I expect articles in The New Yorker to be thoughtful if biased, but I never expected this. The “blog” writer, Avery Johnson, tries to rewrite climate, educational history, and class history with this astounding intro to the article The Day-Camp Boom:
“The beloved ritual of summer vacation is often said to have begun in agrarian communities, where parents needed their children’s help on the farm during the hot months. In actuality, much of the credit belongs to the nineteenth-century urban élite, who rallied to get their kids out of school so that they could all go on holiday together. Policymakers, intent on standardizing schooling across the country, gifted kids nationwide with summer vacation, and since then those long months of frog-catching and lemonade-sipping have been written into the lore of American childhood.” -Avery Johnson
Wow. So much error in one paragraph. Where to begin? OK, here’s my comment on TNY’s comment section, lest it get lost in further commentary:
Policymakers? Gifted? What kind of statist revistionist history is this?
The “hot summer months” were not when agrarian families needed child labor the most. It was most needed in Spring and late Summer/early Fall, that is, the Planting and Harvest intervals. Summer vacation came from the simple expedient, poor or rich, urban or agrarian, that it is too hot to stay indoors without air conditioning during the peak heat of Summer. Seeking relief in the woods, at the beach, in streams or rivers, or if wealthy enough, by traveling North, is the basis of Summer Vacation as we know it, and the fact that the crops are planted and not yet ready for harvest is no gift of any (earthly) Policymaker.
OK, so Avery Johnson knows nothing about farming. But, Avery Johnson apparently knows nothing about class and history in America, either, but is ready to serve up credit for the pre-Columbian climate-driven practice of Summer Break to the elite upper class and their friends, those wonderful Policymakers who gave us Public Education. Or did they?
So first of all, it was the social Reformers, who were Policy Pushers more than Policy Makers (when did that become one word?), who pushed for the most excellent idea of mandatory primary education in America. These true liberals get the credit (if you follow the link Horace Mann actually lengthened school to 6 months, not shortened it to allow for Summer Break.) When the Policy Makers (State and Local legislatures, Mayors and Governors, working close to the people’s needs as the Constitution provides) finally got on board and made education mandatory, they followed the same schedules that the private schools (used by the elite) already used- Fall and Spring classes with a short Winter break and a long Summer Break (or if you like, Vacation.)
Now what about those “elites?” They rallied? Since when do the payers and the movers and shakers have to get together to demand anything from their own service providers, private schools, that existed for their benefit, with unregulated schedules, when did they lose control and ever need to rally? Private tutoring or desultary education were always options before mandatory education regulations. Summer break existed because it is difficult to get anything done indoors in the sweltering days of late July. Not only did Congress take a break, but each President went to his respective Summer Whitehouse to get away from the city heat.
What irks me the most is the phrase Policymakers… gifted kids nationwide with summer vacation“. The message here is clear and unambiguous. Climate realities, planting and harvest schedules, tradition and holidays all be damned, we owe Summer Vacation to those wonderful, all-powerful Policymakers. Who knew?
So there’s some historical mistakes, maybe that’s irrelevent, what’s the real point of the article? Not the conclusion, so much, as a part near the end: Still, policymakers are realizing that summer vacation could be partly to blame for one of the biggest problems educators face: the learning gap between poorer kids and their wealthier peers. This is the thrust of that matter:
Problem: Lower and lower-middle class children (rapidly becoming the norm in this nation) have been failed by our educational system. On top of that, Summer Break causes a small but measurable slide in educational performance.
Solution: More of the same. Do away with Summer Break (call it “Vacation” to make it seem more frivolous), and get all those underperformers out of their Summer Slide and into some kind of Edumacational program where we can further coach them in Statist Doctrine, take good Government care of them, and, well, if that doesn’t work, at least keep them out of Juvie.
The real solution? Allow the economy to produce jobs that don’t require both parents to work 2 or 3 jobs each. This is done by not turning the government into everyone’s Nanny and everyone’s employer, and taxing everything that moves to pay for it, but by allowing businesses to be entrepreneurial and do, well, business. Then parents can have time to spend with their children, and/or money to pay for Summer Camps that they choose.