What is it with the New York Times and school reform? Every new article they publish on the subject is even more hilarious than the previous one. Yesterday's article by Harold Levy titled "Five Ways to Fix America’s Schools" contains some pretty interesting suggestions. They are, however, undermined by certain statements that cannot possibly be taken seriously.
Consider at the following sentence: "Just as we are moving toward a longer school day (where is it written that learning should end at 3 p.m.?) and a longer school year (does anyone really believe pupils need a three-month summer vacation?), so we should move to a longer school career. " In my opinion, EVERYBODY would absolutely benefit from a 3-month summer vacation. I most certainly do and I'm not a child. Do we aim to make kids hate school by forcing them to spend their entire lives there? Do we want to turn them into little adults, who work 9-5 workdays 50 weeks per year? This regimen, in my view, is even detrimental to grown-ups, let alone children.
But this is far from being the most egregious (or the most entertaining, depending on how you choose to look at it) part of the article. This is how Mr. Levy proposes to fight against truancy: "But truant officers can borrow a page from salesmen, who have developed high-pressure tactics so effective they can overwhelm the consumer’s will. Making repeated home visits and early morning phone calls, securing written commitments and eliciting oral commitments in front of witnesses might be egregious tactics when used by, say, a credit card company. But these could be valuable ways to compel parents to ensure that their children go to school every day. " This is so bizzare on so many levels that I hardly know where to start. What kind of parents would allow a truancy officer to barge into their house early in the morning and bully their child in front of them with the purpose of "overwhelming the child's will"? Also, what is the use of education that is so violently enforced? You can force somebody into the school building but you cannot force them to learn. You just can't. The only way of making anybody learn anything is through making them interested in the subject. There is no other way.
In conclusion, I want to say that when I was younger I practiced truancy as a way of life. I wouldn't show my face in school for months. I would come up with most egregious lies possible to justify my truancy. This did not, however, prove to be in any way detrimental to my life or education. I have 5 scholarly degrees, one of which is a PhD from an Ivy League school. As an educator, I never punish my students for missing class. My goal is to make them want to be in my classroom. If they only come because they are scared of the repercussions, their presence in class is useless both to me and to them.