Lileks: Reading, 'riting and release days

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 31, 2012 - 4:07 PM

If you have kids in school, then they're not in school. Let me rephrase that: It's spring break time.

Perhaps you're at Disney World, along with 27 million other people, stuck in a sweaty slo-mo mob down Main Street, where trapped people squeak against the window glass as they're borne helplessly along. But if you stayed at home, you've figured out a way to take care of the kids while you work, because in the Real World the mortgage company doesn't lop 25 percent off your monthly bill as a Spring Break Adjustment.

Relax: Come winter break, it'll be shorter. At least in Minneapolis.

Four holidays in the city schools have been cut, most of them from the Festive Season Break, so they can add more school days.

To quote all children everywhere: NOOOOOOO!

Why not use those mysterious "Release Days" that don't even bother to invent a holiday? Try that at work sometime. Where were you Friday? Released. Miss me?

On the last day before break, my kid had the choice of a school dance or watching a movie. I suppose it makes sense, since they can't concentrate on the last day, but in my day you got schooled right up until the bell on the day before break. At 3:28 you were cramming facts into your head (the exports of Peru are tin, lead; the national dish is sauteed alpaca glands), and then the easy teacher let you go at 3:29 for a three-day weekend. If we did get a movie, it was a scratchy B&W instructional film like "Diphtheria and You" or "Pete and Sally Learn About Quartz." My kid saw "Tintin."

Breaks were short, so school never sprawled into June, let alone dip a toe in the forbidden waters of August. Well, you say, it's an outmoded remnant of the agricultural schedule, when kids had to work on the farm. Yes, indeed: Come June 1, all the city kids were bused to the fields and handed a hoe.

Summer is for the sweet freedom of youth, with the added benefit of boring them into such a dead-eyed stupor that they long for school. But the state has mandated a set number of days, and that's that.

At the risk of committing heresy, though, consider that the correlation between learning and the time spent sitting in a chair is not as conclusive as it may appear. But when scores falter, they'll add more days, and take away more vacations.

Doesn't mean people won't go to Disneyland. But sticking close by the gate so you can turn around and catch the next bus back to the airport, it just won't be the same.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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