The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece on Saturday school. Reporting that many schools around the nation are looking at four-day school weeks, we know we need to head the other direction:
[Schools] that boast extraordinary success with poor and minority youngsters typically surround them, like Mesopotamians, with learning from dawn to dusk. The celebrated Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), a network of over 80 charter schools around the country, subjects its middle-schoolers to 60% more instructional time than the typical public school—including eight- to 10-hour days, Saturday morning classes and abbreviated summer breaks.
The typical young American, upon turning 18, will have spent just 9% of his or her hours on this planet under the school roof (and that assumes full-day kindergarten and perfect attendance) versus 91% spent elsewhere. As for the rest of that time, the Kaiser Family Foundation recently reported that American youngsters now devote an astounding 7.5 hours per day to “using entertainment media” (including TV, Internet, cellphones and videogames). That translates to about 53 hours a week—versus 30 hours in school.
Can’t say I disagree with the idea. The notion that “kids deserve a summer break” is borderline mental. By that rationale, we’d all deserve a summer break and no one REALLY believes that’s good for us as a nation. Mail can’t just not be delivered for three months, surgeries can’t just be rescheduled and information just can’t stop. We barely even manage to wrangle Christmas.
I firmly believe kids ought to spend at least another day’s worth of time in school. Maybe not Saturday, but that stupid 2:30 dismissal time is also borderline mental. Since most Americans get a weekend, or at least a couple days off in a row, it doesn’t make sense to take that away from kids, either. But, simply extending the school day from 3 to 5 makes a lot of sense. It gives parents a chance to get home and get things in order before the kids arrive and anyone in after-school programs can just stay an extra hour or two later for their activity. Costs are slightly lower for transportation – since that’s the biggest expense behind salaries. It’s still two trips a day over five days and you wouldn’t need to cook food since most kids could be home by 7 and have dinner at 7:30, homework at 8 until 9 and then go to bed. Repeat the next day and hey, you also teach the kids reality!
Spare me the “their too precious and sensitive” and “but the busses would have to drive in rush hour traffic and endanger our children” bull crap. Kids are people, they’re not stupid and unless they’re in kindergarten they should be able to stay awake a couple extra hours a day. And, busses are big and yellow — they drive in traffic all the time. Traffic is relative anyway. If a full bus can meander through the streets of NYC, Chicago and L.A. at any time of day, they should be just fine meandering through country roads or smaller communities any time, too.