For years we’ve been hearing from some people that schools in this country should be open for 12 months. Other versions of that so-called vision would have the schools open at least 10 months, or have children go to classes all 12 months with some time off here and there.

I’ve always thought that silly, for a number of reasons, and now the Star Tribune has topped that by recommending a longer school day in an editorial it ran on the opening day of school last week.

“Minnesota administrators must turn those productive examples into creative scheduling that expands the school day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. without adding to the already excessive nonacademic burdens on teachers,” the editorial said after telling about examples in France and Japan where students have longer days.

“Parents, teachers and students should ask their school boards why they are not making these changes. If they refuse to make them, voters should move them out of the way for leaders who can,” the editorial concluded.

Since our society already puts too much of a burden on school personnel to babysit children, I’m wondering what the Star Tribune proposes for those extra hours a day — and, more importantly, how to fund those extra hours.

Many parents have gotten away from doing some of the simple tasks of bringing up children and now the editorial writers want to make those duties even less. I say the responsibility lies with parents, not the school district.

In its editorial the Star Tribune reminded us that Gov. Arne Carlson was passionate in a speech to school administrators about not sending students home in the early afternoon “to troubled streets and troubling behavior.”

Whatever happened to parents taking responsibility for such things? Sure, there are more families with two parents working today as the quest for the almighty dollar seemingly grows more frenzied each year. But the responsibility still remains that of the parents.

For decade after decade parents in this state thought it was their responsibility to take care of their children. Yes, they might have made an extra dollar or two by getting a job, perhaps a part-time one, but they went without some of the frills in order to be there for their children. They might have liked having a boat, or another car, or air conditioning, but they did without those things and were there when their children came home from school.

The Star Tribune suggests administrators should design a school day that supports working parents. “The consequences of not changing the school day are continued parental anxiety and continued allegiance to an academic status quo that condemns state students to fall farther behind better prepared foreigners,” the editorial suggested.

When did it become the mission of our schools to become day care centers? I don’t think schools should have that mission but the Star Tribune seems to want it that way.

If you had a school day that lasted until 5 p.m., where would the time come for extracurricular activities, be it fine arts of athletics? And what would happen to the family time at night after an extra two hours of school?

And finally, what about letting kids be kids for a couple hours a day after school? That reason, more than any other for me, makes the idea of having school for 12 months seem absurd. The reality of the working world comes soon enough without condemning our children to school two more hours a day and, if some people had their way, 12 months a year.

Scrap these ridiculous ideas and let the kids be kids for three months a year. 

Luther Dorr is the retired editor of the Princeton Eagle and Princeton Union-Eagle. He writes a weekly blog for the Monticello Times’ sister newspaper, the Union-Times of Princeton and Milaca.

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