Summer School: No News Is Bad News
Today's guest blog is co-written by Kris Fox, Ed.D. and Michael Corso, Ph.D. of the Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations.
Below is a screen cap taken on June 30th from CNN's Student News website. Note that the last story covered was on June 5th and that CNN will not resume coverage until August 17th. This is great news: All the conflicts currently plaguing our planet are on pause. There will be no further racial tensions between and mid-August. No more political candidates will enter the field. Hurricanes will hold off making destructive landfall for 10 weeks. And Greece's creditors will grant them a summer-reprieve.
Not every news outlet with student programming goes on summer holiday:
- The New York Times takes a month off but offers supplemental material
- The Washington Post stays current throughout the summer
- The PBS News Hour for Kids keeps reporting
CNN is not to blame, except in so far as they purport to be "the most trusted name in news" and trust implies congruence with reality. The news doesn't stop; neither does learning take a vacation. Why then does their student news programming take a break?
CNN is not to blame because they have been suckered into an outdated view of learning and, more specifically, school schedules. The agricultural calendar that we can't seem to shake continues to send the message that learning is something that stops for long stretches and then resumes. While most school mission statements profess a belief in life-long learning, this apparently does not mean year-long learning. Most schools continue to make time a constant and learning a variable. One-hundred and eighty days. Stop. Wait 2 months. Repeat.
We see this all the time in schools. The testing is over so the field trip busses roll in and the movie screens roll down. We hear teachers counting the days until school ends and planning sick leave accordingly. Students throw away a year's worth of accumulated notes and work on their way out the classroom door when the last bell rings. All this backs up Alice Cooper's anthem:
No more pencils
No more books
No more teachers' dirty looks
Out for summer
Out till fall
We might not go back at all
We know and understand the arguments about recreation, summer enrichment, and family time. But besides the well documented impact of summer time off on learning and the lack of summer enrichment opportunities for students in poverty, school itself should be a place of re-creation, enrichment, and family involvement. The flaw in the way we do school has less to do with the role of time in school, then it does with the role of school in our time.
We challenge those who make policy, break the news, and have a stake in educational leadership to advocate for learning that is as unlimited by time as learning is. Expect your children and your children's teachers (and the organizations that claim to support learning) to keep education going year-round even if the last day of school is mid-June. Above all, imagine learning that is not defined by the calendar.
* Peter DeWitt is a part-time field specialist for QISA.