...usually with an attempt at historical and economic context
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Obama Wants More School Days and Hours for American Students
President Barack Obama wants to extend the length of the school day for American children and also extend the school year, wiping out much of the current summer vacation many enjoy. According to an Associated Press article by Libby Quaid (09/27/09), the president “says American kids spend too little time in school, putting them at a disadvantage with other students around the globe.” 
Also, according to the article, Education Secretary Arne Duncan says, “Our school calendar is based upon the agrarian economy and not too many of our kids are working the fields today" 
The article cites examples of efforts in some school systems to expand school hours and cites some possible benefits. The president seems to focus on the comparison between American results and those of other countries. As appealing as the above-cited statements may seem, there are serious matters to consider in the discussion that are not being mentioned by the president or the secretary.
1. Why is the federal government so anxious to have this control over local schools? Eventually, the Department of Education is likely to be the authority over local schools, in contrast to historical tradition and structure, simply through executive decree or teachers’ union influence growing year by year.
2. Is competitiveness on standardized tests the ultimate measure of educational success? Teacher LaDonna Hatfield asks, “Why are we no longer focused on developing the individual student's aptitudes and abilities in favor of competing with the world's smartest kids on a test? Why are we opting to spread this hogwash in the media instead of lobbying for more vocational programs and specialized curricula that will help our students achieve their goals in life?” She goes on to say, “If I knew how write this so that the reader could hear the venom in my voice, I would do it.” 
She points out that in Asian countries, students often have six hours a day of homework, and, depending on their assigned specialties, are taken from their parents at some point to focus on their studies. The brightest students in various disciplines are chosen for more concentrated studies. Is this what American education is coming to?
Even if, as the AP article notes, American children spend more hours in the classroom, they tend to be much less burdened with hours of homework.
3. “Aside from improving academic performance, Education Secretary Duncan has a vision of schools as the heart of the community.”  While schools are an important part of the community, should they be the “heart” of it? Traditionally, the heart of an American community is not the school, not the city hall, not the grocery store, not even the church – it is the home, the family. The liberal-socialist-progressive vision has usually been to usurp the parents’ role in education. “It takes a village.” This attitude, so often found in educational institutions, suggests that students must reject much of what their parents have taught them they should believe, and accept a “more sophisticated” view of the world, whereby they must rethink everything they’ve been taught. Students ought to be taught how to think, but very often the thinking has already been done for them by the educators, and they are to simply absorb the doctrine. I believe most of America’s social problems stem from our educational system’s usurpation of and refusal to reinforce parental authority.
4. As I mentioned in a previous post, I believe the United States Constitution, by the Tenth Amendment, prohibits the federal government from controlling education, and to a great extent, that is what they are trying to do. It has been the tendency of the Obama Administration to try to control as many things as possible, especially things that touch the daily lives of Americans. We still have local school districts and school boards, and state departments of education. They should be the ones to whom the parents delegate some authority for their children’s education, subject to the voters at election time, and always considering the parents’ wishes.
It may be good to debate ideas such as expanded school schedules. Not so good would be the imposition of federal standards for this on local schools either by executive decree or legislation.
I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.