Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Why Aren't You In Saturday School, You LAZY BASTARDS???!!!!"

It's 11:06 on a Saturday morning, I am sitting in front of my computer typing up this blog post, drinking coffee, listening to Siouxsie Sioux's solo album Mantaray, doing some laundry and getting ready to go outside and enjoy the nice weather.

But Chester Finn and the Wall Street Journal say "Not so fast, you lazy American! It's Saturday and you should be working at your school, teaching children how to prepare for standardized tests instead of enjoying time off!!!"

And of course they say the same thing about time off in the summer too.

It's unpatriotic, it's harmful to the individual and the country as a whole, and of course it hurts the kids:

In the face of budget shortfalls, school districts in many parts of the United States today are moving toward four-day weeks. This is despite evidence that longer school weeks and years can improve academic performance. Schoolchildren in China attend school 41 days a year more than most young Americans—and receive 30% more hours of instruction. Schools in Singapore operate 40 weeks a year. Saturday classes are the norm in Korea and other Asian countries—and Japanese authorities are having second thoughts about their 1998 decision to cease Saturday-morning instruction. This additional time spent learning is one big reason that youngsters from many Asian nations routinely out-score their American counterparts on international tests of science and math.

Some U.S. schools have figured this out. Those that boast extraordinary success with poor and minority youngsters typically surround them, like Mesopotamians, with learning from dawn to dusk. The celebrated Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), a network of over 80 charter schools around the country, subjects its middle-schoolers to 60% more instructional time than the typical public school—including eight- to 10-hour days, Saturday morning classes and abbreviated summer breaks.


Our deeper problem is the enormous amount of time that typical American schools spend on gym, recess, lunch, assembly, changing classes, homeroom, lining up to go to the art room, looking at movies, writing down homework assignments, quieting the classroom, celebrating this or that holiday, and other pursuits. It's not all wasted time but neither are these minutes spent in ways that boost test scores, enhance college-readiness or deepen pupils' understanding of literature, geography or algebra.

Visit a KIPP school or another high-performance institution and you find that a big reason for the longer day is that it accommodates these nonacademic pursuits without sacrificing the instructional core. They tolerate remarkably little wasted time, particularly in the classroom setting. Their teachers squander minimal class time on discipline challenges or distributing and collecting materials. They systematically deliver lessons that are carefully planned and structured—and youngsters who need additional help to understand something get it later, sometimes in the evening via the teacher's cellphone, so that the entire class doesn't need to pause for an explanation.

Longer school days and years also aid working parents; for many of them, 2:30 dismissal times and three-month summer breaks are more burden than benefit. And the more time kids spend in safe schools, the less time they have to go astray at home or in the neighborhood.


Which brings us back to high-performance schools, institutions that commandeer far more than 9% of their students' lives and use the extra time to accomplish three things: more hours to imbibe important skills and knowledge; fewer hours outside school to waste or get into trouble; and a de facto culture transplant, wrought by dynamic teachers who instill in their young charges the college aspirations, appreciation of learning, good behavior and orderly habits that are too often missing from homes and neighborhoods.

Disadvantaged youngsters really need—for their own good—the benefits of longer days, summer classes and Saturday mornings in school. But nearly every young American needs to learn more than most are learning today, both for the sake of their own prospects and on behalf of the nation's competitiveness in a shrinking, dog-eat-dog world. Yes, it will disrupt everything from school-bus schedules to family vacations. Yes, it will carry some costs, at least until we eke offsetting savings from the technology-in-education revolution. But even Aristotle might conclude that this is a price worth paying.

Wow - so much to unpack here.

First, let us note the explicit assumption and Hobbesian world view that the only experiences children should have are ones that lead to increasing their own and the "nation's competitiveness in a shrinking, dog-eat-dog world."

Next, let us note Mr Finn' s assumption that time outside school is "wasted" or an opportunity to "get into trouble." Indeed, even recess, changing classes or eating lunch is a waste of valuable test preparation time.

Let us also note that Mr. Finn sees that parents are already working 10 hour days and are exhausted from all that work on weekends so why not help them out by keeping the kids in school 60 hours a week, allowing Americans to work longer and harder without the "burden" of having to interact with their kids or have a family life outside of work/school.

Finally, while Mr. Finn sells his 60 hour school weeks/all-year round school years on the idea that this will help the American economy, what he fails too see is that 75% of the American economy runs on consumption of things, including stuff that gets consumed on evenings, weekends, and family vacations, so the short case scenario (and perhaps even the long-term one) for a country that no longer produces or manufactures anything but entertainment opportunities that tries to turn the school year into a Spartan dawn to dusk, year-round Race to the Top extravaganza would be economic disaster. After all, somebody's got to buy all those video games, watch all that mindless television, eat all that junk food, and play all that miniature golf.

And what would turning the American education system to a Spartan dawn to dusk, year-round Race to the Top extravaganza do the emotional lives of Americans, which have already been severely diminished in our alienated post-modern society which only privileges the pursuit of material wealth and consumption of bigger, better, newer goods.

Yikes - how anyone who is actually human could listen to this jive Finn and the WSJ is selling without laughing at them in disdain and mocking them accordingly is beyond me.

Simply put, they are looking to turn the clock back to a time when people had to work from dawn until dusk to survive their short, painful, miserable existences.

They want to bring back the days of feudalism when the vast majority of humans were owned by their lords and lived and worked solely to enrich the powerful.

This time around, the top 1% are the lords of the manor and the chains they are using to enslave us is debt and the threat of globalism.

Better work longer and harder or the Chinese will own us!!!

I'm so old, I can remember when they used to say that about the Japanese.

Better work longer and harder or you want be able to afford to purchase the latest, greatest toys and technology.

Never mind that despite all the toys and technology we have these days, Americans are the unhappiest they have been in a long, long time because the quality of their relationships and the amount of time they have to do things for themselves and their families has diminished as work hours has increased. Interestingly enough as work time has increased, so has alienation, loneliness, addictions and an overall dissatisfaction with life.

But I digress from the point, which is that Mr. Finn is a dehumanized soulless blowhard who wants to ensure that the rest of us are as empty and soulless as he.

And he wants to do this by having us work so long and so hard for the whole year through so that we have no idea whether we are coming or going and no idea whether this is the kind of society we actually want to live in.

Because we always could change what we value and privilege - we don't HAVE to value and privilege consumption and material wealth over everything else.

There are such things as family, friendship, community, spiritual growth, emotional awareness, and intellectual pursuits that are NOT part of a breathless Race to the Top competition where only the strong survive in a dog-eat-dog world.

But to get to that kind of world, we have to treat Finn, the WSJ, Bloomberg, Obama, Duncan, Klein, Gates, Broad, Jobs and the rest of the corporate whoredom with disdain and mockery as the soulless empty vessels they are.

And we have to vote with our money and our time.

We have to take back both these things from the vast corporatocracy that currently runs everything.

There are already some movements to do just this - the Take Back Your Time movement and various Simple Living movements.

Interestingly enough, these movements appeal to people on both right and left who are sick of our post-modern corporate culture and economy - sick of them for different reasons, to be sure, but nonetheless sick of them.

So we can fight the Finns and Bloombergs and Obamas of the world.

But we have to start now.

BTW, the Siouxsie album is done and I'm on to a Joe Strummer and the Mescalero's boot from 2002.

They're covering Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come, The Harder They Fall."

I'm holding out hope that Mr. Cliff and Mr. Strummer are right.

And now I'm off to enjoy the nice weather, Thomas Hobbes, Chester Finn and the Kipsters be damned.


  1. Please send this to him, and to Obama. It can't hurt!

  2. I am really glad your back!Good stuff!

  3. I sent this to the WSJ. I of course did not hear a reply nor will it ever see the light of day on their website. But at least I sent it.

    Thanks for the kind words, anonymous. That means a lot. Sometimes I wonder why bother with this. The fix is in, the corporatocracy is winning, both parties are crooked and the working classes and unions keep getting fucked by both Repubs and Dems (no matter what the idiot tea partiers think...) So it's nice to hear kind feedback every once in a while!