Wednesday, January 23, 2013

School Holidays

It has become obvious to me that the teacher’s union in this country is even more powerful than I thought. It didn’t occur to me until Monday, which was Martin Luther King Day. I realized Sunday night that the kids didn’t have school on Monday. By realized, of course I mean that my wife told me. Martin Luther King Day is one of those holidays like Columbus Day or Abe Lincoln’s birthday. The only people who take the day off are the schools, the post office, and the government. The rest of us have to work. That got me thinking about school holidays, and how many of them there are, and then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Ever since I left school and entered the work force, I have wondered about summer vacation. I obviously enjoyed it when I was a student, but now that I’m on the other side of the fence I have questioned why it exists. Why can’t students and teachers work all year just like the rest of us? I never took my thinking on the subject any farther than that until Monday. On Monday I hit upon the real question. The question is not why we have summer vacation. The real question is, if we’re going to have a vacation at all, why is it in the summer? I mean, look at the calendar!

In January we have Martin Luther King Day, but even before that, we had the end of Christmas break. They didn’t start back to school until the second week in January.

In February we have Ground Hog Day, Lincoln’s Birthday, Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day, and Washington’s Birthday. Most of those are not school holidays, but they might as well be for all the actual school work getting done, what with all the in-class celebrations going on. They scoot Abe and George’s birthdays around to “observe” them on a convenient Friday/Monday combination to create a four day mini holiday called President’s Day Weekend. Did you miss that last year? That’s because you were at work. With only 28 days in the first place, February is a write-off.

In March we have Easter break, now commonly known as Spring Break. There’s a week gone, plus the recent addition of Easter Monday becoming a school holiday. Add in Daylight Savings Time Day and St. Patrick’s Day and you’ve got a lot of clock lessons, leprechaun traps and colored eggs to take the place of math and English.

April has April Fools’ Day, Earth Day, and Administrative Professionals’ Day. While the other two might not take up much class time, Earth Day promises to take up a week. (Come to think of it, April also used to have a day called “Secretary’s Day.” I wonder what happened to that one? Oh, well, never mind.)

In May we have Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, Armed Forces Day, and Memorial Day. Mother’s Day is a big detractor from book learnin’, and Cinco de Mayo burns a day drawing Mexican flags. Memorial Day is an actual holiday that is conveniently always on a Monday. That one doesn’t count, because everyone gets it. (Pipe down, retail and restaurant workers, you can have Flag Day off. Maybe.)

Speaking of Flag Day, that’s in June, along with Father’s Day. Two more days of no homework to grade. Then comes summer and no one is in school. The sum total of holidays in the summer break months of June, July, and August is one: The Fourth of July. That’s it.

School starts back up in late August or early September, just in time to take a day off for Labor Day, the only holiday in September. (Actually, my calendar also lists “Grandparents’ Day” on September 8th, but let’s face it, every day is Grandparents’ Day. They’re retired. My kids’ grandparents are so retired, none of them ever know what day of the week it is!)

Late September and early October is serious buckle down time, until Columbus Day rolls around; another teacher and mailman-only holiday. Then there’s Halloween, which kills a minimum of two full days of schoolwork with costume contests and candy trading.

Halloween marks the beginning of the “holiday season.” November begins, and we might as well not have school at all. Veterans’ Day is observed on a Monday for another three day weekend, and the rest of November is spent drawing pictures of pilgrims, Indians, and turkeys. They are out of school for the last week of the month for Thanksgiving break and National Shopping Friday. Back to school for a few days in December to play some secret Santa and draw snowmen, then off on Christmas break until the middle of January.

On top of the holidays and breaks there are always a few “staff development” days when the kids stay home, and keep in mind, we live in a part of California that doesn’t see snow more than once every ten years. Add in winter snow days for the folks in the upper two-thirds of the country, and it gets even more ludicrous.

So if you look at the calendar in terms of national holidays and weather, and your goal was to have kids get the absolute most out of the school year, where would you put your three-month break? You would naturally start it at Thanksgiving and come back at the end of February. Actually, if your goal was to maximize the school year, you wouldn’t have a three-month break. You would simply have school all year.

Now, this whole summer break business came about in the first place due to farming. When you lived on a farm, and you were the farm labor, you worked in the summer. No sense keeping the school open if no one will be there to drool on the desks. I think we can safely say that the days of desperately needing our children to sow, cultivate, and pick crops are behind us. So why do we still have summer break at all?

The answer must be the teacher’s union. It’s the only thing that makes sense. Since teachers don’t get paid nearly enough, they must supplement their income by picking crops in the summer, and the powerful teacher’s union has kept the summer break in place to allow them to do so. That must be it.

Although, that still doesn’t explain all the other breaks in the school year. Hmmm.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen

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  1. I concur. Another argument to consider is that fall heralds in the flu and virus season. My own children have been continuously sick since before Christmas. I am always looking over my shoulder to make sure that a truancy officer isn't gonna get me and turn my children over to DCFS.

  2. Fantastic point, Maecy! Keep the kids at home during the cold and flu season. No one is ever sick during the summer months. We call our less-than-perfect parental maneuvers "CPS moments." (Child Protective Services)
    Thanks for reading!!!

  3. Marc~

    Excellent post! I was just lamenting about this very thing to a friend recently. Additionally, less than an hour ago I let my thoughts on the matter be known regarding our school districts decision to cancel school, yet again tomorrow due to snow. We had all of maybe and inch of snow last night so to be "safe" the school closed school for the day. Frustrating! As a precaution in the name of safety the district has closed again for tomorrow AND the kids do not have school Monday due to a teacher work day. For heaven's sake, they just had a lengthy holiday break and this week is mid-term exam week. When are my kids supposed to receive an education under these circumstances?

    As a parent, it angers me that the kids are not in school long enough during the day to begin with and incessant closings only add to the reduction in teaching time. The lack of teaching time only sends the message to kids that they should seek time off from work whenever possible rather than pursuing a diligent work ethic.

    You are correct regarding the summer being for harvest therefore, no school. Do you know how many people do not know this fact? A multitude, unfortunately. Particularly, kids in this nation have no clue that no-school summers were so children could work! Do our kids have to work farms now which is grueling work that teaches life skills? No! Those days are over so why perpetuate the myth that summer is about time off to party? Not their fault, but the lack of having to work early is perpetuated by our lazy culture which is being nurtured by our educational system.

    I think you may be onto something in terms of supplementation of teacher income. They must absolutely need those summer breaks for crop picking to earn a full-time salary. Makes much more sense than actually having a job that requires one to work all year!

    Keep up the great writing~

  4. Thanks for the novel comment, Amy! Thanks for reading!

  5. Looking back on my school years i fondly remember the school holidays and the midweek and of of week half days of school. it is amazing students in k-12 learn any thing with the numberdays off from school due to holidays and teacher work days.

  6. My point, exactly, Morgan! Thanks for reading!