Like almost every woman with a college degree, I read Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article on women, families, and careers. I agree with a lot of it, too. One part jumped out at me, in part because I was thinking of writing a blog post about it anyway:
Sandberg thinks that “something” is an “ambition gap”—that women do not dream big enough. I am all for encouraging young women to reach for the stars. But I fear that the obstacles that keep women from reaching the top are rather more prosaic than the scope of their ambition. My longtime and invaluable assistant, who has a doctorate and juggles many balls as the mother of teenage twins, e-mailed me while I was working on this article: “You know what would help the vast majority of women with work/family balance? MAKE SCHOOL SCHEDULES MATCH WORK SCHEDULES.” The present system, she noted, is based on a society that no longer exists—one in which farming was a major occupation and stay-at-home moms were the norm. Yet the system hasn’t changed.
The emphasis is in the original.
Obviously, making the school day and school year longer costs money. I think it would be money well spent; it’s the only way to ensure that all children get a well-rounded, globally competitive education. However, there is no way the modern taxpayer will cover it. That’s just reality.
My proposal is the next best thing: a steady, predictable school calendar that is consistent from district to district. Parents are constantly scrambling to cover different teacher in-service days or holidays that only local government employees celebrate – like Casimir Pulaski Day in Chicago or Evacuation Day in Boston. The Chicago Public Schools used to schedule elementary school report-card pickup on Wednesdays and high school report-card pickup on Thursday. Does that make any sense at all? To a normal person, I mean; of course it makes some sort of sense to some sort of bureaucrat. And that’s the problem.
How about holding school four days a week? School would run from Monday to Thursday for however many weeks as it takes to get the required number of days in. Yes, Thanksgiving and Memorial Day would still be holidays, but the other stupid days would be gone. Sometimes, teachers would have to come in on Fridays for meetings and the like. And, all school districts in a given region – maybe even in the whole country – would have the same calendar.
This would not cost a significant amount of money. It would give all parents a predictable schedule that they could use when planning work and child care. For example, if every Friday were a day off, then it would be easier for parents to work out a four-day flextime schedule. Friday child-care programs would spring up to meet the demand. No more families would be pushed into a frenzy because both parents have big meetings and both forgot that school would be off on Monday, February 14 because Lincoln’s Birthday fell on a Saturday.
The number of days that students are in school and that teachers would work would be the same under my proposal, but they would be organized in a way that would help families. That would reduce workplace stress, which would help businesses. The more predictable schedule would help kids, almost all of which thrive on order and routine. Because it doesn’t costs hardly anything, it fits our country’s “no taxes ever” mood.
So how about it? How can we do this?