I'm in the grocery store, taking refuge from another 100-degree day, and already the aisles are cluttered with displays for back-to-school merchandise. Really? Summer has just started—can’t they at least wait until my ears stopped ringing from July 4th fireworks?
It was another reminder of the often complicated relationship between school and summertime.
For many children, school and summer are sworn enemies; school is the villain preventing them from reaching the Nirvana of "no more pencils, no more books …." Summer is the sunny hero that can be counted on to arrive as promised to free the children from the burdens of the classroom, at least for a few carefree weeks.
In such a world, the worst fate that could befall a youngster was being sentenced to summer school. It’s no wonder that our society has "issues" with school in the summer.
Those unresolved conflicts about school and summer seem to linger on into adulthood for many. When an educator voices complaints about poor working conditions, inadequate pay or unrealistic burdens placed on schools, it’s likely you’ll hear someone deliver the resentment-tinged response, "But you have summers off!"
So all those jealous types should have been happy when the push to improve education required school systems to extend the school year and accommodate more instructional time and staff training. Guess again. Starting school before Labor Day puts a crimp in our August vacation plans, some people whined. Several state legislatures have taken that argument even further and have prohibited school systems from starting classes before Labor Day.
The message appears to be, "Could you please improve schools without changing anything and inconveniencing anybody?"
Of course, as most everyone acknowledges, the main reasons for not having school in the summer are no longer valid. The agrarian society that existed when the school calendar was established is no more. Folks have packed up and moved to the city. Air conditioning of school buildings has made the summertime classroom environment bearable, if not preferable, to the outdoors.
But all those reasons shrivel into irrelevance when the powers of summer are unleashed.