(Slightly Less) Wet, Hot American Summer

Flickr: Adjustafresh

Flickr: Adjustafresh

Conor Clarke wants to get rid of summer vacation. Conor Friedersdorf does not. Conor C. wants to make sure Conor F. knows that it really is a bad idea. Conor F. has a video rebuttal.

Two such worthy combatants really should at least pick different spellings.

Digressing, I fall down mostly on Mr. C’s side, though not entirely. He makes an interesting point, that is patently obvious, but I had never thought about in this debate:

Small though it may seem, one of the most profound ways in which class differences express themselves is over the summer vacation.

This is because wealthy parents can afford to given their children all sorts of edifying summer experiences that downscale parents cannot. And this, as researchers at Johns Hopkins have found, leads to backsliding: Educational advancement across classes tends to be fairly even during the school year. But downscale students actually decline in educational achievement over the course of the summer, while upscale students remain relatively stable.

Mr. C. goes into more detail on the economics of summer vacation here. Mr. F, while acknowledging (and promptly) disregarding the economic equality problem, disagrees:

I disagree! [Ed Note: Told you so.] High performing kids at intense schools are stressed enough as it is — there’s more to life, and especially more to childhood, than test score achievement. I wouldn’t trade the summers of my youth for a better competitive edge today against the average Japanese worker.

I’m all for addressing that inequity, but I’d prefer a method that doesn’t rob the wealthy kids — and the middle class kids if my childhood summers are any indication — of those edifying summer experiences.

Mr. C responds by proposing a shortened summer vacation, with other vacation days spread throughout the year (Mr. F is incorrigible). This seems rather sensible to me, for a reason beyond the brain drain that occurs from 3 months out of the classroom: August sort of stunk. My great childhood memories, and perhaps this was family-specific, came in the first 2/3 of summer, when I was excited to be outdoors, to have freedom, to do whatever I pleased. But at some point, when the pools became quieter and the tennis matches less numerous – and the Midwest weather got so darned hot – I was bored. And probably dumber. Send me back to school

So there you go: cut summer to 50 days, add a fall break, and be done with it.


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