We’ve lived in Minnesota long enough that we’re (more or less) over the annual shock at how late colleges, universities, and school start here. By law, Minnesota public schools can’t start before Labor Day (although some districts have applied for and received waivers that allow an earlier start).
I don’t know how or when that started, and the only opinion I have about school start dates is that year-round schooling makes far more sense to me. What I do know, however, is that I’m freaked out and saddened by the terms of the current debate over allowing earlier school start dates.
On a recent drive back from the library, I heard an NPR piece on this issue. The argument for earlier start dates? That way, schools could cram in more instructional hours before “high-stakes” standardized testing, thus evening the field with other states whose schools already open earlier in the year. The argument against? The tourist industry doesn’t want to lose revenue; ditto for the State Fair.
It was as though students were sorta incidental, working families had no particular needs, and what I think of as “education” and “learning” didn’t matter at all.
I wish that we could ask, instead: What would the school year look like if the central goals were fostering children’s intellectual curiosity and serving families’ needs?