Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Is More Better?

President Obama has floated a plan for longer school days and shorter summer vacations. It doesn't seem like a bad idea. I haven't been impressed with a lot of schools, although some are doing a very good job.

Is more necessarily better?

Let's take you back a few decades. My high school was spread over two buildings, separated by a street. Both buildings were in rough shape, due to a history of massive incompetence and catastrophic bungling. One building was so bad, it was actually condemned by the state because it was unsafe. That happened about half way through my sophomore year. For the second half of my sophomore year, and all of my junior year, we doubled up in one barely adequate building. Half day sessions. I was out the door at 12:30 pm, and I loved it.

Here's why.

I actually did some school work, on my own, in the afternoon, using the Penn State Dunmore campus library rather than that poor excuse for a library offered by my school district.

If kids want to learn, they'll learn. It doesn't make a difference if they're in a traditional school building four hours, eight hours, nine months, or eleven months. I truly believe a lot of students will be better off with independent tracks, instead of that "going through the motions" stuff offered in many schools. Keep an eye on them. Give them guidance. Let them be bound by their imagination, rather than a structure that's apparently not working.

A longer school day, and a longer school year can help, in some cases. It's not the only way to fix a broken system.