Unfortunately, a bailout would be rescue number three for the system. OTB needs radical restructuring. It may not get the 32 votes that it needs to survive, but it should at least come to a vote in Albany. There needs to be a creative way to save this system. Perhaps shutting down some of the parlors and pushing the system more toward an online service would help.
Summer School Reform
It seems that summer break in school gets shorter and shorter for law students and graduate students, but it rarely gets shorter for high school and grammar school students. Although I am far removed from being in high school, I still feel guilty writing that there is no rational reason for summer break to be as long as it is today. The next chancellor should revisit this issue, although it is sure to get substantial push back from the education profession.
The problem with 12 weeks off during the summer is not so much the actual 12 weeks off, but instead the months before and after. In late May, I was already gearing up for summer, my mind starting to focus less on school. In September, after 12 weeks off, it took another month to get my gears going. Did it all work out in the end? Yes, of course it did. But to kids without parents that make this a priority, those 12 weeks turns into five months of complete educational slow-down.
Perhaps a solution might be a slightly longer school year and breaks that take place every six months, instead of one giant break where everyone shuts down for three months.
Having three months off does not prepare students for the real world. They are almost never going to have three months off from work. Education advocates sometimes see the big summer break as a right for students that could not be taken away. Does this mean that students have more of a right to three months off than they have a right to a good education? We are no longer living in the days where a marginal student can get a good union job at the local manufacturing plant or beer brewery. Those days are way behind us. In order to compete around the globe, education has to be year round.
District Superintendent Dr. Martha Bruckner, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, is considering a few options that would shorten the break for her school district. Iowa is always among the top states in regard to literacy rates, although Minnesota may have taken the lead recently. The current system was created to allow students more time to work on family farms. Look around Queens and count how many family farms you see. Even if kids only took gym class during the summer months, they would at least get structure and exercise.
There are so many options in New York that we should consider a change. Even if graduate students that have outstanding loans with the federal government taught a class or two during the summer, it would improve the system and the results.
R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen
In the summer of 1990 (and further proof that summer vacations go on too long), I came upon a large crowd of people on the beach in Daytona Beach, Florida. Leslie Nielsen and comedian Larry “Bud” Melman (of “Late Night with David Letterman” fame) were filming a commercial for Friday Night Videos. If you lived in Queens in the 1980s, you know that you were among the last in the nation to get cable television. Friday Night Videos was a 30-minute show that aired a few music videos on regular, non-cable television. I walked up to the crowd, and got sucked into being one of the cheering background idiots, while Nielsen, Melman, and two gorgeous models promoted the coming show. “You know, rock has been around for many years,” Nielsen told one of the models after the shoot.” “Really?” the girl replied. “Yes, it has,” he said, as he handed her a New York Times article about a geological find.