A friend from Georgia writes that kids were back to school last Tuesday. LAST TUESDAY?! The first week of August? Apparently. And so the lesson is: things can always be worse.

I have been feeling sorry for myself – so sorry for the diminished amount of time available for spending with my kids this summer. When LAUSD sets a school starting time for mid-August it is more than the kids who lose, it is we parents who do too. Summertime can be a special time for children – there should be a respite from full schedules allowing time to reconnect, to laze, to clean and organize house, to play with friends. This year LAUSD’s school kids were allotted 9 … unless it was 10, or maybe 8.5 weeks of vacation? No one ever seemed really to know with budgets and instructional days jiggered til the last possible second. People were calling school’s offices right into June asking: ‘is there really school today’? Is anyone going to be teaching anything? Will anyone be learning?

Because when the long-term plan is so labile, so changeable and impermanent, there’s no framework for a learner to “insert” or retain new information. Without a structure it’s hard to capture new information in the brain. And instructional drift is just one of the casualties of an ill-conceived schedule. Summertime is hot-time, and hot bodies are uncomfortable, unsettled and less able to absorb new material. Hot bodies sit in hot buildings. And either these buildings are air conditioned at considerable expense, or they are not, at even greater cost to learning efficiency. Holding school in the high heat of mid-summer is a half-baked pedagogical mockery.

Why has today’s administration opted to change this tradition of a summer-time break in schooling? Is there some evidence that ‘all work with no play’ has beneficial consequences? It is claimed with some regularity that kids lose some alarming, finite amount of equivalent instructional time to every summer that passes (“three days, thirty days, 90 days of learning….”). Is there nothing of comparable value substituted? Is there no ‘rebound’ to be gained from resting, from taking a proverbial “break”? It seems empirically clear and well-accepted in former times that relaxing allows for greater receptivity to work, whether for brains, muscles or schedules. Only in a world where one’s ‘instructional value’ is so constricted as to include nothing more than rote performance on two narrow “standards tests”, could it be considered the case that a summer away from the classroom is a summer without merit.

But the much vaunted “Choice” exercised by so many Reformers in selecting private school for their own children, suggests at least some groups do not view the traditional summertime change of venue as quite so expendable. Most private schools in Los Angeles seem to have retained a summer schedule that is at least two weeks longer than LAUSD’s. Which begs the same question all over again: why curtail summer for someone else’s family when you spurn this regimen for your own?

The educational smorgasboard afforded by summers infused with a new range of experiences, is not a luxury to be dispensed with casually. Raising a child ‘takes a village’ because the components of a child depend on diversity and breadth for full development. It is hard to accept that this summer’s lightness of being is closing down so soon, and among an atmosphere of ever increasing disdain for the opportunities summer presents. Summertime is an important part of a child’s life, and her parent’s. Would that it were treated more respectfully by the LAUSD board.