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Lost instruction day

April 24, 2005

(Skip to the end to find out what it took for me to remove my kids from school for a day…)

The Chicago Tribune reports in Schools would prefer ‘keep your children in class’ day that many school districts will charge students with an unexcused absence if their parents participate in the yearly “Take your sons and daughters to work day.”  The districts are calling it a “lost instruction day.”

The idea behind the event is for kids to see what work is really like.  Since public schools subject kids to twelve years of fake work, resulting in extremely unrealistic expectations, this is a worthy goal.  But the administrators don’t see it that way:

“The concept of having kids shadow and have kids learn what is happening in the workforce is a great idea, but we have to balance that with protecting educational time,” said Lenore Johnson, associate superintendent for instruction in Naperville School District 203. “I think the same things could be accomplished on a non-school day.”

Arizona’s Supt. Tom Horne was more blunt.

“Employers want employees who are conscientious and have good attendance,” he said. “Playing hooky from school is not a good thing and doesn’t prepare you for work.”

Apparently public schools have a monoploy on “educational time.”

Public schools are a study in pedagogical failure.  Will one day either way make a difference?  I mean, a negative difference.  A day outside of public schools, especially learning something about the real world (not filtered by politically correct curriculum committees) could make a world of positive difference.

But I especially like the second one from Tom Horne about playing hooky and proper attendance preparing kids for work.  “Hey kids, someday you’ll have a job that sucks, that you can’t skip a single day of, even for good reason!  You should start getting used to it now!”

I have no doubt the “educators” have talked themselves into believing that what they do every day is the only good thing in their students’ lives, but it just isn’t so.  Parents willing to give more of themselves to their kids can make a bigger difference than all the room-temperature, pureed semi-correct school curriculum in the world.  Maybe there’s another influence behind the admin’s’ reasoning…

School officials say classroom time has become more precious with the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which holds schools more accountable for student performance on annual achievement tests. Others note that state aid tied to daily attendance figures also is at stake.

Ahh – I get it now.  Not enough kids in class? You take a ding in the budget from state and federal aid.  So the short-sightedness extends to state and federal legislators.  There’s a shocker.

The whole thing started as “take your daughter to work day” to create teachable moments for parents and kids. And while not all workplaces can use it in a positive way, it can be used positively:

The Ms. Foundation estimates that nationwide some 10 million girls and 6 million boys will participate in the event Thursday. The event has moved beyond introducing children to careers, said foundation spokeswoman Cheryl McCants, and now aims to promote family-friendly work environments.

The foundation does not like the idea of moving the day to the summer, McCants said.

“It’s done during the school year because it is an educational program,” McCants said. “The premise behind the program is that the children who participate can go back and share the experience and make the connection between what takes place in school and what takes place in the workplace. That works best during the school year.”

But many school officials believe kids are better off in the classroom. Last year, the Minneapolis Public School system warned parents that absences would not be excused. The policy was reversed this year when a new superintendent took office, said district spokesman Josh Collins.

“We are still encouraging our parents to keep their children in school,” Collins said …

“It was a lost instruction day,” said school board President Kathleen Baldwin. “I really have a problem with the fact that this is something that could be done during the summer months instead of taking them out of their education setting.”

Hey, there it was again: the “education setting” is the school.  Education can’t take place anywhere else.  Parents certainly can’t educate their kids – that requires professional “educators.”

What did it take for me to haul my kids out of school for a day?

Many years ago there was a total eclipse of the sun in our own county.  My 3 kids were in grade school at the time, and the school district, instead of using this once-in-a-lifetime event for instruction, decided to keep everyone indoors with the blinds down.  Really.

I bought the correct grade of welding-mask filter for safely viewing the sun, and also built a solar-eclipse projector for safely viewing projected images of the event.  On the day of the eclipse, I took my kids out of school and drove them 50 miles south to the center of the event.

It was a strange and wonderful thing to see.  The sun was nibbled away, became a dark-centered ring, and then opened back up to its own brilliant self.  At the height of the eclipse, thousands of eclipse-images were projected on the ground through every little hole in tree leaves.  No wonder ancient people were so awed by eclipses.

I couldn’t say if it made an impression on my kids or not – they may not even remember it but I tried, damn it.  Parents are willing to try to do something beyond daily input+output=production for their kids.

Kim Stanley, 39, of Naperville, a former account manager for AT&T who is now a stay-at-home mother of two girls, called her school district’s non-support of the day “astonishing.”

“This is about progress,” she said. “It’s about exposing your kids to as much opportunity as you can.”

For many kids, school is nothing more than a grinding endurance test. For one day, let’s at least try something different.

Categories: Education
  1. April 24, 2005 at 13:08 | #1

    Give me a break! We never home-schooled, but it’s this kind of nonsense (along with several other kinds) that makes more and more parents willing to consider it. How much is that going to cost them in lost revenue? I wonder if mandatory universal instruction in government-run schools is an idea that’s time has passed.

  2. April 25, 2005 at 07:52 | #2

    Basing school budgets on daily attendance is nothing new—and, like most “good ideas” (“Let’s incent the schools to keep attendance up”) usually suffers from Demon Murphy’s Law of Unintended Consequences.  Like this.

    That all said, and your points all being well taken—why *isn’t* “Take Your Kid to Work Day” scheduled during a “traditional” summer vacation period?

  3. April 25, 2005 at 12:04 | #3

    It’s hard to reach all the kids during the summer – the one point of contact for educational purposes is the school.  As Ms Foundation’s Cheryl McCants said, “It’s done during the school year because it’s an educational program,” adding that the intention was for kids to share their experiences in the school context with the teacher’s help.

    Alas, the school districts seem too jealous of every second of students’ time – not that they (the schools) are making good use of it.

  4. April 25, 2005 at 21:44 | #4

    I’m sorry but I had to raise my skirt to wade through the bs that these educators are spitting out.  Instructional time is lost if the child isn’t in class. Of course going to see how your parent earns a living, how they use what you are learning(math, social studies and etc)isn’t as important as being in class.  Me thinks it is all dollars lost and No Child Left Behind rules not losing ‘in school education’ that is most important to the said educators!

  5. April 26, 2005 at 07:41 | #5

    Maybe what worries the “educators” even more is that their curriculum might be so disconnected from the real world that even a child would notice.

  6. WeeDram
    April 26, 2005 at 21:20 | #6

    Dave said:

    “That all said, and your points all being well taken—why *isn’t* “Take Your Kid to Work Day” scheduled during a “traditional” summer vacation

    In addition to what DOF said, it’s because kids get EXCITED about a special day, and learning is enhanced.  Did you not get excited about field trips?  About a special guest, someone well-known or respected who made a class period really special and memorable.

    Let’s use common sense here.  Learning is not about funding formulas, hours spent, etc.  It is about real humans being stimulated and abosrbing information in a meaningful way, often aided by skilled helpers and guides.  If the system doesn’t support this, the system is broken.


  7. April 26, 2005 at 23:09 | #7

    We didn’t have take your kids to work when I was in school, but when I was doing my student teaching in Detroit it was a big hit.  Not just because it was a day off, but because many kids get so little time with their parents during the everyday activities that it’s a treat to hang out with them at work. I would have loved to see what my folks did for a living. All I knew is they worked for the phone company.  Not to mention any teacher worth a darn wants kids to see the real world and understand that soon they will be out there.

  8. April 28, 2005 at 08:25 | #8

    As Ms Foundation’s Cheryl McCants said, “It’s done during the school year because it’s an educational program,” adding that the intention was for kids to share their experiences in the school context with the teacher’s help.

    The individual educational aspect going to one’s parent’s workplace is applicable at any time.  That said, the *community* educational aspect is certainly better facilitated during the school year.

    I suspect another reason why teachers possibly get irked by it is that it interrupt’s a week’s lesson plans, and for the kids who *aren’t* pulled, you have to develop alternative activities for the day.  None of which are unbearable hardships, but which (speaking as a former teacher) are annoying.

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