We Only Have A Few More Summers For Summer Vacations
The story we were told was of a family with two children in elementary school in some not-so-distant part of the U.S. That plans of long road trips vacationing across this land to the Grand Canyon and other spots, would have to be done in the next few years before the first of the kids hit high school.
Because once in high school, the college-bound children are told they "must" take some of the basic courses during summer school, so they will be able to take the Advanced Placement (AP) classes in the regular school year -- and they'll "need" the AP courses to get into college.
Wait a second -- we have enough trouble taking vacations in the country, between not having much vacation time for the parents in their jobs to parents whose work ethics keep them at the job and out of the home in general, let alone taking off weeks to travel out and about this country. The Europeans already think we're crazy with how badly we treat the concept of vacations, though having the Europeans against us may be a badge of honor to some over here (grin).
Since When Are AP Courses Required In High School?
While it is nice to take AP courses, especially as they can be more interesting to the bright student than the normal "boring" classes, there is a lot of conflicting information on their ultimate usefulness. I remember being told in high school in the early 1970s that if you took an AP course, and then took the AP exam, and if you got a high enough score -- why you'd get college credit when you got to college.
Going to Northwestern, I found out that while they didn't mind if you had AP credits, they really wanted to have you take their version of the courses, and so often the AP stuff didn't have much effect. Similar with my wife and Earlham College.
But colleges requiring you to take AP classes in high school? I find that hard to believe. Perhaps, in the competitive scramble out of one high school district, if everyone is applying to the same elite schools, maybe you want something to differentiate yourself -- but differentiation means people being different, not everyone doing the same.
Or does everyone think we need to become more like the Japanese by frantically working to get ahead to stay in the same place?
Even The Japanese Aren't Being So Japanese Any More
The Japanese educational system was once described as having this insane system of after-school schools, where you studied to get into the best colleges, by studying to get into the best high schools, by studying to get into the best... you can see how this cycle goes. And often, the brightest students in high schools were bored, because they'd already studied the high school material in the after-school schools, prepping for high school.
But the falling birthrate plus an overbuilding of higher educational facilities in Japan, means that the current students have figured out that they are being fought over now, instead of having to compete to get in. So they're not working as hard as the previous generation, because they can get into the top schools -- or get a better deal at a lower tier school.
How To Justify Summer School Expenses?
At first the only thing which made sense was as a marketing ploy. Not only are more school districts doing more things with summer school, but No Child Left Behind is also mandating more time in school -- if not in fact then in the way it is being implemented.
So if you said that the better students have to do summer school and this isn't remedial, then perhaps it is easier to (a) fund summer school in the district and (b) fund the AP classes in the regular school year.
Perhaps It's Really More Insidious That This
But... a later part of the discussion talked about the overlapping of neighborhoods making up the high school district, and in sketching out the land with a finger in the air, suddenly there's a line drawn and I hear about the black neighborhoods.
Has it really come to this?
Could this all be an oblique way for the good little white taxpayers to avoid having their little darlings sit in classes with "those black children"? After all, surely attending summer school is an extra cost, as is taking an AP class in many places. So with the college-bound upper income (white) kids being funneled into taking the basic classes in the summer and the AP classes in the rest of the school year, why then they'd be... well I just don't have my thesaurus online at the moment, what is a nicer word for (whisper) segregation (/whisper)?
Sadly, I fear -- in the wake of having no more direct information -- that this could be possible.
So Why Rant If I'm Not Sure?
Because something's wrong here. Either the parents are getting wrong information from a devious self-serving school district. Or the schools have figured out a way to scam the system and get their students "into the best schools" at the price of their childhood. Or this is the natural extension for a generation being raised on programmed play dates, being driving to and from everything, never being allowed to play or be on their own, and parents scared to death of not having their children within sight of someone at all times. Or this is code-word, backdoor bigotry, masquerading as better education.
Pick your problem and your poison. Something is rotten in the state of "Denmark."