Whenever we took our kids out of school for a family educational activity we made sure to alert their teachers out of a sense of courtesy. We indicated that we would hold our children responsible for any work they may miss during their absence – even if we were going to Colonial Williamsburg or to visit the White House, museums and monuments of our nation’s capitol.
Remarkably, most teachers responded to our overture by assigning more homework than the kids had ever seen. Apparently, instruction is extra-productive in your absence.
It seemed as if every day of absence was rewarded with thirteen days worth of busywork. If the trip involved travel, the teachers made sure to assign pages 12, 49, 112-119, 347 and 414 in each of four heavy textbooks per kid, in addition to a mountain of worksheets. My kids were rarely if ever invited to share their recollections or even travel journals with their classmates upon their return to class. “School” treated these learning adventures as if visiting museums, plays, concerts, monuments and exploring different places were the enemy of education. Perhaps because it interfered with “time-on-task.”
OK, I know it’s unfair to generalize from my experience with three children representing 39 years of K-12 attendance. That may be a statistically insignificant sample.
It’s possible Malia and Sasha will be too tired to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. The jam-packed days leading up to the inauguration include a Lincoln-inspired train ride from Philadelphia on Saturday, a Lincoln Memorial Concert featuring Bruce Springsteen and Beyonce on Sunday and community service projects to mark Martin Luther King Day on Monday.
If that weren’t exhausting enough, the girls are expected to join their parents Monday night for a concert featuring Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers, the girls’ two favorite musical acts…(source)
I can’t help but wonder if Sasha and Malia Obama will be welcomed back to their new school with a punitive pile of worksheets. Did they have to schlep their backpack full of Houghton-Mifflin with them on the historic train journey from Philadelphia to Washington D.C? Will they need to use all of their vocabulary words in TWO sentences this week? While they are meeting world leaders and the most talented people on earth will they may miss the weekly D.A.R.E. sermon?
Will all of this frivolity and unexcused absenteeism hurt their standardized test scores and jeopardize their school’s Annual Yearly Progress (AYP)?
Of course not. The Obamas were clever (and wealthy) enough to send their children to a school unencumbered by such bullsh#*t.
Welcome to Washington Obama Family! Thank you for your service and sacrifice!
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is the author of Twenty Things to Do with a Computer – Forward 50, co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.
2 thoughts on “Just Wonderin’”
Oh what a slippery slope. Can children learn a lot while out at a museum or while taking a hike, sure. Can they bring that knowledge back to their classmates, of course. But often enough, time out of the classroom means learning is interrupted. There are classrooms where children are not simply answering the questions at the end of a textbook chapter or doing math worksheets. There are lessons that are very difficult to replicate – a lost day can be a lost opportunity. I certainly do not agree with the teacher who assigns busy work to students who are absent. We must be careful, however, when we try to weigh the benefit of a day out with parents to a day out of school. Who decides which is the most important to a child’s education?
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