Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday August 16, 2001
Let’s not take summer away from our kids; Education: An idea with merit, but not now
Not here, not now. There’s a case to be made for an expanded school year that students (and their parents) could opt into. The province’s Task Force on Effective Schools is fundamentally right in suggesting some study on the issue is worthwhile.
A shorter (five-week) summer break and other more frequent breaks through the rest of the school year has shown itself to be a popular option for eight schools operated by four boards across the province. Student learning momentum is kept without a two-month interruption, and some families obviously find rescheduled holidays work for them.
But they certainly won’t work for everyone, and since our climate makes air-conditioning a requisite for summer programs, some boards would find it financially disastrous.
This is an idea that should be considered across the province only in the long term. Now is not the time to bring more radical change into Ontario’s schools.
Teachers and students are already trying to cope with enough change to rattle anyone: New curriculum; standardized testing; the loss of specialized special-ed, music and physical education teachers; textbook short ages; teacher testing/recertification (and the resistance that goes with it); the end of OAC and the so-called “double cohort; ” a loss of experienced teachers to early-retirement offers; and still uncertainty about after-school activities. And that’s not including the funding shortfalls and inequities that are forcing school boards into confrontations with their teachers and damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t choices about what they can a fford. Just about the last thing school boards need is a provincial directive to offer alternative school-year programs.
But there’s more to this than the logistics of climate control and issues of teacher contracts, parents’ schedules and learning retention.
Summer holiday is one of the last great perks of being a kid. The great writer Ray Bradbury wrote in his book Dandelion Wine about how, for a youngster, summer holidays begin by stretching off to a distant horizon, with the next school year so far away it doesn’t bear thinking about. When school lets out, summer is an infinite time of hikes and games and adventures, swimming and sports, comic books and fireflies and sprinklers to be run through. All too soon, part-time, then full-time, jobs strip that away. We need to really think about if schooling should take away the rest.
In this part of the world, summer is still, for most youngsters, so anticipated that it makes the rest of the school year bearable. It doesn’t matter if it’s Haliburton or Hutch’s, Wasaga Beach or Pier 4, the Bruce Trail or the Bayfront Trail, summer is still when families do the things we don’t make time for during the rest of the year.
There are some things more important than keeping our nose to the grindstone. And what our children make of their summers is part of that. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial, A10, 8/16/2001)