According to the Associated Press, President Obama has joined the chorus of reformers who think American kids spend way too little time in school. Among other changes, the chief executive thinks schools should add time to classes and stay open late. (We've already super-sized the backpacks, so a drive-through wedgie and ultrasound class pictures are probably the next innovations in the cradle-to-grave book-learnin' experience.)
Obama even wants schools to let kids in on the weekends so they'll have a "safe place" to stay. Yes, a safe place surrounded by bullies, STDs, predatory teachers, Columbine wannabes, and mystery meat. The only thing missing is a sign saying "Dodgeballs now certified 'green': made with 100 percent recycled nuclear waste."
Part of the perceived need for extended academic hours arises from a "one size fits all" approach to solving the deficiencies of impoverished inner-city youth. I realize that many such children return home to abusive parents or dropout parents or part-time parents or whatever. I guess keeping the kids in school until 6 o'clock instead of 3 o'clock fits right in with the time-tested American remedy of Delaying The Inevitable.("Say, if we don't let the students go home until they have grandchildren, then maybe the grandchildren can deal with the crack-head great-grandparents...")
Obviously, we can't let students be away from school for very long at a time, because they'll forget everything they've learned. I pity them when they graduate and have to search for a job for at least three months. ("Duhhh...I can't fill out this application because there's a big rubber thingie on this end of the pencil.")
Obama wants schools to face the challenges of the 21st Century, the #1 challenge being "How do we convince kids that their parents are intellectually uninspiring dullards who nonetheless showed enough brilliance to vote for me?"
Babysitters, daycare centers, bus drivers, and the tourism industry will be impacted by beefed-up school calendars, but at least health-related fields will prosper. There will be a keen interest in Anatomy and Physiology courses. ("Watch while I pull the money for all these expensive programs out of my rear end.")
Granted, more time in school will help tomorrow's leaders wrestle with world problems, but tough choices will still have to be made. ("The Russian incursion into Uzbekistan -- do we solve it with a magazine sale or a popsicle stick collage? Or dare I say it: the 'Dress Like The '70s' option?")
The proposed school reforms would supposedly make it easier for kids to make it in the competitive Real World. How making it harder to reach an afterschool job in time fits in with that, I don't know. At least the kids will learn about the Vietnam War, or at least the "In order to save the village, we had to destroy it" aspect.
Aren't kids overscheduled and sleep-deprived enough as it is? Back in the day, I used my afternoons to hang around my father's office, watch reruns of "Gomer Pyle, USMC," attend Cub Scout meetings or spend quality time with my dog Pee-Wee. In 2009 I'll bet all those highly motivated foreign students we're warned about are learning high-tech skills so they can get a good job, buy a satellite system, kick back and watch reruns of "Gomer Pyle." I was way ahead of the curve 40 years ago. Golllll-eeeeeee!
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