Our Children Aren't Economic Inputs!

Conor Clarke thinks that we ought to get rid of summer vacation for school children. I disagree! High performing kids at intense schools are stressed enough as it is — there’s more to life, and especially more to childhood, than test score achievement. I wouldn’t trade the summers of my youth for a better competitive edge today against the average Japanese worker. Kids in the worst schools aren’t going to benefit much by being cooped up there through the summer months.

Of course, some kids would benefit. I haven’t any objection if they choose to attend summer school. When I have kids, however, summer is going to be a lovely reverie when I get to enjoy their company more than I do during the school year — when there’s time after work for pickup basketball in the driveway before it gets dark, and the lack of school allows road trips, vacations to visit the grandparents, trips to museums, etc. Do I place a higher value on the math scores of my children or the relationships they cultivate with their family and friends? The latter!

Conor notes — let’s assume correctly — that this whole conversation is tied up with questions about equality of opportunity:

One issue that doesn’t come up enough in discussions of extending the school year is that doing so is also, fundamentally, an issue of economic fairness. If you believe in equality of opportunity, then one of the most important things the state can do is provide some baseline level of education that seeks to alleviate vast differences of class. But, small though it may seem, one of the most profound ways in which class differences express themselves is over the summer vacation.
This is because wealthy parents can afford to given their children all sorts of edifying summer experiences that downscale parents cannot.

Okay, I’m all for addressing that inequity, but I’d prefer a method that doesn’t rob the wealthy kids — and the middle class kids if my childhood summers are any indication — of those edifying summer experiences. Give me Pareto optimality, please! Besides, kids already spend enough time within a public education system that teaches conformity and deadens love of learning. Let them take their summers outside the system, experiencing life, and getting value that it is difficult to represent on blog charts.