Open letter to B.C. education minister George Abbott on year-round schooling
Burnaby resident Adrianne Merlo, who ran for Burnaby-Douglas MP and Burnaby city council with the Greens in 2011, sent out the following open letter:
As a parent of three children in high school, and a teacher who works in the private system, I would like to express my feelings regarding the proposal to initiate year-round schooling.
Summer holidays allow for activities that are not possible at any other time. Making children attend school during the hot weather when they could be at the beach is an appalling prospect; in light of our terribly short summer season, I would argue that it is cruel. The traditional summer break, one of the main cornerstones of childhood, allow families to enjoy extended time together. This time is as valuable as any unsubstantiated theory about “learning retention.” I also reject the idea that kids are “bored” and need to be corralled back into a building. What about the kids who are bored at school? Is their boredom less deserving of attention than their school-loving counterpart? Whose boredom should take priority?
The current belief that year-round schooling encourages “knowledge retention” is thoroughly baseless: Research indicates that most of us – children and adults alike – forget the vast majority of what is learned in the formal setting of school. The ability of one person to commit to memory various facts or ideas often remains – inexplicably – elusive to someone else. We could detain kids in school twelve months of the year and there is still no guarantee that material presented in the classroom will be remembered beyond any subjective time-frame. If you forget grade 9 socials studies by the beginning of grade 11 as opposed to the middle of grade 10, what ultimate difference does it make? I question the goal – whether it is to remember everything forever, or to postpone the target date-of-forgetting by a month or two.
And how does one determine whether or not information has been retained, or which sort of learning is more valuable than another? If a teenager has an opportunity to work on a farm for two months picking blueberries, it is difficult to judge this to be less educational than reading about Napoleon. It is a highly subjective interpretation at best, and the assumption that children are not learning when outside the classroom should be strongly contested. One could argue that the opposite may be true, given the amount of time that is wasted in classrooms watching pointless videos or filling in repetitive work sheets.
Our children are not cogs in some industrial machine. They are individuals who learn in a myriad of ways: in a classroom, at home, outside in nature; by reading, by doing, by observing; by listening, by talking. The learning styles of any given group of students cannot be confined to simplistic, arbitrary notions of “in the class” or “outside the class.” Such thinking is outdated and limiting.
The question we need to be asking is this: What, exactly, is being taught in the average school setting that is so vital, so crucial to one’s future success, that traditional summer holidays may render it negated?
This entire proposal should warrant a ground-swell of protest.