Monday, March 28, 2005

Too Much Is Not Enough

Spring break has changed a lot in the past 30 years. Back when I was a student, spring break was a week off from school. Now, spring break seems to have become a time when a disproportionate number of people leave Michigan to head to warmer climes so that they can ... well, I'm not sure what, exactly. But so many people head south for spring break that schools have had to give up the Friday before spring break just because they were fighting a losing battle. Now, this year, for the first time, the school my kids attend have put Parent-Teacher conferences, and all the partial-school-days that go along with them, on the week just before spring break, thereby giving parents who desire an even longer break nearly two full weeks. How are we supposed to convince students that the work they do this week is important if the schools and parents don't treat it that way?

I don't think this is all because we need a break in March or that life has gotten too intense. I think it has to do with money. Too many parents have enough disposable income that this once-in-a-childhood type of trip has now become a yearly event. Not only is it yearly but this sort of trip is now expected and seen by kids as some sort of right that they deserve.

I'm certainly not immune to materialism. I like stuff a lot. But it is times like this that I am really concerned about the path that our society is on. As Bono says "too much is not enough."


Dean C said...

I agree with your sentiments. I see MTV having a HUGE impact on this trend. As Marva Dawn points out in one of her books, the president of MTV is quoted as saying, "We don't cater to teenagers...we own them." As MTV's "Spring Break" series becomes more and more popular, kids are growing up venerating the break until the day when they too can go off on their own to Florida or some place warm.

One more point. You point out parent's disposable income. Isn't is true that by the time students get to college, spring breaks become so elaborate that they can't afford them? Are parents setting their kids up for financial hardship?

Kristin said...

Speaking from a teacher's point of view (which I do quite often these days), I agree that it makes it incredibly hard to make the students who stay for all of the school this week feel like their time was worthwhile (sometimes it is hard enough to convince them of this during a regular 5-day week of school). It is difficult to make something academically meaningful, but not so meaningful that the people who miss it don't need to catch up on it. Yes, half days are nice, but to be perfectly honest, I would have rather had parent-teacher conferences last week or the week before. First, if we had had it last week, kids could have had Good Friday off, thereby quelling that discussion (although then we would have to answer the question of whether we had it off for Good Friday, conferences, or both). Second, the haul between the beginning of 2nd semester and spring break is really long. Why not have a day off two weeks before spring break so the kids don't whine that they haven't had a day off in 2.5 months? Third, having conferences just before spring break leads to parents not coming to conferences because they want to leave with their kids too.

Anyway, this comment has gone a bit towards the specifics of a particular school's situation, but I think that yes, spring break has been blown out of proportion, and parents need to start telling their kids "no." (But that's a whole nother post.)