Educational principles

People without children are probably wondering why in the world we’d have our annual Back to School issue on July 24. It’s because the school year changed! The first day of school is Aug. 11 this year.

That’s right. Remember how you used to get so bored during those last weeks of summer when there was nothing left to do except swim, play video games, meet new people, experiment with drugs and alcohol, go to the mall, read Jacqueline Susann, and fall in love? With the new schedule, those days of mind-numbing freedom are over, and kids can get right back to school to learn their place in society.

Really, while the extra days off during the school year are great, there are those of us who believe life is not just about becoming competitive in the world workforce, and those final days of summer chillin’ are among our best memories of childhood and young adulthood.

Public education has become very politicized. As much as liberals hated George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind, conservatives hate Barack Obama’s Common Core. The hatred is to some degree misplaced in both instances.

Many people argue that kids on average lag a bit after getting a long summer break. And that may be true, but as is often pointed out, children in Asian countries like Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong have up to 20 percent fewer instructional hours, and they still out-perform us in areas of math and science. So it’s not all about the hours spent in school.

This doesn’t prove any kind of causation—less school makes kids smarter—but it does suggest something about U.S. society and our approach toward education. One of our biggest problems is that many of our people don’t value education for education’s sake.

We treat education like it’s all about learning things so we can get a job so we will be productive. But that mindset goes a long way toward creating a society that doesn’t encourage us to continue our educations after the day’s work. We treat education like a job. Therefore, our children have earned entertainment when they’re home with the family.

The way we spend our evening hours when school is in session is a good illustration of why children seem to take a step back in learning after a long summer break. We treat summer break as a reward for a hard school year. Again, we act as though we’ve earned a reprieve from the horrible task of learning—not thinking is a reward for thinking.

We aren’t suggesting that Washoe County School District go back to long summer vacations, although many of us will remember them fondly. What we are suggesting is that parents who take an active interest in their own educations are sure to inspire a child’s interest in learning. Education should be a lifelong pursuit, both to improve the mind and to have a better society. It’s fun to learn a new skill or to enrich your knowledge about things you enjoy doing or knowing. Back to school doesn’t just have to be about the kids.

Finally, don’t speed in the school zones and watch out for children in the crosswalks.