President Obama recommends shorter summer vacations for U.S. schoolchildren so they can attend school for more days than they do already, because he believes that they’re at a disadvantage compared to students in other countries.
His Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, says more school hours will “even the playing field” when it comes to comparing our schoolchildren to those in the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, homeschoolers excel with far fewer hours of instruction than most public schoolchildren receive. So is it really more hours of instruction that schoolchildren need?
First off, President Obama’s assertion appears to be inaccurate:
Obama and Duncan say kids in the United States need more school because kids in other nations have more school.
“Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students here,” Duncan told the AP. “I want to just level the playing field.”
While it is true that kids in many other countries have more school days, it’s not true they all spend more time in school.
Kids in the U.S. spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the U.S. on math and science tests – Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days).
Apparently children in the countries that outscore ours in math and science attend school for more days per year but fewer hours per year. So the suggestion by Obama and Duncan that a longer school day results in “gains” (test scores, which do not necessarily equal learning) is not backed up by the foreign countries whose kids outscore ours. They actually have shorter school days.
But if you read the entire article, you find that merely educating kids isn’t really the point anyway. Here are your clues:
The president, who has a sixth-grader and a third-grader, wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go.
Summer is a crucial time for kids, especially poorer kids, because poverty is linked to problems that interfere with learning, such as hunger and less involvement by their parents.
That makes poor children almost totally dependent on their learning experience at school, said Karl Alexander, a sociology professor at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University, home of the National Center for Summer Learning.
Aside from improving academic performance, Education Secretary Duncan has a vision of schools as the heart of the community.
“Those hours from 3 o’clock to 7 o’clock are times of high anxiety for parents,” Duncan said. “They want their children safe. Families are working one and two and three jobs now to make ends meet and to keep food on the table.”
Do you see it? What we’re talking about here goes way beyond merely educating a child. This is about raising children because their parents have been deemed unable or unwilling. This is about schools becoming publicly subsidized daycare centers for school-age children, even on the weekends.
What it’s not about is how many hours of instruction it takes to educate a child so he can beat the math and science scores of kids in other countries. Homeschoolers have already demonstrated that.