Today’s Courier Herald Column:
The calendar says summer still has 6 or so weeks left on it. Here in the Atlanta area, it’s apparently already over. Many local school systems have just completed their first week back in the classrooms. Rockdale County Schools ended their summer in July. JULY?!?
Consider this a rant from a guy who is staring down his 25th high school reunion that needs to argue with changes over time that further separates the modern world from memories of how things used to be. After all, summer used to be a long and distinct season unto itself. It wasn’t a six week break that takes place more in spring than in the actual summer season. It was 3 months to be anywhere else but a classroom.
Several of my summers were spent in the coastal North Carolina area on family farms and at nearby beaches. I would spend several weeks staying with great aunts, uncles, and distant cousins. It was a time where I was able to do activities that weren’t always readily available in suburban Atlanta. The time away was often allowed to be in a different world that the day to day at home.
Days were spent fishing, picking blueberries, and shelling beans. It was routine to take a 5 mile bike ride not for exercise, but to visit a cousin on the other side of town. By living with members of the extended family for weeks or months at a time, I got to see a different part of the world, experience how life was like in an area where traffic congestion was something that was rumored about in distant lands, and really get to know how great the non-local side of my family was.
Days were spent growing food, cooking food, and eating food. And it was good. As a boy I wasn’t allowed to do any of the cooking – that just wouldn’t have been right. But I did pick up a few of the basics by watching that have become part of my southern cooking habits today.
A lot has changed since then. Much more than the school calendars. But the calendar itself was what made long and not-so-lazy summers like the ones I remember a possibility.
It’s clear we’re moving to a year round school calendar. The old system was designed for an agrarian schedule that fewer and fewer of us adhere to. Studies back the change demonstrating the drop off in retained knowledge. Countries that exceed U.S. students’ test scores have year round calendars.
It’s inevitable that as we have moved to two income households and a non-farm economic base that summer as we knew it when younger is not what it will be going forward. With today’s students living in a highly digitized world, it’s doubtful that many from the suburbs and city would take the opportunity to spend a month on a farm if offered. It’s even more unlikely that they would enjoy or appreciate it.
Times have changed. It’s something we all eventually have to accept and adapt.
Thus, my nieces and nephew have spent this early August week in a classroom. I’m not yet sure what they’re learning in the 5th and 6th grades. We’ll have plenty of time to discuss that between now and Memorial Day.
But they won’t be picking berries and they won’t be shelling beans. Unless that’s a new app they can get from the iTunes store. The times, they are a changing.