There are few more cherished nostrums in American life than the importance of equal opportunities. Unfortunately, one of them is the importance of summer vacation. It’s a cheap way of doing something nice for teachers, but summer vacation is a disaster for poor children and their parents, creating massive avoidable inequities in life outcomes and seriously undereducating the population.
The country claims to take schooling seriously, but the school calendar says otherwise. There’s no other public service that we would allow to just vanish for months at a time. To have no Army in February, no buses or subways in March, airports closed down for all of October, or the police vacationing en masse in December would be absurd. Schools, it turns out, matter a lot, too, and having them shut down all summer critically undermines them.
The entire issue tends to vanish from public debate, because the educated, affluent people who run the debate don’t particularly suffer from it. Summer vacation costs money, but prosperous parents are happy to spend it on their kids. And of course there’s the sentimentality factor. I’ll always treasure tender thoughts of my beloved Camp Winnebago and would one day love to have the experience of picking up my kid from the very same camp I attended when I was young.