Is the school year starting too soon?
It’s the beginning of August and my son is already consumed with figuring out his high school schedule and buying his books and schools supplies. Isn’t that too early for young people to stop enjoying summer vacation and worry about school?
By Ray Hanania
When I was a kid, it seemed like we had the whole summer to enjoy before going back to school. We’d get out in early June and didn’t have to report back to the classrooms until after Labor Day.
These days, the summer isn’t even over and kids don’t get to enjoy much before they’re already thinking about buying books, school supplies and worrying about the added costs of school, like lunch, transportation and new clothes.
My son is a junior now at Sandburg High school in Orland Park. His sister went there and I think they are lucky. Sandburg is one of the best schools in the Chicagoland suburbs. I exclude Chicago because any suburban school is better than the Chicago schools, “where I learned me English.”
Most of my school days were spent at Chicago schools where teachers seemed concerned with the star students and ignored the rest of us.
August was just a week old when my son was worrying about his class schedule, buying books and readying for school.
He shouldn’t have had to worry about all that in August. He should have been thinking about having fun. He should have been worrying about splashing in the pool, thinking about vacations and enjoying doing nothing with friends his age.
It seems like they put too much pressure on kids these days to be successful. Too much drive to make them perfect. Too much orchestrating their lives to be something that maybe is different from what they should be.
Kids should be able to spend a summer without any pressures to allow their inner creative selves to evolve and mature.
Kids need fun in their lives. It can’t be all business.
I’m not sure why the school schedules are so skewered or why parents think that it’s better to have their kids in school instead of enjoying the summer.
Maybe it’s the times. When I was young, we could stay out late without the fear of being murdered, or shot down by street gangs.
The truth is that violence in the 1960s was just as bad as violence is today. They were killing each other back then, too. But we just didn’t read about it as much. We didn’t get all the gruesome details about the crimes like we get today.
Maybe parents think their kids are safer at school instead of sitting on the “stoop” – the front steps of the front porch – where they are sitting ducks for errant bullets from street gang drive by shooting, or the influence of drug dealers.
Or, maybe some parents are just have no choice. When I was young, most kids had their mothers at the home taking care of them, watching them and helping to keep them out of trouble. My mom worked at the Solo Cup factory while my dad worked in the Loop. But that was the exception. Most of the other kids had at least one parent around during the summer days to keep them out of trouble.
Today, parents see schools as much as learning centers as they do day-care centers. In some cases, school is the only place where some kids get a nutritious meal, or even a hot meal.
If schools are having problems, it’s because of our society. We put the emphasis on the idea of having school in session instead of putting the priority on what’s best for our children.
It’s about the kids. The priority should be on the kids.
I’m not saying the teachers or administrators or even the government officials are not doing their jobs. They are working hard and they deserve our praise. I am saying let’s stop and think about how things have changed and ask ourselves, is it really for the benefit of our kids?
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and former Chicago City Hall reporter. Email him at email@example.com. His columns appear online and in the Southwest News Newspaper Group.)
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