School’s back in session, which always gets me thinking about school. It also affords me more time to think about school, instead of breaking up bickering fights over videogames and cleaning up yogurt that somehow made its way to the carpet and obsessing over getting out in the sun. I am not the only one who likes to think about school. There are a lot of people who try very very hard to make American education better, whether it is a teacher spending 1/4 of her paycheck on extra classroom materials, or an information clearinghouse/think tank like the Annenberg Institute For School Reform operating on a nationwide scale. Fall brings renewed energy and hope that we can find pathways to happy, competent children, ready to face who-the-hell-knows-what out there someday.

I am not a member of a think tank, although I pretend to know everything about everything on a regular basis. I do generally try to base my opinions on some sort of mix of personal experience and the intelligent research of others and not so much on television dramas, and I think that is both unusual and a real plus. If I changed my name to Anna B. Annenberg, I bet people would listen to me more, too. Here are a few things that get me all fired up, brought to you randomly while I sit and type this in my car waiting for Mr11 to finish martial arts this evening.

1. Summer Vacation Is Stupid: When I mentioned the idea of abolishing the large summer school break to Mr11, he was of course horrified and attempted to give me all kinds of reasons supporting more breaks from school. I explained to him that the June – September break was a holdover from the country’s agricultural days, when everyone except like the Astors or something were farmers, and needed their 18 surviving children to help with the summer growing/harvest/chicken-choking season. Well, I bet that you aren’t a farmer and I bet you don’t even know a farmer. I bet you are working and your spouse is working and when summer comes you go OH CRAP NOW WE HAVE TO FIND SOMETHING TO DO WITH TROY, JR. FOR THREE MONTHS. So depending on your income level and opportunities, you: 1. beg a relative or stay-at-home-mom to take him; 2. find some kind of day care/summer camp, which is always too expensive; 3. quit your job and watch “The Price Is Right” and suck down Otter Pops with Troy, Jr. for 3 months, or; 4. let Troy, Jr. stay at home by himself with strict warnings that he not die or allow an adult film crew into the house. Even more important – and teachers will confirm this – kids brains turn to mush over such a long break, and then must spend weeks or months the next fall re-learning what they learned last year. Summer vacation is silly, and should go. Sorry, kids.

2. Homework Is Stupid: I have said it before, and I won’t ever stop saying it: Homework is a RUINER. It ruins any chance kids have to relax and decompress at the end of the day, not to mention any pleasant family time. Most of it is sheer busy work, or some kind of attempt to squeeze in more STUFF TO KNOW somehow or to assure a parent will be paying some kind of attention to the kid. How would you like it if you HAD to go back to your job after you had dinner, and work until bedtime? Well, OK, some of you do, but you aren’t eight years old either. I would rather see, if anything, assigned reading ONLY, because that is a very healthy habit to get into. There is no lasting benefit to scrambling to make some kind of diorama by tomorrow morning, forcing a parent to go out to try to find a Styrofoam ball, modeling clay, popsicle sticks, and miniature Victorian clothes at 8PM, the kid falling asleep at the table by 10PM, and the parent finishing the project. Bah. I say if schools want homework, set up a Homework Club after school, maybe staff it with teachers needing a few extra $$ and some motivated high schoolers/college students interested in a teaching career, and let families enjoy being families for a few hours a day.

3. Bullies Are Stupid: Bullies in schools are no new thing, but people are much more concerned about it now. But what I see is mainly a lot of hand-wringing and not a lot of action. Granted, we are talking about children whether we have a bully or a victim, and we must understand that behind each there might be a very sad story. But in talking about the everyday regular crap bully, I say yank this kid’s chain with a solid Three-Strikes-And-You’re-Out policy and make sure parents know the rule. Third incident and Bully and BOTH PARENTS have to attend “You Are A Stupid Bully, Stop It” Classes. If refused, off to a designated Bullies Only school. Sort it out there, Tough Guys and Girls. I guarantee you this would stop a good percentage of bullying, primarily because the parents would WAKE UP and deal with their kid’s problem, because they would really hate those classes and have to take off work and Bullies Only school would require weekly parent conferences. Ha ha, doesn’t this sound great? I love the idea of a little nasty gang member being in class with some snotty rich Mean Girl. And barking police dogs. And Barry Manilow music piped over the PA. And the only class in PE would be Dodgeball, and the Dodgeball would explode and be full of chewed old gum. I could go on and on and on.

But I won’t because Mr11 is done with class now and I have to drive home. Driving and writing at the same is past my level of education. Or maybe I am too educated for it.

I will leave you with thoughts on education from President Barack Obama or Ray Davies. Your choice.