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.

25 Amazing Ivy League Classes You Can Take Online for Free in 2019

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iStock.com/damircudic

If you resolved to further your education in 2018, there are plenty of opportunities to do so without leaving home. Free college courses are abundant online, and the convenience doesn't necessarily mean you have to compromise on quality. For the best, tuition-free education the internet has to offer, check out these free Ivy League classes compiled by Quartz.

The eight Ivy League schools—Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale—offer about 396 free, active online courses between them. While many cover conventional subjects, like marketing, computer science, and Greek mythology, there are plenty of unique classes, including options like "Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies" and "The Ethics of Memory."

Many of the courses are self-paced and offer certificates for a fee. That certification may cost between $50 and $100—meaning your class won't technically be free, but it will still be a lot cheaper than attending an in-person lecture at Harvard.

Here are 25 notable free classes being offered by Ivy League universities this year.

1. "Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies" // Princeton University
2. "Artificial Intelligence (AI)" // Columbia University
3. "Animation and CGI Motion" // Columbia University
4. "The Global Financial Crisis" // Yale University
5. "Crowdfunding" // University of Pennsylvania
6. "Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content" // University of Pennsylvania
7. "Moralities of Everyday Life" // Yale University
8. "The Ancient Greek Hero" // Harvard University
9. "Visualizing Japan (1850s-1930s): Westernization, Protest, Modernity" // Harvard University
10. "American Capitalism: A History" // Cornell University
11. "Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science (Part 1)" // Harvard University
12. "Power and Responsibility: Doing Philosophy with Superheroes" // Harvard University
13. "Super-Earths and Life" // Harvard University
14. "Women Making History: Ten Objects, Many Stories" // Harvard University
15. "Modern Masterpieces of World Literature" // Harvard University
16. "The Ethics of Memory" // Brown University
17. "Buddhism and Modern Psychology" // Princeton University
18. "Designing Cities" // University of Pennsylvania
19. "America’s Written Constitution" // Yale University
20. "Lessons from Ebola: Preventing the Next Pandemic" // Harvard University
21. "The History of Medieval Medicine Through Jewish Manuscripts" // University of Pennsylvania
22. "The Science of Well-Being" // Yale University
23. "Everyday Parenting: The ABCs of Child Rearing" // Yale University
24. "Introduction to Italian Opera" // Dartmouth University
25. "Music and Social Action" // Yale University

You can find more free online offerings from the Ivys and other top schools at Class Central.

[h/t Quartz]

Ohio Is the Latest State to Reinstate Cursive in the Classroom

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iStock.com/PeopleImages

Many people have strong opinions on cursive, whether because they use it everyday or resent their elementary school teachers for wasting their time teaching it to them. In the wake of many schools abandoning teaching cursive writing in the classroom, legislators in Ohio recently took a strong stance in favor of the handwriting style: Beginning in kindergarten, students in the state will now learn to write in cursive in addition to print, WKRC reports.

On Wednesday, December 19, Governor John Kasich signed a bill mandating a cursive curriculum throughout elementary schools in Ohio. The course is optional for teachers, but students will now be required to write cursive legibly by the time they leave fifth grade. The same curriculum also makes it so that students must learn to print letters properly by the end of third grade.

Ohio's decision is part of a larger trend of schools bringing back cursive following a nationwide backlash. Once thought to boost the developmental benefits that come with writing by hand, research has shown that learning cursive isn't uniquely beneficial, and it may even slow down the learning process because it's more complex than regular manuscript. And as computers have become ubiquitous, cursive lessons have taken a backseat to typing in many school systems.

But cursive still has its champions: Linking letters together to create "whole" words promotes clearer, more complete thinking, according to cursive supporters. And even in today's digital world, knowing cursive has its uses, from reading historical documents to signing one's name.

Ohio joins more than a dozen U.S. states that have reinstated cursive lessons in classrooms. In just the past few years alone, Alabama, Louisiana, and New York City—the largest public school system in America—have all once again made cursive part of their curriculums.

[h/t WKRC]

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