The Four Day Public School Week – Is It Enough?

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Do you live in any of these 21 states? Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming. If you do, then there are public school districts in your state with a four day school week.

Oh, I didn’t mean to leave the rest of you out. Other states with laws on the books allowing four-day school weeks, but no public schools currently taking advantage of it, include Arkansas, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia and Washington. Well, we’re getting close to everyone, anyway.

Is less public school a good thing?

There’s an old joke. Two women are sitting at a restaurant where they’ve just been served their food. They look at the food and moan.

Woman # 1: “Such terrible food! It looks awful! It smells awful!”
Woman # 2: “And such small portions.”

Get it? The food is inedible and still the second woman complains about how little of it there is on her plate. And there we have a fair description of the debate regarding 4-day weeks for public schools.

Looking over the National Conference of State Legislatures’ site, I found a page covering this debate. To paraphrase, they claim that proponents of a 4-day school week favor it because it allows for more doctor visits, personal time, family time. Um, okay, except for the fact that the school’s mandated amount of curriculum to be covered every year has not changed, and they are accordingly and gruesomely elongating school hours for the four days that they are in session. That also means homework – more homework than ever before. It adds up to the school taking a lot less responsibility for teaching a designated amount of material that has not effectively changed. If anything, according to most sources, the amount of material to learn grows each year. According to “experts”, the amount of information available doubles about every three years now. There’s a terrifying thought for the class of 2020!

I would argue that both WHAT public schools teach, and HOW they teach is nothing less than a plague of society, but that’s another issue covered in many articles herein. The bottom line for public school parents in these school districts: given the amount of homework your student will be asked to deal with this year, given the additional litany of minuses attached to schools, you may as well be homeschooling! More on this later.

The arguments against 4-day school weeks on the Legislatures site? The school days that do exist will be longer, to help compensate. In fact, they will be TOO long. These will be exhausting for students and teachers, and neither will work as well under those circumstances. True enough, I think. This has always been a very good argument for homeschooling, anyway. Homeschoolers determine their own schedule for study, ideally a schedule which will optimize the student’s (and instructor’s) effectiveness. Such a homeschool schedule can be entirely customized to fit exactly the strengths of the student.

An additional complaint regarding this four-day fiasco is that daycare for younger students rarely covers the precise hours that these new expanded school days do. I imagine numerous daycare facilities will adjust, however, if the change in scheduling represents additional revenue for them. Homeschoolers haven’t got this problem in the first place. Younger children are at home with mom or dad, and the studying homeschooling student. Talk about more family time! If you’re looking for quality time with your children, again, homeschool clearly is the answer, not a three day weekend loaded down with egregious amounts of homework.

The experts present another concern about the four-day school week, one I actually am inclined to agree with. (It’s so rare that I agree with “experts” on anything.) They express a concern over retention of studies. Their feeling is that a child spending three days away from his work will essentially “lose” what he “learned”, surrendered to video games, social occasions, and even sheer laziness on the part of the student.

Well, yes, this may be the case, given schools as they are. Of course, if WHAT institutionalized schools taught was of any real interest to the student, and if HOW they taught was effective in the first place, this issue would evaporate overnight. Students would be excited about learning. Why, they might even take it upon themselves, as a few self-motivated students today do (too few, far too few) to learn more on their own time. They might even turn the games off and, well (and I do not mean to cause anyone distress) READ something! Or better yet, the excited student may CREATE something! A poem, a song, a dance, a story, a new skill when they play baseball! Yes, we might see miracles of growth and creativity and involvement – if the schools actually taught anything of interest to a student, in a manner encouraging to the student.

Unfortunately, schools almost never do anything of the sort, and their execrable results more than speak for themselves.

I have a very good answer to the question of the 4-day school week. I say let’s have a 0-day school week.

Let’s close schools down.

Both private and public schools results, as covered in so many other articles here and in my book, Poor Cheated Little Johnny, are far more often disastrous than not. Their dropout rate is astonishingly high. Why not? The only power the student often has over his own life and future is non-cooperation. What other power do we give the young? We often fail to take their complaints seriously, or even listen when it comes to schools. Why is that? Is it because schools provide free baby-sitting service so that mom and dad can go about their day without a child encumbering them? I know this is often the case, and all I would say to such parents is that you are not helping your child prepare for life. Generally, in fact, such a parent is doing damage to the child and his/her future by shoving the student in a school and hoping the teachers and administrators and “experts” know what they are doing. Folks – those people as often as not do not even know your child’s name without a classroom seating chart.

Look, in the end, the “4-day school week” is only a symptom of a much larger problem, and is a public response to that problem. Schools have failed. They have failed miserably, utterly. They are a catastrophic drag on the resources of an already stressed civilization. Parents are fully aware of the failure of our schools, being products of those schools themselves and knowing that they are often undereducated, and poorly prepared by school for life. Parents receive further evidence in parent/teacher conferences when they see the general lack of understanding of the child on the part of the teacher, often accompanied by a callous lack of regard or respect for the family. They see the ineptitude of the teacher in the frustrated child, in a mountain of weekly homework, in report cards, in teacher evaluation of their child.

Parents know – and they vote with their ballots and pocketbooks. School bond issues have failed in record numbers over the past 10 years. In fact, few pass anymore. Even most private schools go belly-up in the first five years of their existence. Parents refuse to shell out very hard-won money for terrible results – results that the family and the child will be forced to live with for the rest of the child’s life!

The schools, and their very overpaid staff and crew, claim that there just isn’t enough cash rolling in from the public coffers to keep them open five days a week. What no one seems to be pointing out is that if we the people wished the schools to remain open, if we wished to fund them at a higher level, we would do so – as we have done in the past. We, the people, have chosen to withdraw our support from schools, particularly public education. And teachers and administrators and school boards whine loudly that they are not sufficiently supported.

Support received should be based entirely on results.

The results of schools public and private are generally awful. Support is being appropriately withdrawn. I do not doubt that this is merely the start of a trend, a social correction to a failed institution.

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10 comments on “The Four Day Public School Week – Is It Enough?”

  1. I think the bottom line here is “Support received should be based entirely on results.” Why is that so hard for the rest of our society to understand? Be don’t buy junky crap products, we sue for false advertising when products or services don’t do what they promise to do, car manufacturers have to recall vehicles when the brakes fail, etc. So why are we expected to throw good money after bad when it comes to public education?

  2. Agreed entirely. Good point about ‘false advertising”!

  3. Much of what you say speeks so much from my heart. Our public school systems world wide are totally outdated and need to be turned upside down!! They are based on training kids into fitting into a mold one size fits all, ignoring and forgetting the fundamentals for all learning: interest and motivation. On Jan 23 I start airing my 2nd global telesummit with the goal of revolutionizing our school systems and hopefully creating a movement to support that. Homeschooling – unschooling is wonderful- but I also believe it’s not for everybody. No access to public education for nobody is as bad a solution as forced participation in public education for everybody! Kids learn best from role models and if you think of poor neighborhoods, what role models are they going to learn from. In the long run we become the average of the 5 persons we spend the most time with. We need some kind of public education, a place where kids have good role models and access to resources not all parents can’t provide them with! Kids need to be exposed to opportuninities- not all parents can do that equally well. Obviously learning works best in an atmosphere where kids are allowed to follow their own interests on an individual schedule. We need public schools who understand that!! and an administration that stops comparing the self esteem out of all those who don’t perform among the top 30% in a totally artificial setup of testing. Testing what? Life skills or facts you could just as well google when you actually need them? In the end for me it comes down to what Buckninster Fuller said: “In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle and try to change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete.” Improving on the old model of schools is hopeless. Create a new type of school, based on the concept of homeschooling and unschooling and what neuroscience knows of how learning works – learning communities in neighborhoods where respectful interaction with one another is as big a topic as science … after all “it takes a village to raise a child”…

  4. Hi Astrid,

    I have many thoughts in response to your post. I’ll keep this short for now. I appreciate your good will, and concern for children. But Bucky Fuller IS right about not trying to fix the old model – just replace it with something better, something that will actually work in this case. That would be private forms of education – and there are many of them. Unschooling, and the one parent-one student approach are just a few models in what is a very diverse field of private approaches to education. Every child IS different, and some need far more structure than unschooling provides. For them, there are homeschool groups, tutoring groups that eschew grading and testing, and many other private education variations. Trying to fix the schools in ANY way now will be like trying to bail water out of a boat with a sieve. Can’t be done. And for children who must be “schooled”, there will always be private schools. Public education is a complete failure, it destroys communities, families, the lives of students and even the lives of teachers to the tune of over 550 billion dollars a year in the U.S., and it’s time we confronted these facts and closed their doors. By the way, it does NOT take a village to raise a child, it takes a family and a few friends or dedicated “specialist” like the family doctor, or baseball little league coach. Raising a child is a private assignment taken on by the family who the child belongs to. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which the U.S. signed), it’s the family’s right and responsibility to educate their child as they see fit. It’s about time the U.S. lived up to that agreement. Let’s close public schools and do the right thing.

  5. So if you close public schools, who teaches the children that are in a family where both parents work full time jobs?

  6. There are many forms of private education, including homeschool groups where parents share the chores, an option used by many families in the situation that you describe. I’ve authored a book about this, and recently released it. It’s called Universal Private Eduction. You can take a look if you like at http://www.stepsed.com/info–books.php?course=80030

  7. I don’t think it’s a fix, but as a recent graduate I felt that we wasted way too much time and I would have rather hit it hard for four days and had more free time to study alone and do what I wanted. Plus it saves the schools a ton of money.

  8. Hi Cori,

    I do agree with you so far as details go, it’s a step in the right direction. That said, I really don’t believe school as an institution works well. It certainly has not in the U.S. for decades, and their terrible numbers (drop-out rate, dropping literacy levels, etc) are the proof. Thanks for writing!

  9. Schools as institutions do NOT work well. Necessity is the mother of invention. If there were not any public schools, cottage industry would pop up as it already has in the homeschooling arena. People who care far more for the children would come up with a solution. (Not saying that teachers do not care, they DO and would be a valuable part of this equation if they chose.) Imagine being a teacher without the rules, policies and other agendas that tie your hands from doing what you got into teaching for. Then, others who agree with your methods could pay you for doing what you love. Or just teach your own children.

  10. Parents that must work either need to adjust priorities or use the tax money they would pay into schools to pay for the situation they feel best for their child. Not what a system says is best for your child.

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