The average U.S. student watches 1,500 hours of TV annually while spending only 1,100 hours in school. If we continue to increase TV viewing while decreasing time in school, we end up with an equation that threatens the underpinnings of our democracy.
School budgets are being slashed by $6.1 billion so as to help balance a state budget sorely lacking in revenue. Now the editorial board of the San Jose Mercury News (Sunday, June 7) endorses the Governor’s concept of shortening the school year to save teaching jobs.
California cannot afford a shortened school year, especially for those children who are left home alone when not in school and then watch even more television. The results of a shortened school year, reduced summer school options and fewer jobs for adolescents, will produce a rising tide of juvenile crime and mischief. Children from lower socio-economic backgrounds will lose the most.
When I write, sometimes I scream about the issues for which I feel passionately, and the quality of California’s public schools is high on my list. Not much is being said about the imminent failure of public education due to the reduced funding guarantee under Proposition 98.
We still operate a school year with a summer vacation that is based on our agrarian past. The achievement gap closes when children are in school year round.
In California we have a 180 day school year while Japan has 223 days, South Korea has 225 days, Taiwan has 221 days, and the Russian Federation has 195 days. Most of the industrialized countries I just referred to have longer school days than California. There is growing research and local empirical data that suggests the success of many of San Jose’s Charter Schools (Rocketship, KIPP, ACE) is due to the 11-hour school day.
Reducing days in our school year as the Governor is suggesting and the Mercury is endorsing as a lesser of two evils, is destructive to our democracy. A democracy is made weaker by a public school system that must hold a bake sale to pay its teachers.
It is in the government’s interest to reduce television viewing by increasing the school year and day.