Guest Commentary: Four-day is a golden chanceChange is difficult. When something has been done a certain way year after year, decade after decade, a recognizable pattern is created. People become accustomed to and comfortable with that pattern, and when it suddenly changes it can cause confusion, stress, and, occasionally, even anger.
By: Rich Sill, French River, Lake County News Chronicle
Change is difficult. When something has been done a certain way year after year, decade after decade, a recognizable pattern is created. People become accustomed to and comfortable with that pattern, and when it suddenly changes it can cause confusion, stress, and, occasionally, even anger.
As a community we are feeling all those emotions now as we approach a clearly significant change in our lives – the elimination of public school five days a week. It is a seismic shift that clearly has rattled us. Even though we have become fairly accustomed to living in an increasingly chaotic and globalized world, there is still a portion of our makeup that finds comfort and stability in things as they used to be, that prefers consistency to change.
In many ways, that is the world our schools still provide for us, and it is quite natural to aggressively resist anything that threatens to alter it.
A couple years ago, Time magazine had a cover article on the incredible changes that have occurred in our country in the last century: a 100-year era that began in a time of horse-drawn agriculture, moved through a period dominated by industry and now has delivered us wholly into the “age of information.” The article challenged readers to think what it would be like if Rip Van Winkle had gone to sleep those 100 years ago only to wake up in today’s world. He certainly would be lost in a modern airport and be dizzied by the pace of our freeways. Bluetooth technology and Blackberries would completely confound him, as would plasma televisions and the games we play on them.
While our schools have certainly been a part of this change (think: parent portal, computer courses, and Smartboards) it is also safe to say that if Rip were to wake up today in a school classroom, it is one place where he would still feel quite at home.
Without question, there is a sense of stability in a system that has remained constant for decades. Seldom do we encounter a cycle of life that is both as familiar to grandparents as it is to grandchildren. The state fair ends and school starts. The bus picks our children up in the morning and drops them off in the afternoon. The holidays come and the kids are home. Fall is football and spring is track. June eventually arrives, and with it, prom and graduation. It all fits neatly into what we expect and what we have come to know. But as comforting as that is, there also is danger in a structural system that remains unchanged.
In truth, I am not one that embraces change easily, so it may seem strange that I support so dramatic a one as the idea of a four-day week. I believe the reason I have come to this position so enthusiastically has something to do with inevitability. While it is true the structure of our schools has remained relatively unchanged for the last century, it is just as predictable, due to increased technology, distance learning options and our changing society, that by the end of the next decade they will be almost unrecognizable.
The question really is: do we want to resist change for the next 10 years or will we decide to aggressively and enthusiastically embrace it? In essence, do we take this opportunity to ride the crest of the oncoming wave, using the fifth-day option as a means to proactively develop creative and innovative programming, or do we cautiously wait, hoping the inevitable wave will somehow miss us.
Understand that school change will keep coming whether we like it or not. Choosing to sit it out is no guarantee that a stable or even recognizable educational system will be what we are left with in 10 years. If we do it right, the four-day school week could provide us with the most innovative and exciting opportunity yet to create a system we can be proud of. Make no mistake, creating this system will not be an easy task. It will require a committed school board, a supportive school administration, a creative and flexible teachers group, a student body that is enthusiastic about both learning and life, and citizens that are open to seeing change as both necessary and positive.
Admittedly, it would be easier if things were different. The choices we face are not the choices available in a perfect world. But it is not a perfect world we live in and because of that we will need to play the game with the hand we have been dealt.
We can whine and carp, point fingers, and wish things were different, or we can gather up the cards given to us, look them over closely, determine the best strategy for playing, and move forward. There is a fair chance that in doing so we may create a system that not only works for us but one that we will once again take comfort in.