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School is NOT about Education

March 8, 2010

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that several school districts are going to four-day weeks:

State legislators and local school boards are giving administrators greater flexibility to set their academic calendars, making the four-day slate possible. But education experts say little research exists to show the impact of shortened weeks on learning. The missed hours are typically made up by lengthening remaining school days.

Of the nearly 15,000-plus districts nationwide, more than 100 in at least 17 states currently use the four-day system, according to data culled from the Education Commission of the States. Dozens of other districts are contemplating making the change in the next year—a shift that is apt to create new challenges for working parents as well as thousands of school employees.

While it may be challenging to find formal studies of how time in school affects academic achievement, the evidence on hand suggests that there is nothing to fear here. Time magazine did an article two years ago about districts with shorter school weeks and they found net GAINS in test scores – which the schools attributed to the shortened work week. Moreover many countries that outperform us academically spend less time in school than we do – The Oracle mentioned this a few months ago. So if, in fact, the central issue of schools was education, there wouldn’t be a problem here.

Of course, the issue isn’t – and never was – about education.

People don’t send their kids to school because they want them educated.  They can (and many do) educate them much more effectively at home.  In fact, they send kids to school because that means they don’t have to spend time at home with them.

Governments don’t take kids to educate them either.  The public school system has never primarily been about education – it has been about indoctrinating kids (especially  immigrants and lower class kids) with values that the country finds useful.

Parents and schools agree that a child needs to be educated.  Schools do have classes on reading and writing and mathematics because that is a necessary prerequisite to convincing parents that it is acceptable to let the government babysit their children, but neither side really have that as their main goal.  Governments want your child to be good clerks who don’t question authority and, well, for many parents, that second income and the extra SUV, the bigger house and clothes that come with it are more important to them than guiding the development of their children mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

And yes, homeschooled children are better socialized than their government indoctrinated peers.  The studies show it and it makes basic sense when you consider that homeschooled children are socialized by responsible adults instead of kids who have no better idea than they do what acceptable behavior looks like.

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