Friday, October 9, 2009

Is More School the Answer?

President Obama may have won the Nobel Peace Prize, but he's certainly not a popular figure in our house right now. (And I'm an Obama fan!)

The reason for the discord? My boys saw this headline in Sunday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Kids Need More Time in School." Needless to say, they vehemently disagree.

I do too. I'm all for academic achievement, but the idea that "the only way you can close the achievement deficit is by having kids in school longer" is absolutely ludicrous. As if sitting in a classroom is the magic key to knowledge.

Learning can happen any time, anywhere; the only thing that's required, I'm convinced, is a curious child who feels safe in his environment. A supportive adult helps too, but plenty of children learn even in the absence of adults. (Remember William Kamkwamba?)

Obama says that the additional time is necessary for our children to "catch up" to the rest of the world. Children in South Korea, he says, currently spend one more month in school -- every year -- than American children.

I understand the well-meaning intentions, but the logic just doesn't make sense. In Milwaukee, Public Schools Superintendent William Andrekopoulos has proposed adding 10 minutes to the school day and moving to a year-'round schedule. 10 more minutes in school is going to improve things?

If kids are currently failing in school now, why do we think that a longer school day is going to help? Instead of just adding on "more," how 'bout we change the "how?" If kids aren't learning with the currents means and methods, try other methods. If that doesn't work, try something else.

I'm reminded of Albert Einstein's definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.


  1. While I don't think more school is the answer for everyone, I do think that more time in school actually could do some real good for certain groups. Children without supportive families, or with special language or other needs would benefit greatly from more interaction, and if their parents are unable to provide it due to economic or other factors, it could be a major boon to a needy population.

  2. Yes, but...wouldn't a more humane solution be to strengthen families? I understand that schools is a better place than home when home means an abusive family, or no one to care for you b/c your parents are too strung out on jobs -- or even if your parents are simply too busy at work to pay attention to you. So school may need to be a part of the solution, but I'd like to see programs, services and initiatives addressed at helping families, at dealing with some of these underlying problems.

  3. The fact that your homeschooled boys "vehemently disagree" that they need more time in school is ironic.

  4. Jenny, I couldn't agree with you more on this point.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly! My boys work hard in school, plus have a lot of homework every night. They do NOT need more time in school or doing schoolwork. Their free time - spent playing, creating, and recharging - is just as critical to their learning and growth. I think kids today spend too much time in structured learning activities (school plus everything else) and need to have time to just be kids.