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by Neha M '14 by Sebastian A '14

Obama Proposes Shorter Summer Vacations

The Obama administration proposed a plan on September 27th, 2010 about an extended school year in order to raise student achievement, which raised much controversy among to adults and kids alike.  The plan would extend the school year by a month, decreasing the length of summer vacation.  When this idea was proposed, many issues were brought up that both supported and went against it, one of the prime issues being the economy.  It is well known that America is in an economic recession and our funds are being cut.  Some people believe that if we were to pass such a plan, more governments funds would be spent rather then saved because, teachers and administrators would have to be paid an extra month’s salary. In addition, money would be needed to keep the school open for things such as electricity (air-conditioning, lights, etc.)
Another concern the plan raised was the potential damage it could inflict upon the tourism industry.  During the summer time or break families spend money to go on vacations both in and out of the United States.  Therefore, tourist and recreational industries would suffer if the school year were to be extended.  People would not spend as much money travelling or going to as amusement parks because they would be stuck in school.  When asked for his opinion on the subject, Dr. Helfenbien said, “I don’t think that an extra month of school would be necessarily helpful.  It would be repetitive and not much would get done.  As well, people’s habits of spending would decrease.  We’re in a bad economy and if people went to school during the summer time, the tourist industry would decrease.” It seems that many people who are against the plan have similar concerns.
Conversely, Another factor that needs to be considered is our society. US students are ranked as 21st in the world in science and 25th for math.  Over the summer a majority of the things we learn in school are lost because our break is about 80 days and not many students review.  Although some BSGE kids are assigned summer HW to keep our brains sharp and ready,  a large majority of kids are not given any work and thus forget everything.  Much of the next school year is therefore dedicated to making up that loss of knowledge.  If we were to cut down the break in half, we would be able to learn more during the time that would have been otherwise spent vacationing, and forget less.     If America were to educate its youth to a greater extent, more students would excel.  Education is, the key to success and if our society isn’t educated, we will not go anywhere as a country.  Obama claims that, “Despite resources that are unmatched anywhere in the world, we have let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short, and other nations outpace us and that that is no way to prepare them for a 21st Century economy.” In this global society, we must catch up.
One must also take into account the position that the United States plays  on an international scale. A country with such a high caliber of influence like the United States should have well educated citizens. However, as president Obama cited, nearly one third of all 13 and 14 year olds read below appropriate standards set, and our countries eighth-grade curriculum is nearly two years behind that of competing countries.  At the point that our country is in now, the fact that we are behind thirteen other countries in terms of the most amount of school days in a year, with Japan at the top, leads one to believe that perhaps that extra month of school can actually benefit students. Nathanael Farciert ’13 said, “At this point, I feel an extended school year would be beneficial to us.  We would learn and get more done.” If we had another month to work in school. And with academic achievement levels of such countries with extended school years so high, this also can lead one to believe that another month can help us. As much as we hate school we probably hate being called, “academically challenged” even more.
Longer school days does not necessarily mean a better education for a country that is already somewhat behind like the US.  Instead of increasing the school year by a month, as the Obama administration would like to , an alternative could be to have all public schools enforce mandatory after-school tutoring programs.  Furthermore, an increased amount of funding should be spent on to the public school system in order to increase and enhance the quality of extracurricular activities, and hire more teachers.  The issue remains two-sided end. As students, we love our summer.

By Mr. Lakhaney

TOK Teacher

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