Saturday, June 13, 2009

Work Harder.

I do love when journalists who apparently know little to nothing about education and have little inclination to remedy that weigh in on the ails of the educational system in this country.  

In this charming article from The Economist, we hear again what is fast becoming a tedious argument.

Kids must work harder.  Longer.  Faster.  

The opener:
AMERICANS like to think of themselves as martyrs to work. They delight in telling stories about their punishing hours, snatched holidays and ever-intrusive BlackBerrys. At this time of the year they marvel at the laziness of their European cousins, particularly the French. Did you know that the French take the whole of August off to recover from their 35-hour work weeks? Have you heard that they are so addicted to their holidays that they leave the sick to die and the dead to moulder?

There is an element of exaggeration in this, of course, and not just about French burial habits; studies show that Americans are less Stakhanovite than they think. Still, the average American gets only four weeks of paid leave a year compared with seven for the French and eight for the Germans. In Paris many shops simply close down for August; in Washington, where the weather is sweltering, they remain open, some for 24 hours a day.
Perhaps we run in different circles, but generally when vacation time/maternity leave/paid time off in international contexts comes up in my circles, we lament not the laziness of the French but the insane frenzy of life here.  A year maternity leave.  Paid maternity leave!   Yes, those crazy French.

Anyway, the article then goes into how the only place Americans are lazy is in childhood, how children should instead be working 40+ hour weeks, 52 weeks a year.  And longer if necessary!  Damnit we'll work them to the bone till they learn!!!  Nevermind that there are things outside of school worth learning.  It's not the system that might need rethought, it's these damn kids today.  They just don't work hard enough.  Let's give them another 57 worksheets.

Hat tip to Wonkette, who nailed it.


  1. Where do we place the blame? My vote is the emergence of permissive, no-nothing, it's-all-O.K., educational policies circa 1970.

  2. You know, I really don't know - but the thing about the 70s is that there were some really great progressive movements in education then, alternative schools, people that wanted to try new, real ways of learning.

    What's really amazing is how much educational debates fall down political lines - I mean, almost ridiculously so. Like the debate over how to teach reading - this hugely volatile argument where it really ends up landing on conservative vs. progressive. Weird.