In mid-July I wrote about the possibilities of year-round schooling and how I believe a new schedule for schools across the country could help boost the United States to renewed educational greatness. That column ran July 16 in this newspaper.On July 18, I e-mailed to parents the weekly QCommuniquÃ&Copy; newsletter and invited them to read the column, by then posted on our Web site homepage (www.qcsd.org) under From the Inside Out. I invited recipients to engage in polite discussion about the topic.

I received several responses. Not all of them agreed with me (which is fine, of course), but encouragingly, they were all polite! And they were all signed by the senders. No one hid behind anonymous e-mail names to send nasty messages, as many people do on internet blog sites. This tells me that we do, indeed, still live in a society that can discuss issues rationally, intelligently and with decorum.

The following are two well composed responses, one for, one against year round schooling. Since space does not allow me to include them all at once, I'll submit yet one or two more in the series, in the next few weeks.

DISCLAIMER: QCSD is NOT considering year-round schooling. I just like to consider the possibilities and get people talking about it!

John Burris wrote:

It is an idea that has been long in thought and will take even more time to put to work. The kids who see their parents' jobs and lives being changed by people from other parts of the world know they will need more, not less schooling. Many kids leaving high school know their parents and grandparents were at the top of the world in their day and they also know they are not. It will take years for this change to take place but people like yourself who are getting the ball rolling and getting people to start talking about it are the key to getting this done. 184 days was good in 1960, but in 2010 and beyond, our kids need 220 days.

Pr. Serena S. Sellers, Assistant to the Bishop, for Connections and Resources, Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, ELCA wrote:

I appreciate the arguments for year round schooling, but I am not in favor of it. I recognize that our current schedule was derived to accommodate an agricultural life that we no longer live, but I believe that we found a benefit that was not anticipated: boredom and unscheduled time.

Initiative, ingenuity and innovation are not things that are easily taught, but they can be learned. They are learned through life experience, not usually in a classroom. Our young people are so scheduled and entertained during the school year that they often lack a key ingredient needed to learn these important life skills: boredom and unscheduled time.

A bored child with unscheduled time eventually becomes a child who stretches his or her imagination, gets up off the couch, and does something. They develop initiative. They learn that things can get interesting when they get interested. A bored child who is fully scheduled with things that are not of interest to him or her, learns that life is boring.

Children need time to waste looking at a patch of grass in the back yard, so that they can discover the insects that live there. They need time to climb a tree and read what they want to read, and not just what teachers assign. They need the opportunity to go to soccer camp or computer camp to develop skill and knowledge in areas that interest them. They need to be bored enough, and have time enough, to discover themselves.

For children who have trouble fitting in at school, summer is a haven. It is a time to remember that the inherent value of their life is not measured in a grade book or in the social pecking order of the classroom. It is a chance to reinvent themselves, and grow. Each fall becomes a fresh start. Any teacher can tell you about a student who transformed over the summer. Year round school schedules deprive our students of that opportunity.

I understand the argument that a great deal of time is spent "reminding" students of what they have learned the year before. But I don't believe that their minds have been lying fallow in the mean time. Their bodies continue to grow during the summer, so do their minds. Children stretch and grow their thinking in new self-selected directions when they have the gift of time. The time spent "repeating" material is not wasted, but allows children to re-integrate their classroom learning with their life learning.

I understand the arguments for year round schooling, but I cannot support it. I think that too much would be lost to the students. I believe that teachers stretch and grow, developing outside interests, and receiving additional training during the summer as well. The people I want teaching my children are interested in the world around them, well versed in the field of education, and rested as they head into the challenging nine and a half month school year.

Ricki Stein is the community relations coordinator with QCSD. Send comments to tfp@berksmontnews.com. "From the Inside Out" is a column dedicated to the views of the Quakertown Community School District.

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