More School Needed?

One thing I found noteworthy when I started studying international affairs was how often our bad education system came up. Plenty of articles talk about how the US' position in the world will change during this century, and most of them list our bad education system as one reason our dominance may erode. It seems like when I listen to domestic political debates about education, plenty of people argue, "Oh, our schools have problems, but they're not that bad." Of course, many of these people have ties to the public education system. But my point is that, in the field of international affairs, the fact that US schools are bad is not subject to debate.

A recent article in The Economist (by the way, I really wish I could find a video clip of this to insert here) talks about American kids being "underworked" compared to kids in other countries, in terms of hours per day and days per year of school, and cite this as a reason for our educational problems:
American children also have one of the shortest school days, six-and-a-half hours, adding up to 32 hours a week. By contrast, the school week is 37 hours in Luxembourg, 44 in Belgium, 53 in Denmark and 60 in Sweden. On top of that, American children do only about an hour’s-worth of homework a day, a figure that stuns the Japanese and Chinese.
That Sweden number can't be true, can it? Anyway, the article lists some reasons why this is the case:
Powerful interest groups, most notably the teachers’ unions, but also the summer-camp industry, have a vested interest in the status quo. But reformers are also up against powerful cultural forces. One is sentimentality; the archetypical American child is Huckleberry Finn, who had little taste for formal education. Another is complacency. American parents have led grass-root protests against attempts to extend the school year into August or July, or to increase the amount of homework their little darlings have to do.
I can buy the idea that this is a problem, to some extent, especially the idea that kids forget a lot of stuff over the summer. That means they spend a lot of time catching up at the beginning of a new school year. However, I think that we should also look at what happens when kids are in school. A significant part of that 6.5 hours per day gets wasted on study hall, lame electives, and disciplinary issues. If the school day became more efficient, it may not need to be longer. On the other hand, the article brings up the problem of latchkey kids who get home before their parents do. This would be less of an issue if the school day was extended.

I'd be interested to read about how other countries do discipline. From my subbing experience, it seems like plenty of time is wasted trying to keep kids in line. I think a focus of the quality of a school day is more important than focusing on its length. If kids are wasting time and/or not learning, an extra hour or two per day won't change that.


  1. Craig, it's not the time in school it's the focus of a social agenda that takes away from academics. (see the article below)

    Obama's "Safe Schools" Czar Dreamed of "Promoting Homosexuality" to Schoolchildren

    By Alex Bush

    June 11, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Kevin Jennings, who was appointed by Obama to be the assistant deputy secretary of the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools inside the Department of Education, has always been interested in promoting the homosexualist agenda to schoolchildren.

    Jennings, cofounder and executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), told attendees at a GLSEN conference over a decade ago that he looked forward to the day when promoting homosexuality in schools will be seen in a positive light. (See the remarks here)

    Jennings said that he “can envision a day when straight people say, ‘So what if you’re promoting homosexuality,’ or straight kids [will] say [to a male homosexual friend], ‘Hey, why don’t you and your boyfriend come over before you go to prom and try your tuxes on at my house?’ ”

    "I’d like five years from now for most Americans when they hear the word ‘GLSEN’ to think ‘Ooh, that’s good for kids.’ ”

    To enact this agenda, GLSEN regularly holds workshops that present tools for changing curricula at schools from kindergarten to high school, including “Inclusive Kindergarten,” “Inclusive Elementary School Curriculum,” and “Re-envisioning High School Literature.”

    GLSEN leaders believe that to win the battle for “homosexual rights,” they must redefine the next generation’s view of homosexuality, beginning at kindergarten. Activist Jaki Williams has said that during kindergarten children are “developing their superego,” and “that’s when the saturation process needs to begin.”

    Jennings was once asked on national television and in front of hundreds of attendees whether GLSEN’s mission was to go beyond “teaching of respect for all,” the title of a GLSEN instructional video, to which he responded with a forceful “no.”

    However, when the cameras stopped rolling, the attendees broke into smaller groups where GLSEN presenters gave a drastically different idea of their mission. One speaker called the desire for “tolerance” a “condescending campaign for the second-class citizenry.”

    “I don’t want to be tolerated. I don’t want to be put up with. I want to be ... celebrated,” said Stephen Glassman, a GLSEN chapter board member.

  2. Well, as I was telling Craig last night, I agree. It's not necessarily the time, it what fills it. When I was at home doing school, I almost never took a full school day's worth of time to complete my work. Most days I was done by 1 or 2pm, even in later grades. But others I knew, those with a more dawdling nature, took much longer. I don't think the quality of our education differed much whether we finished at 2 or at 5.