"History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake"
James Joyce Irish author (1882 - 1941).
I sure hope ignorance is bliss, because the awareness that comes from being educated creates nothing but pain when confronted on a daily basis with the short-sighted thinking that is rapidly sending this country up a certain creek without a paddle. The latest panacea for fixing education -- in what more and more seems akin to the way one fixes a dog -- is to have a 4 day school week to balance the budget of many school districts throughout the country. As yet this hasn't been proposed by Superintendent Cortines at LAUSD, but it is early yet and the $640 million shortfall this year is only a harbinger of the cuts already being proposed for the next two years.
In a school district where the majority of students are already far behind their grade levels in reading and math and class sizes are sure to rise after the presently proposed 5200 jobs cuts throughout LAUSD, taking a full day out every week might make sense for balancing the budget, but the cost it will extract out of students is truly unconscionable without factoring in the long term societal costs of turning yet another generation loose on society with no productive skills as either workers or citizens. Even though some school systems where this has already been implemented in Colorado and other states have attempted to make up the hours on the remaining 4 days, any teacher will tell you that there are only so many hours of concentration that can be expected from the average adolescent attention span. Instead of systematically increasing this, we now propose a 4 day school week, where Thursday becomes the new Friday, so the academic momentum necessary for students to become sustained learners is never achieved.
In today's pervasive discussion of public education reform designed to address the underachieving students, what happens to the good students that have perservered against already dumbed down curriculum, constant class disruption, and teachers who find it impossible to give rigorous courses, even if they want to? Now, these students are to be further penalized because state and federal deficits are going to be balanced on their backs, since inner city families do not have the political power to be heard.
Cutting school time with students who have significant academic deficits is diametrically opposed to those present reform models that have had success in catching students up with their peer group. However, this does not even seem to be a consideration mentioned in the few arguments being made against this proposal. In an argument that harkens back to the raison d'etre of public education in the first place circa 19th century, opposition has been voiced because it would making the lives of working parents difficult, which illustrates the lowest common real function of many schools, which is not to give an education but to function as daycare.
In France, where elementary students get off from school on Wednesdays, the socialization issues are very different. Latin countries have had the split shift working system where not only children, but parents came home in the afternoon for a meal, time with the family, and rest before returning to work until evening. With working women, divorce, and changing social order, even this is changing to some extent in Europe. However, local schools and extended nuclear families also make childcare a much more easily realizable function in these countries. In the United States and especially in traditionally minority dominated poor inner city school that over 90% of Whites have fled, lessening school days will only succeed in lessening the opportunity for socialization that is already not enough, given the siege that these families have already had to deal with for generations.
While teachers might be able to make up the lost hours from going to a 4-day school week, classified staff like cafeteria workers and bus drivers would not. This would represent a loss to these mostly minority families of approximately 20% of their already meager wages. In the last few years with all the job cuts, some businesses actual experience a short-term increase in their profitability, because they were able to lessen their overhead in labor costs while drastically cutting their already existing inventories. While cutting fat from any business makes sense, what it now appears that we are doing in both American business and education is dramatically cutting our investment in the continued viability of both of these endeavors. In a highly competitive world, we can see that this has already compromised what was America's edge.
It is this reality that makes me feel burdened by my education that uncontrollably forces me to juxtapose the present reality of public education and the cost of fighting endless wars of questionable justification in Iraq and Afghanistan, which clearly has brought about the necessity for cuts in education and other areas. Why couldn't we decide to fight those wars 6 days a week? Given the present $968,750,000,000 cost of these wars as of this writing, only fighting these war 6 days a week would save us $138,392,850,000 with which we could not only pay for primary and secondary education, but also a college or technical training for all of our students. But we all know that it is not rational to fight a war only 6 days a week, unless we could get the Christians, Muslims, and Jews involved to honor their respective sabbaths.