Dec 21, 2009

Class Time

As teachers and students began the ’09-’10 school year this past September, President Barack Obama made the announcement that American students would need to boost their academic performance, and that one method of attaining that boost was through a lengthened school year and school day. Curtailing vacations and extending class time are critical steps, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan argues, because American students are at a disadvantage when compared to students in other countries where the academic calendar is longer: “The school calendar is based on the agrarian calendar, which no longer makes sense.”

Proponents of the increase cite increased student achievement as essential to the future of the American economy and democracy. However, not everyone is as enthusiastic about the proposed route to higher achievement, a fact acknowledged in the President's speech: “Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas. Not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom."

Other critics include Teacher Unions, which have gone to extreme measures to balance a budget that does not seem to support the President’s plans for more school. Others are advocating a more efficient use of class time instead of simply adding to what is already there.

And of course, caught in the middle are the students. With most of their time spent in the classroom, plus the pressures of extra curricular activities, homework, and sometimes a part-time job, it is no wonder why many students are pushing back on the idea of lengthening the school year. Students already feel overburdened by the pressures of academia, and to add to that would be folly in the minds of many.

There is no easy solution. On the one hand is a need for improved education, and on the other are the eternal constraints of time and money. What do you think?

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