The tourism industry need not worry

The Time magazine headline read, The Case Against Summer Vacation (August 2, 2010).  Without reading the article, I already know:

1. The findings and ideas argued in this story are not those of the hospitality/tourism industry.

2. Lobbyists from this industry will soon challenge the validity of the studies cited in the article.

3. If “change summer vacation” still gets legs, the hospitality industry will commission new studies, which will find that summer vacations have advantages that outweigh their disadvantages.

4. If “change summer vacation” still has legs, a public relations campaign will remind us of the joys of summer vacations.

Looking closer the sub-headline is: We romanticize it (summer vacation). But all that downtime is making our kids fall behind — especially those who can least afford to.

Apparently the article discusses the effects of summer vacation on our lowest achieving students.

Dear Hospitality Industry:

You have nothing to fear. Summer vacations are not endangered, no matter what the article says. State and local policymakers don’t care about low-achieving students, many of whom live in poverty. State funding formulas have long ensured that poor children get less-than-equal-educational opportunities; so why would those responsible for this inequity start caring about poor children now?

Dear Reader:

The Time cover story will have no effect on summer vacations. I know this because public education is driven by politics. For example, the North Carolina hospitality industry recently lobbied for and received legislation that specifies when school districts must start and end the academic year. The law’s purpose is to guarantee tourism’s access to cheap, student labor between mid-June and mid-August.

The law is binding on all school districts, even though North Carolina is blessed with diverse land masses and climates. Western school districts in the southern Appalachian Mountains have frequent snow- or ice-related school closings during December, January, February, and March. Eastern districts almost never get snow or ice.

During recent years of particularly bad weather, mountain districts had to reduce spring breaks (causing families to change vacation plans), have school on Saturdays (poorly attended), or request calendar law waivers from the state (rarely and begrudgingly granted).

This is just one example of why democracy is a poor way to govern public education. Maybe you can think of others. If not, Williams (2005) describes many situations in which public school policy makers, who believe in democracy and capitalism, serve their own needs before those of students. (If you need it spelled out, he described privileged Americans acting in ways that are corrupt and unethical, but probably not illegal.) His descriptions are summarized in TSVOTEP.

Because these abuses are inspired by capitalism and carried out through democratic governance, it is time to re-consider whether democratic politics is the best way to govern public education. It may not be. It may be the ultimate irony that both our capitalistic and democratic ways of life depend on a public education system that is governed educationally, instead of democratically. I describe what that looks like in TSVOTEP.

Follow this link to a blog about the same Time article:

The authors agree that summer vacations are not endangered, and they give “business” reasons.

After more than 30 years of watching the Politics-of-Education Emperor parade down Main Street, I am certain summer vacations will continue to be part of the American public school calendar. I also know that, as far as America’s poor children are concerned, the Emperor is wearing no clothes.

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