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Is there a reason why schools are starting earlier and earlier each year, cutting into the summer vacations of our children and families? Is it about money, education or school union convenience?
By Ray Hanania
There’s something sacred about “Summer Vacation” that we don’t respect today the way we did when we were kids.
If you haven’t figured out my logic from past columns, Baby Boomers are the smartest and best people in the world. It’s a fact. I’ll prove it some other time.
When we were kids, we had a real “summer.” And we could take “summer vacations” with our families that were. They helped us mold our character and gave us time to bond as a family.
They didn’t involve expensive vacations we couldn’t afford flying to an exotic beaches. The best vacations were when dad got us in our cars and we drove around the country on a road-trip, collecting window stickers from the places we visited.
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As dad drove, we sang, we talked, and we relaxed together. We even brought along the dog.
Today, I think the whole idea of summer has been destroyed, sacrificed to the failure of our leaders to manage our budgets and the economy.
Part of it has to do with our schools.
I don’t want to get into the whole debate of how many days should students be in school, but vacations were a timing issue that had to do with being off of school.
Amazingly, many schools started this week in Illinois. It’s only the middle of August.
When I was a kid, we were off in mid-June and we didn’t return until Labor Day at the beginning of September. We had 10 weeks of vacation or 50 summer days, not including 15 other days for Easter/Spring Break, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.
And when we didn’t go on a summer road trip, we hung around the house with our friends, without the pressures of homework or the distractions of computer.
Today, a lot of families are not really families at all. They don’t want summer vacation, in-year holidays or days off. School is a daycare center. Working is a bigger challenge for parents, including those that are single.
It’s really a shame to see our children have to report in to school so early and miss the chance to build their friendships and bond with their families.
Vacations with the family are the things that build character. Your family vacations will stay with you for years as you age and your parents depart this world. The best family bonding starts at the dinner table but is reinforced during family vacations.
I hate to see so many kids miss that.
America’s love of vacations was depicted in Hollywood’s Vacation movie series. It starred Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo as parents taking their kids, Rusty and Audrey on vacations. They went across the country to Wally World, to Las Vegas, to Europe and experienced Christmas vacations twice.
The new Vacation movie picks up with a grown Rusty wanting to do what his parents did, bond with the family.
Sadly, the hilarious new Vacation movie is filled with so many bad words, it was hard to enjoy.
Am I missing something in all this? Do understand what I’m trying to get at? We had a better lifestyle when I was younger and I am not sure why it has changed.
The world has gone to pot, families are falling apart, and we have less and less time to enjoy ourselves as families. And all I can do is wonder why.
Follow-up: After speaking with some high school superintendents recently, that had some interesting, and disturbing issues that they raised.
First, the main criteria as to when a school starts has to do with whether or not the schools in a district do or don’t all have air conditioning. That’s why most Suburban schools started early this year in mid-August and why Chicago Schools don’t start until the beginning of September.
Also, school districts are starting earlier so they can coordinate the end of a semester with the start of the Christmas and New Year holidays, the two weeks most students at the end of the year. In many cases, schools that start late in September, for example, don’t end their semesters until after the students return from the end-of-year holiday vacation.
What that means is that the students don’t finish the semester when they take the Christmas Break, have two weeks of fun, and then return to school unprepared to finish the semester and do better on the end-of-semester testing.
If students do bad on testing, the schools lose money.
State money is linked to two things, student performances and total days in school. Most schools have students in their classes at least 176 to 182 days each school year. (State’s vary around the country and the number of class dates are often changed by the state legislatures.)
Personally, I think summer break is very important and when you disrupt the summer break period, you challenge the student’s foundation. They need family time in the summer. Not every student gets it, but changing the system to start school sooner takes it away from everyone.
I think that’s wrong.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter. Reach him at email@example.com.)
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"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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