This is no cure for summertime blues

Published on Friday, 18 July 2014 23:42 - Written by

The article in the influential Politico Magazine this week should chill the blood of every schoolchild in America, as policy analyst Bridget Ansel makes “The case against summer vacation.”

But it’s taxpayers and parents who should really be wary. That’s because her proposal would penalize families who enjoy — and take full advantage of — their summers, on the principle that if everyone doesn’t benefit equally, then no one should benefit.

“Summer is upon us, and with the warmer days comes a hearty dose of American nostalgia,” she writes. “We still romanticize this most cherished of all seasons as a time of lingering twilight, barbecues and new romance. Our pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstrap-culture even accepts summer’s carefree laziness, clinging to the bygone days of childhood when we would wake up early to meet friends in order to do, well … absolutely nothing.”

But that’s just the problem, she says.

“Once school is out for the summer, the opportunity for children to engage in educational activities of any kind decreases,” she says. “Studies show that, on average, students lose about a month’s worth of instruction, as measured by standardized test scores. But not everyone is average and, as a 2011 RAND Corp. report finds, summer learning loss disproportionately affects poor students, who already begin school behind their more affluent classmates.”

And that’s why, she contends, “summer vacation is bad for kids and for America’s economic future. We need to end it — or at the very least provide stimulating summer enrichment for those who can’t afford it.”

There it is — the income inequality angle.

In the summer, she says, poor children fall behind more than their classmates. While “in contrast, the wealthier children, aided by a home full of books, organized summer camps and ‘concerted cultivation’-type parenting, continue to develop their skills.”

Two important points should be made here. First, our community (like most others) is filled with opportunities for children during the summer months, many of them at no cost to the parents. From the public schools and private schools to the YMCA and the Caldwell Zoo, East Texas children have many ways to make their summers enriching.

Additionally, the East Texas Food Bank’s summer lunch program ensures that children throughout the region have daily, nutritious meals.

The second point is that Ansel’s proposal has that “leveling” effect of so many efforts to make everyone equal — it does so by penalizing some for the benefit of others. Why should anyone be penalized? Shouldn’t the focus be on benefiting everyone?

The usual “cure” for income inequality is high taxes on the rich. That certainly works, in theory, to “equalize” the wealthy, by making them not as wealthy. It does little to make the poor not as poor.

In the same way, Ansel’s proposal takes away opportunity from families — opportunities for vacations, for educational enrichment, for other kinds of activities — because not everyone has those opportunities.

Shouldn’t the focus be on providing opportunities, rather than taking them away?

Let the children have their summers — all the children.