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Starting the School Year in September? Yes, We Can!

By Gloria Diaz

Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!

Fort Wayne Reader

2009-10-20


I usually don’t see good news in the paper these days, but a recent headline caught my attention. Apparently, parents and others are pushing to start the school year later. It’s about time someone said something.

Of course, part of the reasoning was economic. People in the tourism industry are bitching because starting the school year in mid to late August was cutting into people’s vacation time. You don’t say?!

I personally think it’s wrong to start school in August. For one thing, the city pools shut down by August 12 because lifeguards are returning to school. That means I have to hurry up and get my swim time in during June and July. This past summer, I went swimming ONCE. Due to my schedule, and the unseasonably cool summer, when it was freakin’ hot, I had to work, and on my days off, it really wasn’t hot enough to justify swimming.

And it’s depressing to walk into a store in July and see “back to school” specials. I know retail is notorious for thinking six months ahead and really doesn’t care about putting Halloween decorations beside Christmas ornaments, but still. No wonder it feels like time is rushing by; when you see holiday decorations six months before the actual event you either get pissed off or start to panic.

Personally, and I’ve written about this before, I think the whole starting the school year in August bit is a plot to get kids used to not having vacations at all. I predict in the next five years, all major retailers will be open on Thanksgiving, and five years after that, on Christmas. Instead of having a couple months off in the summer, kids will go to a year-round schedule that won’t really be called a year-round schedule; rather it will be labeled something like “enhanced summer.” You’ll get two weeks off after the end of the school year, then you will start the “enhancement,” which will run up through Labor Day weekend, with a half-day off on Labor Day. Yes, you won’t even get the full weekend anymore.

All this work for what—exactly? Better productivity? Yes. Better grades? Possibly. But they are gradually grooming younger people for a life without leisure. I don’t think I’m crazy for writing this. In order to get people used to something, they have to start slowly. It’s like the book Animal Farm. At first, when the animals took over, things were good. But gradually, they had to work longer, for less food. Certain other animals were able to have time off and more food. But the ordinary workers on the farm eventually slid back into the same lifestyle they had when the human farmer ran the show. It didn’t happen overnight; it took a few years and a few generations until no one really knew any better, except for a couple oldsters in the barnyard.

I’m becoming that oldster in the barnyard. I was talking about music in one of my classes, and how you could buy any song you heard on the radio on a 45 r.p.m. and (I really shouldn’t have been surprised) one of my students asked what a 45 was.
I wouldn’t want to go back to high school again, but I remember when Labor Day meant the end of summer and the return to school. I wonder what it’s like to have the summer off, start school during one of the hottest times of the year, get a three-day weekend, then go back to school? I guess I should ask a kid that.

But since they’ve never known anything different, they might ask me why it matters. They, after all, are used to it. They grew up on Animal Farm. Those of us who didn’t remember a more leisurely past. And hopefully, if the movement to push back the school year goes through, a new generation of kids will be able to hang onto the summer a bit longer.

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