all, if we don’t, some technological wizard somewhere will quickly fill this learning void and we have no guarantees that it will be beneficial or conducive to what we need our youngsters to learn.

– Dr. Arthur Ogden is the Campus Director for Alabama Southern’s Demopolis Campus and holds all his degrees in philosophy.

He can be reached at aogden@ascc.edu.