Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Hot Fun In The Summertime

DUKES FANS: “Summertime and the living is easy..” George Gershwin In a few weeks it will be the time that I recall looking forward to with great joy and delight. Summer vacation will be here, and regular school will be out for several months. I was a public-school student, and I used to look forward to the close of school with great enthusiasm. Summer vacation was the start of new adventures and was a great time. When I was in elementary school summer vacation meant a number of things. I grew up in the AME Church, so there was two weeks of Vacation Bible School. There were also trips to Coatesville, PA to spend a week or two at my Aunt Jane’s house. Seeing my father’s brothers and sisters and other family members and going to sleep to the sounds of the train carrying things to and from Lukens Steel Company are fond memories for me still. Summer also meant playing halfball and hopscotch on the street in my neighborhood with my friends, and eventually playing on a neighborhood baseball team with traveling games in different sections of Fairmount Park. That was a great experience for me as it broadened my sense of the world As I got older, it also meant trying to earn some money for myself. I did that by delivering newspapers, doing shopping for older neighbors, and collecting bottles from people’s trash and exchanging them for dimes and nickels at Dubin’s Lumber yard in the years before recycling. When I was even older-junior high school it meant taking a class or two at the Franklin Institute, which I really loved, and spending time at Bill Bennetts Farm Day camp on the ground of what is now Saul Agricultural high School in Roxborough. I did have to go to summer school once, as I failed Algebra 1. That was a terrible summer. In high school I worked for two summers under a Federal program for youths from low income families. One year I was a janitorial assistant at Central High School, and for the other I was a roadie for the Central High School Orchestra. I loved that! Listening to them rehearse and helping to carry their gear and attending their concerts got me interested in classical music, and that expanded my ears. I am truly grateful for that experience. All of this got me wondering once just where the idea of summer vacation came from. Initially I thought, quite erroneously, that it was a vestige of the days when so many Americans lived on farms and in rural areas. That was not true; it turns out that people in rural areas need the greatest number of workers in spring and fall and not summer for planting and harvesting. Early rural public school calendars reflected that need. The rise of the current form of summer vacation is due, instead, to the urbanization of the country and the desire of some public school advocates and reformers, such as Horace Mann, to bring rural and urban school calendars more in line with each other. It was also believed that 12 months of being in a school building was bad for students emotionally and, especially in hot urban areas, exposed them to disease. So by the late 1800’s what we think of as the “normal” school year was in place in much of the country. By the early 20th century, summer break ax we know it today was an established entity. I like the idea of summer vacation. As a student it gave me time to do things I really liked and learned from, and as a teacher for 40 years it gave me a break to learn new things, not think about school for a while, and to spend important and wonderful time with my family. It was almost always a good time for me. So I am hoping that students, teachers and families alike all have a summer this year that truly works for them. “Homework, they shout; is over and out. Vacation time has begun” (Chuck Berry. (Here is a link to Chuck Berry’s ode to Summer Break: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbhVvJ-KX8U ) (Many people are questioning the need for summer vacation and are arguing for some form year round school. Here is a PBS selection about that:-(you have to go through an intro to a show about disco; hang in) https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/debunking-myth-summer-vacation )

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