The Brainiacs who set public education policy in Georgia have hatched a brilliant plan that might move the state from its current position of number 43 on the list of 50 states and the District of Columbia measuring academic achievement. Unfortunately the plan, which was authorized by our General Assembly earlier this year, is likely to move our state in the wrong direction. The “plan,” if you want to call it that, allows public schools to shorten the school year so that students will attend school even fewer days than the mere 180-day current requirement.
In a nutshell, the state legislators and school administrators in our state, in contemplating how to move Georgia from its long-standing and dismal academic ranking, decided that requiring kids to spend fewer days in school will improve their academic performance. Such brilliance is breathtaking; probably those who hatched this plan were themselves the product of Georgia public schools. In fairness to these geniuses, they are requiring that in return for substantially fewer days spent in class overall, public school students must spend a little more time each day in class (a full half hour for older students) .
One school district — Murray County – already rushing to slash its school year (from 180 to 160 days), extolled the economic benefits of such a maneuver. Officials in that northwest Georgia county estimated its cost savings at $124,000; the result of decreased gasoline consumption for school buses, and not having to run its air conditioners during the dog days of August. Therein lies the real “benefit” to schools — saving a few dollars for the county, not improving the academic education of students.
Increasingly, federal and state government have been forcing schools to spend more and more time and resources on matters unrelated to academic achievement. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, for example, is preparing to regulate snack foods in schools; and the Centers for Disease Control is moving to prevent bullying in schools. It therefore is little wonder that standards continue to slip and governments increasingly look to non-academic ways to measure “progress.”
Perhaps soon we’ll see public schools in America follow their counterparts in the United Kingdon, where the British National Health Service is publishing materials explicitly urging teachers to teach students that sex is fun and should be encouraged. After all, if the students aren’t learning anything anyway, thay might as well be taught to have “fun” doing so.