Those were once the two most glorious words ever uttered on an early morning radio broadcast.
When I was a kid in the ‘70s, it was pure heaven to wake to snow-blanketed hills, then tune into Jack Bogut’s KDKA morning show, praying he’d say our suburban school district was closed for the day.
As soon as our snow day was granted, we’d grab a bowl of cereal, layer up our clothing, then hit the sledding slopes for hours.
So I read with interest — and sadness — that many school districts across the country are putting an end to snow days.
Thanks mainly to remote learning technologies, bad weather and other emergencies are no longer reasons to shut down schools.
Technology has made the snow day a relic of our past, but why should it be the only relic of our educational system to go?
Why, for example, do kids still get 10 weeks off from school every summer? Are they still tilling fields and tending to livestock?
Education experts know that a long summer away from school causes learning loss among most students, as their math and reading skills regress.
This is particularly true among poorer students whose families cannot afford things like the summer learning programs wealthier kids enjoy.
But what about using those 10 weeks of summer for learning gain?
What about radically reforming how, where and when we teach our kids, so that we produce minds that are eager to learn, that think critically and that are nimble and creative so they may flourish in our modern knowledge economy?
According to an article in the Foundation for Economic Education, the current public education approach — 20 or 30 kids of the same age stuffed into a classroom and led by one teacher — is about 150 years old.
“Even though the curricula have developed, the essence has stayed the same,” reports Paul Boyce at FEE.org. “Children are still taught in a standardized and industrialized way.”
That standardized and industrialized way — which American educators imported whole from the fun-loving folks of Prussia in the late 1800s — sure didn’t capture my attention as a lad.
I spent much of my classroom time daydreaming and staring out the window — and getting my knuckles wacked for not keeping up with my Catholic school teachers.
Today’s kids are whizzes with electronic devices. They can access any information they need instantly with a few taps of a smart phone.
It’s got to be even tougher now for them to pay attention to a teacher, no matter how exciting or inspiring she is.
Aren’t we long overdue, then, for real education reform? Reform that radically changes the approach to learning — and does it all year long?
Can’t we make better use of new electronic learning tools and other innovative approaches and tailor them to each student’s individual needs so that we unleash their natural creativity and curiosity — rather than crushing both?
Giving disadvantaged kids a few months more of instruction each year would go a long way toward bridging the wide — and shameful — gap between their learning levels and those of wealthier students.
I hold tremendous nostalgia for snow days and summer vacations and wish every school kid could continue to experience them, but they can’t.
Sorry, kids. It’s 2022. You’re living in the Digital Age, not the Industrial Age.
The time has come for “snow day” to be replaced by “innovative learning day” — every school day all year long.
Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at Tom@TomPurcell.com.
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