So we are back to school. Jimmy and Jane leave in the morning and return about 3ish. Just in time to milk the cows.
But wait! Most of you reading this are probably city dwellers. There is no cow milking. With the loss of the family farm, a staple in the American landscape since the founding of the country, we have also lost many family businesses. From agrarian times, our nation has changed significantly to manufacturing being a tremendous economic driver, to now, the service and technology sectors providing the spark.
The problem? Education has not changed. It is mired in the morass of thinking that we are an agrarian economy. This is not only tearing families apart due to the cost of child care, but also hurting the very unit we should be cherishing – the family.
This column is usually devoted to the family business, but this time I simply can’t get past the “family” portion of the title. We wonder what is going on in our communities and yet we change nothing. Expecting a different outcome when we change none of the inputs is the very definition of lunacy.
Therefore, I will start the dialogue: Change our educational structure.
Working women and mothers is not a fad – it is a necessity for many. Sadly, the mom is singular in terms of parenting for many families, so the stress many mothers face when their child gets off of school at 3 p.m. either limits their ability to work past this time or requires them to pay for child care. If the child is old enough to stay home, becoming a latchkey kid, the opportunity to get into all kinds of problems is omnipresent. The two to three hours of alone time leaves kids unsupervised on the streets, in the neighborhoods and…our community has frequently led the nation in teen and out-of-wedlock births. Is too much idle time allowing for unnecessary outcomes? Remember the old adage from the Protestant work ethic: Idle hands are the devil’s playground.
I am coming out to recommend school until 5 p.m. Further, I am recommending school all year round. There would be significant breaks in winter and summer to allow families time for vacation; but currently, the drop-off rate of learning is precipitous from the end of spring to early fall. The extra time in school could be used for a variety of things, including the arts, athletics – back in school, where they belong – and extra help, such as tutoring or test prep. Different staff would be needed so teachers can get their regular grading and prep work done.
Would this hurt daycares? Probably, but in a capitalist structure there are sacrifices, and in this case it is for the common good. This structure would allow parents the opportunity to work regular hours. It would allow supervision during crucial times when parents are not available. A residual effect would be improved test scores and a greater appreciation for the arts, as well as better fitness, with more children playing sports. After all, obesity is another problem in our culture today.
There are probably a myriad of holes you can punch into my suggestion. But don’t lose the basic premise – we are no longer an agrarian society. Further, the current system is not working.
Families need a new idea, as the world around them has changed. Parents have become taxi drivers, using the spare time they have to haul kids, not communicate with them. Jimmy and Jane no longer milk cows but they do run all over the area for various activities while mom and dad feel guilty if they have one idle moment. Guilty parenting is another subset of the educational conundrum.
Now, I am not suggesting that the 5 p.m. end-time for school will solve all of society’s ills – far from it. But we need to start somewhere. The cows are gone, so the time is now.
And since we are talking about idle time, it is not a bad idea to get Jimmy and Jane to do some chores around the house. Play a new game called “Vacuum-go” instead of Pokémon Go. Chores teach skills, help the parents and family, and the exercise doesn’t hurt either.
Oh, for the days of the family farm…
-David Borst, Ed.D., is executive director and chief operating officer of the Family Business Legacy Institute, a regional resource hub for family business. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.