President Obama has announced he believes children in the United States should be in school more hours per day, more weeks per year.
This, you see, is because "the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom."
What a bunch of malarkey. What "challenges" are any different than they've ever been in the last hundred years? Over the decades there have always been changes in technology, world relations, and so on. Why is this new century somehow special? Students have always needed to have a good, solid education. Period.
But as for the idea that a good, solid education requires more time sitting in a classroom, I couldn't disagree more. Children need to be taught solid, substantive subjects by effective teachers -- but they don't need more time cooped up in a classroom, robbing them of time to be creative and inventive, to pursue their interests, to read for pleasure, and to get lots of physical exercise. Children also need plenty of time with their families.
So much classroom time is spent on "classroom management" and "discipline," not education. One of the miracles of homeschooling is how little time it actually takes to produce outstanding results, because the parent is teaching each child one-on-one and not struggling to motivate and teach an entire classroom of disparate abilities and languages. I have a strong suspicion that more hours and days in a classroom would produce diminishing returns, for many reasons.
Today at Salon Andrew O'Hehir writes about his family's experiences as new homeschoolers.
One of his points I strongly agree with: "We have rejected the mainstream consensus that since education is a good thing, more of it -- more formal, more 'academic,' reaching ever deeper into early childhood and filling up more of the day and more of the year -- is better for society and better for all children. This is almost an article of faith in contemporary America, but it's also one that's debatable at best and remains largely unsupported by research data."