NO CLASSES UNTIL AFTER LABOR DAY

Look, I was a kid once, and I still think like a kid, so the kid in me – and the adult in me – needs to say this right now:

School starts in September.

Not August. Not July.

Certainly not July 22, which is when certain school districts in Georgia began “fall” classes this year. July 22? You’re still getting your lemonade stand set up by July 22! You’re not in SCHOOL on July 22!

This is insane. I’ve been following this trend of pushing the school year back earlier and earlier, and it’s time for the kid in all of us to say, and you can quote me here, “Yuck.”

Bad enough if it were for some really good “adult” reason, like the inability to heat the building in the winter. But I hardly think that’s the problem in Georgia – or Florida, where many schools began Aug. 8. If anything, the air-conditioning bills now must swallow the budget.

The reason most districts choose this summer-robbing start-up time is sad and simple: They want more time to make sure their students pass the standardized tests that, thanks to the No Child Left Behind program, now determine their funding.

In other words, summer got sold.

As I said, yuck.

Don’t rationalize your needs

Can I point out that kids need their summers? Can I point out that it’s OK if a kid just lies in the grass and looks at the sky or makes licking an ice cream cone the highlight of his or her daily activities?

Can I point out that if you’re a working parent and you argue that it’s “easier” for you if your kid is in school, maybe your priorities are a little more about you than they ought to be?

Can I point out that if standardized tests are the issue, why not move them back?

Can I point out that you only get to be a kid once? It is fast. It is precious. And it is gone.

Already our kids come home from school so loaded with books you can’t see their faces. Already they are buried in hours of homework, yet somehow are falling behind most of the world in basic math and science.

There is something broken in our educational system. But just as you wouldn’t ask your 9-year-old to fix your flat tire, why burden kids to fix our administrative shortcomings? Why take away the rejuvenation that a summer off provides?

Pretty soon, the teacher will give out final report cards in May, pat everyone on the head and say, “See you Monday.”

Don’t punish the kids

Summer, for kids, is a tradition. And not to put too fine a point on it, but I will. This is summer: half of June, all of July, all of August.

You don’t even THINK about back-to-school shopping until the Labor Day picnic.

Summer is camp. Summer is family vacations. Summer is a time to slow down and be lazy. I don’t know what kind of teaching Georgia and Florida get accomplished in 95-degree heat and 100-percent humidity, but I’ll bet they need towels for recess. If a kid gets an “A” on a spelling test, does the teacher drop an ice cube down his back?

Stop the insanity. Don’t tell me kids are bored and they want to be back. That’s parents talking. How is it that many of us, as kids, got through school, ranked higher in the world, and never set foot in a building before September?

It’s pretty simple. We don’t pay our teachers enough, we don’t fund our schools enough, and we don’t care about the real problems of education enough to fix them.

That’s our bad performance. Why punish the kids? They’re just standing by the pool, about to jump in for the first time, and wondering why the school bell is ringing.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Also catch “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR. To read recent columns by Albom, go to www.freep.com/index/albom.

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