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Obama Makes a Push To Add Time To the School Year

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the ok-ok-fix-healthcare-but-leave-me-my-summer dept.

Education 1073

N!NJA sends in a proposal that is sure to cause some discussion, especially among students and teachers. Obama and his education secretary say that American kids spend too little time in school, putting them at a disadvantage in comparison to other students around the globe. "'Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas,' the president said earlier this year. 'Not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom.' 'Our school calendar is based upon the agrarian economy and not too many of our kids are working the fields today,' Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. ... 'Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students here,' Duncan told the AP. 'I want to just level the playing field.' ... Kids in the US spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the US on math and science tests — Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days)."

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1073 comments

Waste MORE time!? (4, Insightful)

Charybdis3 (1362369) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586325)

No thanks, I waste enough time in school already. Of my 6 classes (3 of which are AP) and can already get my normal day's worth of homework done during downtime before I leave school. If anything, get better teachers and better courses. Don't waste money on longer school hours.

Re:Waste MORE time!? (4, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586347)

I agree. While my school days are long over, I doubt it would had made any sense to make them longer. It would probably had a negative impact actually.

Extending the school time only works so far. Those who want to learn, do it anyways. Those who really want to learn or are interested, even more so (thats pretty much where every programmer comes from).

Personally, I would hated to spend more time in school. It would even be more off from my learning to program and about computers, since those are still so shitty in schools compared to learning it on your own.

Maybe better solution is to optimize the time you spend in school? There's lots of useless things already, religion being the first one that comes to my mind. And make more choices to the students to take the classes they're interested in. World is too big to teach everything to everyone, so people need to specialize in their area.

Re:Waste MORE time!? (2)

ThisIsForReal (897233) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586373)

Did you miss the part about agrarian history? He's talking about lengthening the school year, not the day.

Re:Waste MORE time!? (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586451)

I did too, even tho the first clause was a bit bad worded. Same issues still stand tho.

Re:Waste MORE time!? (4, Funny)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586475)

"The president, who has a sixth-grader and a third-grader, wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go." Was reading the article really that difficult?

Re:Waste MORE time!? (2, Insightful)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586511)

I was also thinking maybe we need to stop pretending and telling our children that they can be fucking NASA scientists, or neurosurgeons, etc. I firmly believe kid's heads are being filled with completely unrealistic aspirations in life. A good 75% of people in general will never require anything more than a technical degree in life. I'm pretty fucking sure that most parents know by the time their little brats are in middle (jr. highschool) school whether or not their child is college material, and should be adjusting their future goals accordingly instead of throwing on the blinders and being 110% supporting of their kids unrealistic goals. I see this happening to the point of tens (probably hundreds) of thousands of young adults being unfairly burdened with student loans when they are never going to use those degrees to pay back said loans.

If anything, shorten the school day/year so our people can go back to acquiring trade skills and progressing the nation; rather than being indoctrinated into the living-outside-of-your-means credit based lifestyle President Obama seems to be pushing for now. Fuck him and fuck that.

Re:Waste MORE time!? (5, Insightful)

Abreu (173023) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586751)

A lot of fields still require a University degree, nevermind that they don't actually need it

Re:Waste MORE time!? (4, Insightful)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586355)

I'm not certain, but I believe the president is talking about adding days on to the ends of the year rather than hours on the ends of days. As someone who is no longer in school, I say lets add some days. Just make sure we give the schools the budget necessary to make good use of them...

Re:Waste MORE time!? (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586425)

But what would be the point of that? More work doesn't always equal better learning, and can get negative aswell. It's off from your personal, off-the-school learning and if school had given me too much hassle, I would had just taken it off from homeworks done (or skipped school).

Another thing is that the days would be put into summer. I remember it was getting difficult to have the learning mentality even in may already, when it was getting all nice outside and lots of things in school we're getting to the holiday mood. Granted, it would probably shift a bit later, but the summer mentality is there already. It's no surprising that the huge holiday is on summer instead of winter.

Re:Waste MORE time!? (1)

Nethead (1563) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586629)

The break is in the summer so you can get your lazy ass out in the fields and work. See, this fucking-off all summer is kind of a new thing in this old world. Back before the Internet most punks like you would get your sorry ass out of bed at the crack of dawn, go milk the cows, feed the chickens and then, if you got that done in time, you would some breakfast. Don't sit down now, you have to go help your dad and brothers plow the south forty, take a break to eat you packed lunch around noon, then work until the sun goes down, come back in and have supper. Keep doing this until the harvest in in. Then you get to go back to school, after you've miked the cows and feed the chickens.

"Summer mentality" my ass!

Re:Waste MORE time!? (5, Insightful)

Wolvenhaven (1521217) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586459)

They don't have the budgets necessary to use the days they currently have, adding additional school days will strain already thin budgets, and it will just make the kids who slack off, slack off more. Reducing the pointless waste of time and resources and increasing the schools ability to get and keep good teachers who can engage their students would be a much better use of the proposed legislation and budget. I was in highschool when No Child Gets Ahead was implemented and it encouraged schools to push kids into higher level classes they weren't able to keep up with. Have higher than a C in on level, take honors, have higher than a C in honors, take AP, have higher than a C in AP, take gifted; and it pushed kids who were doing well at the classes for their level into classes which they performed worse in, and it burned them out causing the kids to not like school anymore.

Re:Waste MORE time!? (5, Insightful)

Zenki (31868) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586543)

Hey, think positively. It prepares students for the real world, where people get promoted until they fail. Then they get fired or laid off for not meeting expectations.

Re:Waste MORE time!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586477)

The proposal I saw was both longer days and more days.

Re:Waste MORE time!? (2, Interesting)

PlusFiveTroll (754249) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586521)

Not too long ago the state of Texas shortened its school year to reduce cooling costs/electricity usage. The electric usage difference in Texas public schools between the months of April and September is over 100 million kwh *(Spring/Summer Electricity Usage by TXU Public School Customers 1997 and 1998[3]). This does not include the bus rides for children in 100F+ degree heat in the summer months. Does a longer school year make ecological and financial sense in hotter climates?

Re:Waste MORE time!? (2, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586593)

As someone who is no longer in school, I say lets add some days.

I agree. Shorten summer vacation to July. US students spend less time in school that most industrialized countries, so the baloney about them learning less just doesn't wash. We're losing ground in science and engineering and if that means more time in school, then pack your books, kiddo.

What some of you are really saying is won't have as much time to spend on a WoW server or run up your score on Guitar Hero.

Cry me a river.

"Realistic promises" - I see a tiny problem (-1, Offtopic)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586767)

"Realistic promises" - I see a tiny problem : re-election.

This is Obama. Okay Americans, especially unionized ones and living-outside-of-your-means-credit-carders, we're going to have to buckle down. Forget about big tv's for 20 years or-so and please realize that you're dumb fucks who urgently need to be put into your place. Get the cheapest car you can find from now on, and just, you know, lie to women. Stop dreaming. Stop eating. Stop ... well, just about everything. Oh and you pensioned geezers, yes subsidizing euthanasia, that was for you, what, you don't get the hint ?

And -needless to say- a statement is one person asking "hey, aren't black/hispanic/old/yellow/muslim/... people more likely to ..." away from being that most horrible of things - racist. What are you, Hitler ?

Or he could continue to lie, and get re-elected. How big a lie ? Well, for a "black president", he sure as hell does not have all that much color in his skin. He doesn't have all that many black parents or grandparents either. It'd be much more accurate to state that he isn't completely white.

Re:Waste MORE time!? (4, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586559)

Instead of wasting the time of gifted students in order push the herd through a longer school year, we should spend money on more programs to help the high achievers. We don't need to waste more time on the many who amount to nothing, but we do need to nurture the intelligent and motivated, for it is they who move society forward.

We also need more school choice legislation so people can rescue their kids from the public school system and the thug trash that often infests it.

Re:Waste MORE time!? (3, Insightful)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586617)

Quality of education is important, not quantity.

And the education secretary might want to get their facts right [pdkintl.org].

From that article:

There is a homespun myth, treated as fact, that the annual school calendar, with three months off for both teachers and students, is based on the rhythm of 19th-century farm life, which dictated when school was in session. Thus, planting and harvesting chores accounted for long summer breaks, an artifact of agrarian America. Not so.

Actually, summer vacations grew out of early 20th-century urban middle-class parents (and later lobbyists for camps and the tourist industry) pressing school boards to release children to be with their families for four to eight weeks or more.

Re:Waste MORE time!? (4, Interesting)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586731)

It's on the internet, so it must be true? I see one flat statement being contradicted by another flat statement. Tell me - why should I believe Kappan magazine over the secretary of Education? Or heck, vice versa? All I know is that long summer breaks were common for a long time where I'm from - where a long time is end of 19th century. And they certainly could not have been influenced by american urban middle-class parents.

Re:Waste MORE time!? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586657)

If anything, get better teachers and better courses.

Maybe if teaching were a year-round job instead of a 9 month job, we might have better teachers?

Note that I have read exactly zero studies on this and am an educational expert only in that survived high school and college. Therefore the above could be an absurd statement and should be taken with a grain of salt.

Re:Waste MORE time!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586705)

If you are wasting your time in school it is your problem. There is always something to study. Always. If you have done all of your assignments, make assignments for yourself. That is how it works in the real world. That is how it should work in school too.

Re:Waste MORE time!? (3, Insightful)

pete6677 (681676) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586745)

My thoughts exactly. It would be different if teachers would use the extra time to teach more reading, writing, math, science, etc. but we all know they'd either have another study hall period or more fluff like environmental issues awareness bullshit. Obama is obviously doing this as a favor to the teachers unions as more hours worked means more pay.

Wrong solution (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586327)

Kids in the US spend more hours in school ... than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the US on math and science tests

Doesn't that mean that the problem is not how long US kids are in school?

Re:Wrong solution (5, Informative)

yali (209015) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586423)

It depends what you mean by "how long" -- how long in a given day, or how long between vacation periods? Cognitive psychologists have demonstrated that the spacing of study occasions [nih.gov] is highly important for learning and long-term retention. The education literature is full of studies on summer learning loss [google.com]. So Obama isn't just making this up out of nowhere -- he's basing his proposal on a substantial body of empirical research.

Re:Wrong solution (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586527)

Clearly. For some people, 98% of the time spent in school is wasted already. Increasing it to 99.5% isn't a good use of anyone's time. In general, I'm referring to anyone more than about two standard deviations on either side of the intellectual norm. School is tailored heavily to the people in the middle. The people at the bottom don't get the extra attention they need, and the people at the top are bored out of their minds. Here are a couple of things that would help, IMHO:

Part 1: Take advantage of existing human resources. The brightest students are often scorned by their classmates out of jealousy. This leads to all sorts of social problems that can hurt the grades of everyone. The brighter students start to not do so well so people won't think of them as nerds. The less bright students get discouraged because they see that it comes so easily for the bright students and it isn't coming as easily for them, so they don't do as well, either. How do you solve this? Encourage students to help other students during class. More discussion, more group work, less individual work. In the real world, no man is an island, but in school, we're too focused on individual learning. That's just not an effective way to educate.

Part 2: Eliminate grade levels. To some degree, you don't want people five years apart in the same class, but if people are learning at a faster rate, you also don't want to waste half of the year by teaching too slowly just to spread it out over a year. Instead, have groups that learn a particular subject at a particular rate. A student good in math but bad in English might be in English 1 and Math 5. Allow these to progress at a rate independent of the annual schedule. Some students finish junior high with Calculus under their belts, others with basic math, and that's okay. When students get far enough ahead, they join some of the medium groups from the next grade and at that point, the schedules sync up and they help those struggling students to improve.

Sorry if this comment is rough. No time to proofread. Battery almost out.

Re:Wrong solution (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586613)

What school system did you grow up in where you didn't take math placement tests? As early as 6th grade we were taking standardized math placement tests. Where you scored there placed you in either a remedial, regular, advanced, or the one super advanced class offered. Same thing applied in high school, you could double up algebra (or algebra2, depending on how you scored in middle school) with geometry and be taking calc2 by your senior year. Your math level affected your ability to take 2nd year physics and chemistry classes. On the english side we had ESOL, English, Honors English, and in 11th and 12th grade, AP English.

Re:Wrong solution (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586709)

Is that really a major problem with education as a whole? If the pacing causes problems for, say 30% of the students in the class, either too fast or too slow, that is indeed what is needed. If on the other hand, the pacing works well for 98% of the students, then YOUR plan is a solution to the wrong problem.

Re:Wrong solution (5, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586631)

"Doesn't that mean that the problem is not how long US kids are in school?"

The problem is American popular culture, which exalts stupidity and is savagely anti-intellectual.

No public education system changes will affect this, and the solution is to facilitate school choice so the parents who appreciate the superiority of private education can rescue their children. We can't have an educated
public, but we can and should cultivate an educated. self-aware counter-culture from which we can groom future leaders.

Re:Wrong solution (1)

rxan (1424721) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586759)

Lets look at the root of the problem. Like the fact that the gym teacher also teaches history and math...

More time for students to ignore their teachers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586331)

Let's be honest, students don't perform to the level they should be with what they are given. What is giving them more going to solve?

Aside from that, I'm not sure how much I like the federal government pushing for this. It's not their place to do it and I can't recall any federal level legislation related to education that has made a positive difference. I can see where it will help some students and it may be a good idea I just think it's going to be mismanaged in the hands of the feds.

Re:More time for students to ignore their teachers (4, Insightful)

philipgar (595691) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586525)

obviously, lengthening the school year is a matter of vital interstate commerce . . .

Of course, just like with the drinking age, the federal government is unlikely to actually mandate that states lengthen the school year, but rather they'll take more money from the states, lose a chunk of it due to the overall federal bureaucracy that will undoubtably be created, and then blackmail the states into changing their laws in order to get their money back (while redistributing more of the money to states/districts that support the political party currently in power). All the while the politicians can look like they're doing something productive, ignore the constitution, piss away money, and slowly chip away at the last remnants of sovereignty that individual states once had.

Phil

Right, our kids need more indoctrination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586335)

Because having too much free time might just be enough to quell their rebellious streak, just like our Asian cousins have managed to do. Remember, it's not what you can do for yourself, it's what you can do for your superiors (in all areas).

The problem ain't quantity... (4, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586337)

...it's quality.

It's not a matter of there being not enough time in the school year to get learning done. It's a case of the pace of learning being too low (essentially zero in some cases).

Re:The problem ain't quantity... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586481)

Exactly!!!!

Re:The problem ain't quantity... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586489)

I think another issue is hours/day vs days/year.

I think a year-round school year with a shorter school day would be more effective even if the same number of hours overall. There is such a brain-melt with two months of summer vacation. The first month back is all review of the last year. With a constant school year there would be little to no need for this, and would allow more instruction time for new concepts.

I believe the pace of learning is also a factor.

Perhaps it is also WHAT we learn. We spend the same amount of time on each course, it seems like. Math, Science, English, Social, Religion, Phys Ed, all get equal treatment. I bet in other countries they focus more on math and science than on "english" or their equivalent.

Re:The problem ain't quantity... (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586569)

The first month back is all review of the last year.

That's a mistake. Shouldn't students be expected to ... remember things? And if they don't remember them, they can review it themselves so that they remember it. Reiteration is good, but eventually you're going to *gasp* expect the student to remember or look it up on their own and be *gasp* responsible for it.

IMO, the issue with public schools these days isn't just what is being taught or how... or how long (I don't think adding more time to be "required" to be "in school" will help anything, especially if all that is required is your physical presence); the issue is what is expected of students. From what I know, Asian students are expected to learn, it's simply required of them. If they don't, they fail. In America, "failing" a student doesn't seem to be an option, and "expectations" of a student is bad for his or her self esteem (after all, what if they - apparently "they" means "most" - can't focus? We shouldn't tell them they got a bad grade just because they didn't know the answers... [slightly sarcastic]). The failure to EXPECT a student to learn and the failure to fail a student for not learning is, IMO, the greatest reason our schools are graduating uneducated people and the curriculum gets less and less in depth.

But then, I was homeschooled. I learned more, had more time to pursue hobbies and interests (e.g., music, sports, computers, literature), and had more fun doing it. And California doesn't like it that kids are homeschooled for some reason.

Re:The problem ain't quantity... (1)

PRMan (959735) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586673)

And California doesn't like it that kids are homeschooled for some reason.

Because then they can't get them to celebrate Harvey Milk Day against their parents' wishes... etc., etc., etc.

Re:The problem ain't quantity... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586691)

I was homeschooled as well. Funny, I fared a LOT better than most of my public school counter parts here in Georgia and was much more rounded as a person coming out of high school. And I doubt I even put in the mandatory 4.5 hours per school day that Georgia requires.

Re:The problem ain't quantity... (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586599)

As a para who is forced to restrain several kids per month due to *wildcard*, I observe rather quickly how student engagement (or lack thereof) negatively affects their behavior.

The bottom line is that students need to be engaged, ideally through internal motivators, and I'm not sure if traditional educational philosophies are meeting the challenges of a digital age.

Something needs to be done and designing a new format should be near the top of priorities. Though, I'm not sure it makes sense to lengthen a school year without significantly decreasing hours in addition to providing a number of updated extracurricular activities.

Re:The problem ain't quantity... (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586727)

Isn't part of student engagement part of the student's responsibility?

It's hard to engage a student that things the whole idea of learning is stupid and worthless. Which, it seems, one would come away with if you follow the lives of celebrities, which it seems most teens do now.

Why is it it's the school's job to make sure the student is pursuing the education? When I was younger and in school, when I didn't "want" to learn, I was told that I had to... i.e., at that point, doing my homework was a matter of obedience from the perspective of "this is good for you, you just don't know it yet." Looking back, I'm glad I was made to do school even though I didn't want to and didn't necessarily see how learning history would help me (and why can't I just play computer games?).

I am fairly certain that there comes a point at which kids simply have to be made to do their work, even if they don't want to or even don't see why they should. Explanations are good, don't get me wrong... and certainly the "why" question should be answered... but I don't think all kids really want to be logically told why it makes sense. At least from my experience as a kid, what I felt/wanted to do overruled my logical "well, this will be better for me in 5 years" thinking.

And not much has changed, which is why people end up with $15k in credit card debt in their 20s from buying a BMW when they can't really afford it, I suppose. "I want it, so I'm going to get it" pervades society a lot more than "This is better for me in 5 years, so I should do that instead of do what I feel like doing." When the "we should do what the child wants" gets into education, we've got major problems.

Re:The problem ain't quantity... (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586681)

More like families that can't afford or refuse to participate in their child's education. Unfortunately the rest will suffer under this plan.

Re:The problem ain't quantity... (1)

DataBroker (964208) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586693)

Were any of you in band? There was a "first chair" idea. Essentially, the best people were ranked highest. Skill was determined anonymously. At any time, you were able to improve or lose rank.

Why can't we simply do something like this in all subjects? The best brains are all grouped together and given the most attention. If anyone in that group can't keep up, they drop down to the next group down. If anyone in the lower group wants to improve, and is able to, they're welcome to.

Why can't we implement something like this, if we really want to be competitive in the world. Yes, it would hurt the feelings of the kids that weren't in the top group, but only if we keep telling everyone (starting at birth) that you can be anything you want to be. (I want to be a world-class sprinter, but I don't think that's going to happen no matter how much I work on it.)

The pace being slow isn't necessarily the fault of the teacher, it's the fault of our expecting the best minds to be grouped with the middle minds.

Re:The problem ain't quantity... (1)

abbynormal brain (1637419) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586699)

This is an example of how quickly we select polar opposites. It's not one or the other -it's a balance based on results. If we really are behind and we (as a nation) really want to do something about it - we don't have only one knob to adjust - we have several (quality and quantity being two of them).

I lean more to the side of quality but where's the harm in examining what another month or month and a half does for us? ... especially at a better quality level.

We all know better quality will help - but all I am saying is that it would be in our best interest to do some research into longer school years and let the data be examined. I'm sure someone in this country (private or other) are experimenting with longer school years - let's hear more about them.

Re:The problem ain't quantity... (3, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586707)

Even compared to the secondary education I received, things are very dumbed-down today - with existing curriculae preferring to push boutique ideologies instead of the actual history, science, and mathematics. Rhetoric, Civics, and Logic aren't even taught anymore in most high schools, and a second language (no, not ESL) is usually Spanish if you're lucky enough to even get that as an option.

The teachers' unions like to blame the class sizes (e.g. they're not hiring enough new union member- err, teachers), and everyone else finds it convenient to blame the budget (in spite of private schools doing far more with far smaller budgets).

Personally, and from experience? I blame the districts and state management offices. There are far too many support personnel than there are teachers in a school (my last teaching position was at a regional college that had 150+ employees and 38 actual faculty - not teachers, "faculty"). There's too much middle management, too many niche positions (no, not special-ed teachers, I mean the really damned niche positions, like "state licensing facilitator", "curriculum specialist" and similar). Most school district employee lists read more like a who's-who of political favor recipients than of employees who actually contribute something useful towards educating a student. Sure a teacher's salary is crap - because the millions of dollars aren't going to them - it's mostly going to that great big grey hole down at the district office (and to vendors at exorbitant rates... if you think software vendors are greed-driven in the enterprise IT realm, you ain't seen shit).

Someone's gotta say it (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586341)

He's obviously a communist Nazi dictator trying to indoctrinate our children through socialized education. He must be stopped and freedom and liberty must prevail.

Re:Someone's gotta say it (5, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586487)

Hear hear. If distinguished physicist Stephen Hawking had been born in a country with UK style socialized education, he'd be digging ditches today.

So... (5, Insightful)

AequitasVeritas (712728) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586349)

... spending more time in class is going to help the kids perform better?

How about we require them to actually pass the classes they do attend before letting them move on...

Re:So... (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586407)

How about we require them to actually pass the classes they do attend before letting them move on...

You're telling me. I have a nephew who is a senior doing Algebra II and he asked me the other day if a positive number multiplied by a negative number produced a positive or a negative result. I was floored by it. How did he get this far not having a solid grasp on this concept? They teach this concept in what? The 3rd or 4th grade?

WTF?

Re:So... (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586553)

They teach this concept in what? The 3rd or 4th grade?

More like 7th or 8th grade. I kid you not. I was helping my cousin with his 8th grade math and was trying to figure out why they are going over what I learned in 5th grade (not even really long ago, I am a freshman in college now).

Re:So... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586723)

I could be wrong, and when trying to guess what other people are thinking, I often am, but I think the real problem here is that when kids are out of school for the summer, they tend to get in trouble. Especially in areas with lots of gangs, like Chicago. Obama, having grown up in Chicago, seems to think that by having the kids in school longer, they will have less chances to get in trouble. Seems like a reasonable conclusion to me.

If he were serious about improving the competency of American students, he would do it scientifically, by first encouraging experimentation in different school districts around the country, and then finding out what works and encouraging other places to implement it. For example, school choice through a voucher system has been shown to improve student performance, but Obama opposes that, probably because teacher unions are opposed to it.

Politics as usual: there are so many things the government could do to improve things that wouldn't even be controversial because they are so obvious, and yet they don't. It's kind of pathetic.

At what rate ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586359)

Of course, he's also going to expect that the teachers
extend their hours, already at 20 unpaid per week to
compensate for the "leadership effort" and patriotically
do this while our compensation is always being slashed
from other "leadership efforts".

Misleading stats (5, Interesting)

AdamInParadise (257888) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586363)

Many kids in Asian countries also spend a lot of time at private institutes, after their regular classes.

Nevertheless, yes, American kids no not work hard enough to compete on a global level. The Economist had an article about this very issue [economist.com] a few months ago.

The real problem with education (5, Insightful)

amightywind (691887) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586389)

The problem is not the length of the school year. It is the profound incompetence of the public school monopoly and the lack of accountability of the teachers unions.

Re:The real problem with education (1, Troll)

ZackSchil (560462) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586515)

Public schools do not have a monopoly. Private schools (and their students!) are thriving. All you have to be is either rich or smart and lucky.

Re:The real problem with education (4, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586519)

From everything I've read about it, it's very hard to fire a teacher. It's all but impossible to fire them if they are tenured. The only halfway pleasant and effective way to get rid of a teacher that needs the sack is to take them off any class they can do damage in and make their job as unpleasant as possible until they leave.

Have read several accounts of superintendents trying to fire a teacher that really needed to go. Typically involves over a year of gathering as much dirt as possible, building what would appear to be an "airtight case" against them, then spend the next four months fighting the union, school board, appeals, etc etc until you can finally shove them out, kicking and screaming. And then they just sue (usually more than once) and it just drags on and on. Altogether probably the most challenging aspect of being a superintendent. All you can do is try very hard to hire winners, and pray you don't get started in the hole.

Re:The real problem with education (0, Troll)

Burning1 (204959) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586765)

Yes. That's the problem. It isn't that teachers are so overloaded with students that they can't provide any kind of individualized attention . It isn't that the workload isn't so heavy that the instructors are limited in their time and energy for lesson planning. It isn't that teachers constantly walk a tightrope between developing engaging lessons and potentially upsetting one of the 80 parents of their class of 40. It isn't that the the best and brightest teachers are leaving for other carriers.

It's clearly the incompetence, and the unions.

Seriously - one of my closest friends was a teacher who left the system to become a bus driver. I dated a teacher for several months, and was a guest instructor for her on a number of occasions. My mother used to teach and now drives a taxi. When I was in grade school, I was fortunate enough to be a member of a class with a reasonable student body. I personally used to teach martial arts professionally.

I think you may be a little out of touch.

education SHOULD be a monopoly (4, Insightful)

panthroman (1415081) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586773)

Yes, the educated benefit from being educated, but everybody benefits from having educated people around. The former is why private schools are seductive to many, but the latter is why we should embrace education as a public good - external to the market - and support/fix our existing socialized system.

So you're right, the problem is the incompetence of public schools. But privatization ain't the solution.

Libertarians, who are often persuasively consistent (and I really do appreciate your consistency), have given monopolies, governments, and other non-market institutions a bad reputation. Even the term for something that doesn't jibe with a market - "an externality" - belittles the importance of things like pollution, basic science, education, overfishing, national defense, a judicial system, national highways, and on and on and on.

I think it's about time (3, Insightful)

jlechem (613317) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586393)

Most parents send their children to either a public or private institution. According to government data, one-tenth of students are enrolled in private schools. Approximately 85% of students enter the public schools,[14] largely because they are "free" (tax burdens by school districts vary from area to area). Most students attend school for around six hours per day, and usually anywhere from 175 to 185 days per year. Most schools have a summer break period for about two and half months from June through August. This break is much longer than in many other nations. Originally, "summer vacation," as it is colloquially called, allowed students to participate in the harvest period during the summer.[citation needed] However, this remains largely by tradition. The other option available and being taken up by some schools is Year-round school.

From wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]

It doesn't mean it's more quality but I think it's a start.

obama is starting to make mistakes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586409)

Obama I am disappoint.

Homework (1)

imess (805488) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586413)

Kids in many Asian counties have loads of homework for Summer/Winter/Spring breaks. So even if they have vacations planned, they need to bring the homework with them! Compared to kids here, where breaks truly mean breaks.

Re:Homework (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586563)

I don't know what schools you're familiar with, but kids around here always have homework over summer. At least reading.

100% Serious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586421)

All that will be gained by increasing school hours will be an increase in the drop out rate. Only way to increase average smarts and graduation rates over time is to PAY the dummies and the irresponsible and the criminally minded to VOLUNTARILY sterilize themselves. Throwing more money at the issue won't do a damn thing either.

This is a Class Issue (2, Interesting)

zenchemical (1468505) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586431)

If malcolm gladwell's data is to be believed, the efficacy of extended schooling has everything to do with social class. It turns out that the upper end of the income scale actually do things with their kids during the summer increases their performance, because they're doing things like going to camp or participating in other enriching activities. The kids that don't have these opportunities by and large regress, intellectually speaking, over the summer break.

I would think that if anything is done in the US to extend schooling opportunities, it should keep this in mind. While a chicago south-sider is likely to get a lot of benefit from going to summer school, my child is likely not, because he engages in these sorts of activities, and I would not want it mandatory to pull him out of them.

Praises to Obama (0, Troll)

mordors9 (665662) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586449)

See if those little brats keep singing the praises to Obama after they find out about this...

Re:Praises to Obama (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586523)

bush let new orleans drown, and yet school kids there sang his praises to an even more disturbing degree (the then first lady was amongst them):

http://thinkprogress.org/2006/04/17/katrina-song/

the lyrics

Our countryâ(TM)s stood beside us
People have sent us aid.
Katrina could not stop us, our hopes will never fade.
Congress, Bush and FEMA
People across our land
Together have come to rebuild us and we join them hand-in-hand!

Does more of a.... (1)

WilyCoder (736280) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586453)

Does more of a bad thing equal a good thing?

Why not strive to improve the quality of the education they are already getting?

Re:Does more of a.... (1)

zapakh (1256518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586701)

Does more of a bad thing equal a good thing?

Does a negative plus a negative equal a positive? Ooohhh, I should know this.

How is the amount of time in school measured? (5, Informative)

Chibi (232518) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586455)

In South Korea, after going to "normal" school, a lot of students go for additional studying/tutoring. These are called "Hagwon" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagwon [wikipedia.org])

I believe Japan has something similar with their cram schools [wikipedia.org].

Not trying to say more amount of time in school is either better or worse, but it'd probably be useful to look at how the total amount of time in school was determined before relying on it too much.

Some people criticize these other school systems as stressing memorization and test-taking abilities over individual/creative thought. Of course, that's an anecdotal statement, so take it for what it's worth...

Wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586461)

It's also a cultural thing. While generally the Asian countries have less official school hours than the US, parents in Asian countries are more likely to pay for and cram extra after-school tuition for their children.

Also, the quality of public schooling in Asian countries aren't that different from the US equivalent.

higher test scores with a simple sacrafice-NCLB (4, Interesting)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586465)

LEAVE SOME CHILDREN BEHIND

sorry- is that too callous?

http://factsanddetails.com/china.php?itemid=338&catid=13&subcatid=82 [factsanddetails.com]

" According to government statistics, 95 percent of all children start school but the drop out rate is high. Only 80 percent graduate from elementary school. In poor rural areas the enrollment is only about 60 percent, with only 70 percent completing the first four years of primary school. Fewer than 35 percent of China's youth enter high school, and of these the drop out rate is high."

individual circumstances aside, with limited resources, don't you think it far more likely that the really good students, somehow find a way to be among those who remain.

The evelopmentally disabled ones are the ones who fall by the wayside and do not continue their education to the point where these internationalized standard tests are taken?

drop the ten% worst performers results from the US kids "math and science tests" and you may find that they don't suck after all.. APPLES & APPLES COMPARISONS PLEASE!

Re:higher test scores with a simple sacrafice-NCLB (1, Troll)

HaeMaker (221642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586595)

Yet, a Chinese dropout can get a manufacturing job, make enough money in ten years to retire in the lifestyle they are accustomed to and call it a life.

Leave a kid behind here and they are done.

We should just send them to China.

Re:higher test scores with a simple sacrafice-NCLB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586675)

we can't do that! we need to keep every person in this country alive and living a great quality of life regardless if they're productive or even if they bother to have a bit of self respect and exercise a couple times a week.

fuck... we'll even keep them alive if they sabotage their own well being. if they refuse we'll fine them for it.

next we will force them into college!

Hint: Quantity isn't the issue here (3, Insightful)

Myji Humoz (1535565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586469)

President Obama seems to conveniently overlook the large differences in educational structure and cultural attitude between the USA and the countries producing the highest test scores. Unless having a larger economy results in more money for education that is well spent on quality teachers and actually useful programs (looking at you, No Child Left Behind), there is no reason to expect the USA's students to do better on average than other countries. Throw in the fact that the highest scoring countries include those with either a pervasive cultural respect for learning or a relatively homogeneous population for whom centralized education control is beneficial, and one begins to wonder why President Obama expects the USA to be able to compete for the highest average.

On top of that, the USA produces a fair number of top notch scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and computer scientists right now, but those top notch individuals tend to be results of family pressure, personal ambition, or sheer-jealousy-inducing talent. Forcing those top level people into more hours of classes that tend to bore the living daylights out of them is not helpful. Mandating more school time for inner city or rural kids isn't going to be terribly useful for obvious reasons. The only students it might benefit are those who are capable and talented, but just a bit slow on picking up new concepts.

Of course, the biggest issue is what happens when you multiply the current school times by 25-30%. As best as I can remember, I spent about 9.5months in school in Virginia (a state in the USA.) If that time increases by 25%, that results in students spending roughtly 11.85 months in school. Alternately, students can spend 10 hours away from home for school, which I'm sure will work really well.

All in all, no thanks, the problem isn't the quantity of time spent in school, but rather the quality of said time.

Spend student's time wisely. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586471)

How about focusing more on subjects that matter. My 3rd grade daughter spends more time in art than math.

Wrong Approach, Try Again Mr. President.... (3, Insightful)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586491)

Yeah, I have to call BS on Obama's idea and theory as to deficiencies in America's education. The problem with our education system does not come from spending too little time in the classroom. It stems from numerous factors, the least of which do not include, low teacher salaries inspiring more competent people to avoid teaching, lack of creativity in teaching techniques (really, not all children learn the same and A's - F's is just a stupid arbitration), inability to inspire young kids (I would bet that 9/10 American kids view school as a combination of social time and the child equivalent of 'boring work'), and a suppression of curiosity in those who do ask questions (completely anecdotal, but I can name 7 people I know right now that were actually punished for asking too many questions in the classroom).

The article and even the summary states that countries which continually outperform America in tests send their children to school for less hours than America. That doesn't even warrant the correlation vs. causation fallacy that's just crappy incomplete analysis by Obama's Secretary of Education. Forcing students to spend more hours in the mindnumbing clusterf*** that is the modern lecture system in America is not going to educate them or make them learn more, its just going to push them closer to brainless downer activities after school like more TV. I mean really, who wants to go home and play with an electronics toy/learning kit when they just spent 8+ hours listening to someone they hardly respect drone on about a bunch of topics that they haven't been given a reason to care about?

Don't increase the schoolyear Mr. President, increase teacher salaries giving intelligent people a reason to teach other than philanthropy and find a way to inspire invention and innovation in the classroom. Increasing the time spent in a broken system is just going to increase the number of broken children's minds.

Another Cash Infusion for the Teacher's Unions ... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586497)

Obama is clearly paying back all the Unions for their support during the election. First it was trying to pass legislation eliminating the secret ballot (and in part the Democratic process) to allow unions to put pressure on any hold outs at non-unionized shops.

Now, our children are the potential victims as he tries to eliminate family time, time for our kids to play with their friends, and simply "growing up time" by extending school hours and the school year so that one of the most powerful unions in the nation get even more money -- and can support him even more the next election cycle.

Obama's taken all the change I can handle and if he keeps it up, I won't have any change left!

Socialized Day Care (-1, Troll)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586499)

no thanks, you're already taking enough of my money. Please let people with children look after their own children, w/o fobbing the (fiscal) responsibility off on the rest of us.

Schools take too many days off (1, Insightful)

vehicle tracking (1357065) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586529)

I currently have four kids in school. The problem is schools are taking too many days off. They take a day off every other week. It's not like the teachers are working all year and need the time off.

Troll all you want people (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586533)

We all know that quality of U.S. education has suffered. No disputes there...but already the trolls are out talking about a wastes of time and money.

One real problem we have with school in in this country is that children have the entire summer off to forget what they learned before. We then spend several weeks reviewing stuff at the start of the following year to get the kids back up to speed. THAT is a waste of time and money.

Kids have the whole summer off when they could be learning. The lack of regular guidance and oversight means bored kids have too much opportunity to screw off and get into trouble because they don't have something constructive to focus on. I must also mention the headache and expense for parents of finding and paying for good childcare.

The issue here as I see it is not more time per day, but more days per year with shorter quarterly breaks.

Sigh. Not this shit again (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586539)

This is stupid for several reasons:

1) Countries don't do an even job testing their students. In the US, everyone gets tested, even kids with severe emotional disabilities (meaning from broken homes and such). In some countries, only kids who are in the "college track" schools get tested. Yes, in some places young kids are tracked like that. In Germany students go to the Gymnasium, Hauptschule, or Realschulabschluss depending on ability. The Gymnasium is for kids who are going to university, the Realschulabschluss is for kids going directly in to the work force. Unless they changed it since last I checked, they only test kids in the Gymnasium with these higher level math tests.

2) Standardized tests don't do a good job of measuring things that are really useful. You can have pupils that do very well on them if you spend a lot of time teaching specifically for the test, and if you have a curriculum that emphasizes memorization heavily. Yes well that is not so useful in this day and age of computers. What is more useful is the ability to creatively problem solve. So just because countries produce kids with good math scores, does not mean they are producing the kind of workers you want.

3) Studies consistently show that the biggest factor in kids doing better in school is parental involvement. If their parents care, the kids do better. A simple measure of this is books. The more books parents have in their house when they have kids, the better the kids do. Not because the kids read the books, but because owning the books is heavily correlated with bright, involved parents and THAT produces better achieving kids. So what seems to be needed isn't more school, but more parental involvement.

I get real tired of crap like this because what they seem to want to do is work hard to turn kids in to little calculators. "Oh let's make sure our kids can score really high on number crunching tests!" Ya, how about not. We get students like that in university (I work for a university) in particular some of the foreign grad students form China and India. They are great at memorizing and slogging through formulas, horrible at doing any real world problem solving.

To them, knowledge is learning what other people know. If you don't know something, the answer is to find someone who does, or find a book with the answer. You look it up and then you know it. The idea of solving a problem through trial and error is totally alien to them. Thus they have a lot of trouble understanding what our group does (I do computer support and as such trial and error is a large part of the job). If you tell them "I don't know," they look at you like you are an idiot and want to know who does know.

We really need to stop worrying about how our kids do on contrived tests so much. Yes, they have uses to make sure kids aren't learning nothing, but we shouldn't have this penis contest over who gets the highest scores. It just doesn't matter. If we want to only test our best and brightest and tell the rest of our kids "Sorry, it's a life of menial labor for you," and spend all our time teaching those bright kids how to do the very best on the test, well I'm sure we could have top scores in no time. I'm also sure that we'd find the quality of our workers would decline.

sigh (0, Redundant)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586567)

Quality over Quantity. Obviously quantity is easier to obtain, it's effectiveness is seriously in question.

work harder get paid less in effect (1)

cinnamon colbert (732724) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586581)

What obama is saying is, hey, if your job is in competition with some place cheaper, rahter then bring them up to our level, we have to compete with them
end of that road, you have to pay for your own education to work 100 hours a week for min wage, just to compete with, say pakistan...

Outliers (3, Insightful)

chris.flesher (1646791) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586591)

It seems like somebody from the Obama camp has just read "Outliers: The Story of Success" by Malcolm Gladwell. There's a chapter discusses this topic -- Basically it says that kids from poor families score just as well as rich ones when they're young. The scores diverge over time because the kids from rich families are pushed by their parents to take classes, summer camp, etc. over the summer.

Summer break is too long (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586615)

Not from a student's perspective, but that's one thing that is different between the U.S. and, say, Japan. In Japan, the school year is from April to March. So, the big vacation is only one month. This allows a lot more retention of knowledge from one school year to the next. They have a lot of little breaks throughout the year, but no big 3 month break during which to shut down your brain.

As a student, I thought the idea of a one-month summer break would be horrible. Many parents I've spoken to also don't like the idea because it sets limits on them on when they can set up a long vacation (1-2 weeks). However, the one-month summer break would greatly decrease the month or two that teachers spend at the beginning of every school year trying to get the kids back up to where they should be.

Don't forget the grown-ups (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586635)

Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong also have longer than 40 hour work weeks. So while we're at it, lets mandate adults work longer to "level the playing field". I know, most of you already do, blah blah.

DeMarco and Lister's "Peopleware" asserts no matter how much above 40 hours a week you go, productive hours remain constant at 40 hours over time to avoid burn-out. There is likely a critical limit on how much school you can absorb before you're saturated. Make better use of existing classroom time, and don't legislate more work for children if we don't expect to do more work ourselves.

interestingly... (1)

buddyglass (925859) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586647)

This will have the interesting side effect of removing older kids from the job market, theoretically creating more opportunities for unskilled adults to occupy those slots. Of course, this means employers will likely have to pay more to fill those positions, which they won't be happy about.

I'm not opposed to lengthening the school year if we also reduce the hours spent per day. Both in classroom and at home in the form of homework:

"The United States is among the most homework-intensive countries in the world for seventh- and eighth-grade math classes. U.S. math teachers on average assigned more than two hours of mathematics homework per week in 1994-95," said LeTendre. "Contrary to our expectations, one of the lowest levels was recorded in Japan -- about one hour a week. These figures challenge previous stereotypes about the lackadaisical American teenager and his diligent peer in Japan."

From here [physorg.com]

And another one confusing quality and quantity... (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586651)

The old problem. It is not about teaching more hours it is about getting more out of the hour taught. That starts with selecting well qualified and motivated teachers, pay them well and let them do their job. Any other approach is doomed to fail. This essentially means schooling in the US will continue to degrade. Incidentally, the US already needs to import a lot of academics, which is a clear sign of a defective school system.

Obama's socialist policies strike again (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586683)

Asking our children to spend MORE time in public schools misses the point! The public school system needs to be abolished. If parents want their children to learn, they should be paying for it DIRECTLY, not by asking the rest of us to pay for THEIR child's education.

Confusion between statement and its understanding (1)

SlipperHat (1185737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586695)

From TFS, but let's take it slower

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. ... 'Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students here,' Duncan told the AP. 'I want to just level the playing field.' ...

Everything is straightforward so far (except maybe where she got those numbers from)

Kids in the US spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the US on math and science tests

Wait but, kids in other countries go to school for for longer?

-- Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days)."

So, does that mean more days the school year longer AND reducing the number of hours per day is correlated between math and science test scores.

The secretary's statement and the title "Obama Makes a Push To Add Time To the School Year" makes to make no sense on its own. Context please?

student knowledge is lost during the summer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29586715)

In the book "outliers" (http://www.amazon.com/Outliers-Story-Success-Malcolm-Gladwell/dp/0316017922), Malcolm Gladwell presents studies that show that students from the upper and class retain much of what they learned from the school year, but those in the lower class have significant drops after a summer. He chalks this up to upper class families being able to choosing to put their kids in summer camps and other summer learning programs. Given this, it might help the education divide between low and upper class to provide and require school during the summer.

Money (3, Insightful)

tsotha (720379) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586717)

Where's the money going to come from? Adding a few days onto the school year will cost the states billions of dollars. I dunno what state you're living in, but here in California we're already in such a big hole we can't see the sky. Is Obama planning to raise federal taxes for this, or is it going to be another one of those unfunded mandates?

arrghhh (1)

BlindRobin (768267) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586719)

It's not so much the time but the content. American schools are all about every student feeling good about mediocrity rather than being what they are/can be. Lake Wobegon is a myth.

Several points (1)

Adrian Lopez (2615) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586729)

1. Quality of schooling is far more important than time spent in school. Before you even think of fixing the latter, how about fixing the former?
2. Forcing kids to spend more time in school will only help to increase the divide between students and educators.
3. More of a good thing isn't always better. To take a hint from our friend Jack: "All work" isn't really any better than "all play". Let's not make school more important than the student.

Japan is a bad ideal. (4, Insightful)

srothroc (733160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29586757)

Almost anyone who works here knows that their education system is practically broken for the public schools. Children are legally entitled and cannot be denied their education; this precludes disciplinary measures such as in-school suspension and detention. There are no demerit systems -- after all, if you can't be given detention or suspension, how will you punish someone? The harshest punishment is usually a stern talking-to by the principal and homeroom teacher; a referral to a parent may or may not be as harsh.

From personal experience, many of the students who go to juku go because they don't pay attention in class. They sit around and draw pictures, stare out the window, or talk to their friends. There are students who simply sit and cross their arms, refusing to do anything in any class despite coming to school. And of course, there are students who just don't come to school, because there's nothing that can be done to them; they will move up through the grades and graduate from junior high regardless. There are also students who DON'T go to juku, or go once/twice a week. These students are the ones who actually do their homework and listen in class. Guess which of the two groups generally has better test scores in my school.

I don't really believe in the whole longer school hours argument, either. We have school from 8:50 AM to 3:35 PM; at my school, it was 8:10 AM to 3:10 PM, slightly longer. On top of that, they only have six periods in a day, with a lunch break after fourth period. And on top of THAT, Monday and Friday only have FIVE periods. I fail to see how Japanese children spend more time in school unless they count club activities (generally an hour before school and an hour or two after school). Or perhaps they're counting juku, which SHOULDN'T be counted; it's completely optional and you pay for it. Basically you're paying to go to a classroom with a cubby where you're forced to do what you should be doing in school to begin with.

For another rant, a lot of students who get good grades are simply memorizing and regurgitating facts, especially in liberal arts courses. They aren't learning how things fit together, or how to apply their knowledge, or even how to use their knowledge outside of regimented series of tests. If you think the SATs are bad in America, come here for a bit. This is a land where tests are God, so you learn to please God.

If that's what Obama wants America to aim for, I don't think I approve. At all.
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<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
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