The Bitterness of Break


In only a few weeks, we will be released from the stress and strain of school as summer break comes hurling towards us. Many of us look forward to the longest break of the year as it allows for months of free time to hang out with friends, start projects that school prevented us from doing, or simply relax. However, these breaks may do more harm than good, as the lack of continuity in learning leads to educational issues. 

There is a common belief that the origins of summer break have to do with farming, as America’s agricultural industry grew vastly after the American Revolution, meaning children would take the summers off to help with their family’s farm. However, this is untrue as students who lived in urban areas also had summer off. The article “Why Do We Have Summer Vacation?” from Ginger, states, “Looking back at the history of the American summer breaks, we found that in the year 1842, school kids in the city of Detroit had an academic year that ran for 260 days.” 

The true reason why there is a summer break is due to parents, particularly of wealthier families, refusing to stay in the city during the heated summers and, instead, wishing to travel to their cooler country homes. After much protest, schools eventually complied with parents’ demands and allowed for no school during the summer months. However, in a modern era where air conditioners exist and should/could be implemented in all schools around the nation, the issue of students overheating seems insignificant. 

While students take months off from learning, they slowly forget the information and study habits they had gained during the previous school year. As Harris Cooper stated in the article “Summer Learning Loss: The Problem and Some Solutions,” from the website LDOnline, “The long summer vacation breaks the rhythm of instruction, leads to forgetting, and requires a significant amount of review of material when students return to school in the fall.” A study conducted by Cooper et al. (1996) found that students’ standardized test scores were lower after summer break than before they left, exemplifying the loss of information the extended break had brought upon them. Although some students thrive on standardized testing while others suffer, it was found that all students’ skills lowered the same amount. 

Many will debate that even though there is a loss of skill with this inconsistent schedule, kids should still have a break as it allows them to have a few months of fun. However, this is only true for privileged people who can afford to go on vacation, go to camp, or have someone watch them. These are not the students who are also most affected by learning loss, as stated by Yolanda Sangweni in the article “Is Summer Vacation Bad for Low-Income Children?” In a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University, those who were from a privileged background were able to improve certain skills during the summer while less privileged kids seemed to “unlearn.” For lower-income families, summers are also difficult as parents often have to work but need help to afford a babysitter, daycare, or camp to look after their children.

Of course, this does not mean we should have 40 weeks of school every week of the school year, as that will surely burn students out. Rather, we should have more week-long breaks throughout the school year, shorter days, and/or four-day weeks. These are not perfect substitutes; however, they allow learning to occur continuously while eliminating the issues of learning loss and the issues that occur in underprivileged communities.