Wednesday, August 10, 2005

COM: On School Start Dates

Besides the fact that school dates encroaching on the summer months from both ends has repeatedly and devastatingly affected the summer camp business (of which i am a fringe participant), it also costs money and probably is counterproductive in maintaining the educational efficiency of our schools.

My own steadfast belief is that education is much more than book-learning. After 25 years as a junior high and high school teacher, college teacher, and coach, i know (and about which i will someday write at length) that most of the truly effective education comes from conversation -- in the hallways and locker rooms and playgrounds, and in the classroom between teachers and students. It is this conversation that has been lost in the blind onward crusade for higher test scores.

Therefore, having acceded to the idea that folks with no background in education, even in teaching their own children well, are the ones making the rules, i hold that the less time kids spend in school being taught rote, disconnected, naive skills and facts the better off they are. For me that means that camp, and time in the real world (where, quite frankly kids are teaching themselves via the internet so fast that teachers and adults can't keep up), is infinitely more valuable than time in a classroom. My father used to say, "Sometimes school gets in the way of good education." Never more true than now.

And i am not anti-education -- that's what i do. But there are aspects of classical education that simply worked for generations that have been set aside merely so lazy, ill-informed, dogmatic bureaucrats can look at numbers on a report rather than examine the lifetimes of people who succeed and determine why.

So with that said, and with intentions of writing at great length on the subject some day, i give you this news from a camp lobbyist:

Tonight the Senate passed a new education bill, SB 8. While our school start
language was not included in the proposed bill, Sen. Lucio offered an amendment
on the floor for a Labor Day to June 7 school year without waivers… and it
passed! I give much of the credit to your participation in this effort. The
cards, emails, phone calls and testimony all helped to keep this issue alive.

Special thanks to [various camp professionals, parents and children]. They endured a very long day in a committee hearing to testify on your behalf on this issue. Please thank them for taking the time to come to Austin. Also, many Austin parents responded to our plea to come to the Capitol to put in witness cards and watch the testimony. That too made a difference.

We still have a long way to go. The House has to agree on the bill and then the Senate has to concur or send it to conference committee. If that occurs, both chambers have to agree with the conference version. No celebration parties yet . . . but every vote in our favor is confirmation that there is support for a uniform school start date.

Highlights of today’s debate on the Senate floor:

Sen. Shapiro said that while she was against Sen. Lucio’s bill, she was in favor of a uniform start date without waivers. This was very important as it sent a message to legislators that maybe a change is warranted. It is the first time she has ever
indicated support.

Sen. Duncan proposed an amendment to keep the start date during the week of the 21st, but to end waivers. This amendment did not pass because most Senators had already committed to Sen. Lucio and the Labor Day date. But this may be a compromise down the road.

Next stop is the House. We will keep you updated.

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