Too early for school? It might be too late ...

Tue, 08/14/2007 - 3:53pm
By: Letters to the ...

Recently, I responded to a Free Speech item and addressed the weaknesses I perceived in official government approaches to education.

By “official,” I mean those elected representatives who sit in halls of decision-making where they supposedly enact the will of the people. But since ours is a government “of, by, and for the people” I now address an attitude expressed by one of your regular columnists, one that is too common among too many people, this nation’s ideal government, today. I speak, of course, of the column in last Friday’s Citizen entitled “It’s too hot for school.”

Your columnist, typical of too many parents these days, complains about students having to stand in lines during oppressively hot days waiting for school buses.

First, when they wait for school buses to take them to school if their parents don’t create long lines by driving them there, they wait in the coolest part of the day.

Second, when they wait to leave school, they usually are loaded in a quick and orderly fashion.

These students who must “endure” such agony will, nonetheless, be able to stand in long lines much longer to enjoy rides at Six Flags or Walt Disney World. Or they’ll have no problem baking in the sun for a 20-second plummet down a water slide only to bake for minutes more for another 20 seconds of fun. Or they’ll join 40,000 close friends at Turner Field to share sweat to enjoy a baseball game.

Is heat a problem only when students are headed to air-conditioned schools to actually prepare for their futures and not a problem when seeking enjoyment?

Let me cite an example of weather and its effect on the school calendar. When my wife first began teaching in the Phoenix area in 1969, the school she taught at had what was called evaporative cooling, a largely inadequate form of air conditioning compared to refrigeration. It was not an especially comfortable learning environment.

Why? Because in contrast to the Midwest, which your columnist spoke of with apparent envy, Arizona has summers of 100-plus degrees that often begin in late April and don’t end until sometime in October. By the reasoning that “it’s too hot for school,” even today with modern air conditioning, Arizona would have to cram its required amount of education into roughly six months to accommodate those who value pleasure over learning.

But pleasure is not a birthright; it is earned from the fruits of one’s labors. For most people, that requires an education, which, for better or worse, requires sacrifice.

When too many people believe that somehow the miracle of learning happens only in classrooms from 8:30 to 4 without sacrifice elsewhere (like home), then our education system will not succeed.

When too many people pull their students out of school for a week because they have a winter ski vacation scheduled, then our education system will not succeed.

When too many people complain that teachers assign too much homework but have no problem with their children playing video games or watching television hour after hour, then our education system will not succeed.

When it is too hot or too cold or too wet or too dry to go to school, then our education system will not succeed.

And, when too many people merely want to enjoy pleasure rather than earn it, and our government is “of, by, and for the people,” then our education system will not succeed.

Harry E. Fitch

Peachtree City, Ga.

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