Why Do Students Get Summers Off?

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iStock

It’s commonly believed that school kids started taking summers off in the 19th century so they’d have time to work on the farm. Nice as that story is, it isn’t true. Summer vacation has little to do with tilling fields and more to do with sweaty, rich city kids playing hooky—and their sweaty, rich parents.

Before the Civil War, farm kids never had summers off. They went to school during the hottest and coldest months and stayed home during the spring and fall, when crops needed to be planted and harvested. Meanwhile, city kids hit the books all year long—summers included. In 1842, Detroit’s academic year lasted 260 days!

But as cities got denser, they got hotter. Endless lanes of brick and concrete transformed urban blocks into kilns, thanks to the “urban heat island effect.” That’s when America’s swelling middle and upper class families started hightailing it to the cooler countryside. And that caused a problem. School attendance wasn’t mandatory back then, and classrooms were being left half-empty each summer. Something had to give.

Legislators, in one of those if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em moments, started arguing that kids should get summers off anyway. It helped that, culturally, leisure time was becoming more important. With the dawn of labor unions and the eight-hour workday, working adults were getting more time to themselves than ever before. Advocates for vacation time also argued (incorrectly) that the brain was a muscle, and like any muscle, it could suffer injuries if overused. From there, they argued that students shouldn’t go to school year-round because it could strain their brains. To top it off, air conditioning was decades away, and city schools during summertime were miserable, half-empty ovens.

So by the turn of the century, urban districts had managed to cut about 60 schooldays from the most sweltering part of the year. Rural schools soon adopted the same pattern so they wouldn’t fall behind. Business folks obviously saw an opportunity here. The summer vacation biz soon ballooned into what is now one of the country’s largest billion-dollar industries.

15 Inspiring Quotes About Teachers

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iStock.com/skynesher

Next to parents, teachers may be the most influential figures we'll ever have in our lives. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we're taking a look at some of the most evocative quotes about these beloved educators.

  1. "The dream begins, most of the time, with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you on to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth." —Dan Rather, Journalist
  1. "The test of a good teacher is not how many questions he can ask his pupils that they will answer readily, but how many questions he inspires them to ask him which he finds it hard to answer.” —Alice Wellington Rollins, Author
  1. "I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” —Lily Tomlin, Actress
  1. "Most of us end up with no more than five or six people who remember us. Teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives.” —Andy Rooney, Journalist
  1. "There's no word in the language I revere more than teacher. My heart sings when a kid refers to me as his teacher, and it always has. I've honored myself and the entire family of man by becoming a teacher." —Pat Conroy, Author
  1. "… It is a greater work to educate a child, in the true and large sense of that phrase, than to rule a state.” —William Ellery Channing, Preacher and Theologian
  1. "The future of the world is in my classroom today, a future with the potential for good or bad ... Several future presidents are learning from me today; so are the great writers of the next decades, and so are all the so-called ordinary people who will make the decisions in a democracy. I must never forget these same young people could be the thieves and murderers of the future. Only a teacher? Thank God I have a calling to the greatest profession of all! I must be vigilant every day, lest I lose one fragile opportunity to improve tomorrow." —Ivan Welton Fitzwater, Educator
  1. "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." —Source Unknown, sometimes attributed to William Butler Yeats, Poet
  1. "I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit." —John Steinbeck, Author
  1. "Teaching is the greatest act of optimism.” —Colleen Wilcox, Educator
  1. "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." —Henry Brooks Adams, Historian
  1. "Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important." Bill Gates, Technologist and Philanthropist
  1. "The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery." —Mark Van Doren, Poet
  1. "I think the teaching profession contributes more to the future of our society than any other single profession." —John Wooden, Athlete and Coach
  1. "Teachers, I believe, are the most responsible and important members of society because their professional efforts affect the fate of the Earth." —Helen Caldicott, Physician and Author

Updated for 2019.

Texas Is the Latest State to Bring Cursive Writing Back to Its School Curriculums

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iStock.com/narvikk

The 2000s weren't a great decade for cursive handwriting. As computers became mainstream, many school districts dropped cursive lessons in favor of keyboard proficiency. But in recent years, the trend has been moving in the opposite direction, and Texas is the latest state to reinstate cursive writing in its public schools, ABC 25 reports.

Because Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (the state's curriculum standards for grades K through 12) didn't require it, cursive has been absent from many Texas classrooms for years. In 2017, the State Board of Education made it mandatory, but the new requirement won't take effect until the 2019 to 2020 school year. Starting with next year's second-grade class, all grade schoolers in Texas's public school system must be taught to write legible cursive by fifth grade.

Though opponents argue that learning cursive is a waste of time in the digital age, supporters of the writing style say it promotes clearer thinking. Elizabeth Giniewicz, executive director of elementary curriculum for the Temple Independent School District in Texas, tells ABC 25, "It's important that our kids are able to communicate through the written word and through the spoken word."

Texas is just one state that's reversed its stance on teaching cursive. Ohio came out in favor of cursive in 2018, making it mandatory starting in kindergarten.

[h/t ABC 25]

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