It occurs to me that we’re still dealing with an archaic tradition that has persisted despite lots of technology. I’m talking about the school year. Many decades ago, having a three or four month interruption in schooling during the summer made sense. Most Americans lived in rural areas, and many were farmers. The farmers needed all the help they could get during the busy summer harvest season, so of course they needed the assistance of their kids. Even my dad spent a summer or two at his uncle’s farm in Oklahoma, putting up fences, handling cattle, driving a tractor to till the fields, etc. But the times have changed.
More than half of all Americans now live in cities and towns, and the number of people who are actually involved in rudimentary farming are vanishingly small. Technology has also come a long ways, making farms much more mechanized, and requiring the use of less labor. Also, consider the changing American societal attitudes of child labor. Children don’t help out at the farm to the extent that they used to, and they really are no longer needed. So why do they need so many months off in the summer? They don’t.
It would be better for society in general if the school year was radically reshaped. Current school years (in the United States, anyway) have just 180 to 182 school days in them — that’s slightly less than half of the year! Think of all of the extra educational benefit we would get from increasing that number to, say, 70%. Simply eliminate the summer vacation and add more one week vacations, like Spring Break, throughout the year.
Now I’m not saying that summer fun should be eliminated, not at all. I went to a lot of educational summer camps when I was younger and I had a blast. But I also went to a fair number of leisure camps that, although they were fun, didn’t much educate me along the way to my adult life. Summer school should be a bit different than winter school. Kids would go on a lot more field trips. It’d almost be like an educational summer camp, except that it would be paid for and controlled by the state, which would do wonders for kids living in poverty whose parents cannot afford to send them to camp.
Looking back at my life, at the current age of 21, I can say there was a good amount of wasted time. It shouldn’t take so many years to get the equivalent of an undergraduate degree in knowledge. If the antiquated summer break were simply phased out, children would be getting much more instructional time each year, would learn more, would be smarter, and would be able to productively contribute to society at a younger age. One of the big problems we’re currently facing in America is stupidity. Increased schooling would fix that.