When we are young, our lives are defined by the summer. We look forward to it almost deliriously. In fact, I think the only time we weren’t counting down the days until summer vacation was when we were counting down the days to some shorter (but closer) vacation. Three months of idleness is enough to make anyone with a full-time job more than a little jealous.
They say that summer used to be a time when students stayed home to help out on with the harvest. This was, of course, in the days before a measly 2% of Americans called themselves farmers. Our society has shifted from agrarian and rural to knowledge-based and urban. Today, only 17% of people live in what can be considered truly “rural” parts of America.
Assuming that summer once had a purpose, what is its purpose now? Are we simply so used to this rotation that we don’t dare change it? More than likely. Globalization has made the nine-to-five office job all but irrelevant these days, yet people still find themselves falling into familiar work patterns. Change is hard for us to accept, apparently.
Now, let the record show that we at TestSoup are not advocating for the end of summer vacation. Long live summer vacation!
But long live education, as well.
Today’s American students have a tough time keeping up when it comes to math and science. We’ve already tried throwing money at the problem. Spending per pupil in America on public education has increased from $2,500 in 1960 to $10,000 today (in inflation-adjusted dollars). Clearly, the key to churning out well-equipped students is not to be found in expensive tech or other budget-busting fads.
Real education happens when students are actively engaged in the lesson. This can be the result of any one — or a combination — of several factors: Quality teachers, a naturally inquisitive mind, supportive family members or friends, or even a desire to get an “A.”
That’s the first part of the equation. The second part is the work. An engaged student is a great and powerful thing, but if you don’t take steps to keep him or her that way then you won’t get very far. That’s why the summer is such an important time for students. Three months is a long enough time to forget the vast majority of what you learned during the past nine — or enough time to forge it into a solid foundation for next year.
America used to make its living with our hands and our backs. During this time it made sense for students to neglect their studies in favor of the harvest. But now we make our living with our minds. Should the fact that we have no fields to plow mean that we are allowed to do nothing for three months?
Take the summer for what it is: a chance to unwind and recharge your batteries. But also as a time to set yourself up for success next year. Read books. Sign up to take classes that you are interested in but had no time for during the school year. Parents (if you have little children), send your kids to a camp that’s more than just playing outside. And teachers, please use the time to improve your skills as well. Our students’ futures are in your hands.