Children and young adults between the ages of five and eighteen are expected to devote a considerable amount of time to schooling. High school students are sup- posed to put in a full day at school and then spend several hours each evening doing homework. The burden on students intensifies even more in college. Students who take a full-load of college courses, especially if they make a serious effort to do their best in every class, frequently have little time for anything but studying. There are some adults who are willing to work fifty or sixty hours per week or bring several hours of work home from the office every night, but most of us want some time to socialize with friends and families, pursue hobbies, or simply relax. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Students should not be expected to dedicate nearly every waking hour to schoolwork.
There is a distinct advantage to focusing on getting as much education as possible early in life. It is far more difficult to find the time to attend school full-time once we leave home and need to earn enough money to be self-supportive. It is even more difficult once we have children of our own to support. However, if we want to meet the educational needs of every member of our society, we must accept the fact that many people who are interested in attending school are unable to attend full-time during the day, Monday through Friday. Colleges acknowledge this fact by offering evening and week-end classes.
The present school schedule roughly models the work week for adults. This is convenient for parents who work, and also serves to inculcate the habits of the workplace in youngsters who have not yet become accustomed to the yoke of the clock. For students (or parents) who would prefer a different schedule, there are few real options. If parents who work evenings or weekends had the option of matching their children’s school schedule more closely with their own, we could ease the cost of childcare for them and avoid the problem of children being home unsupervised for hours at a time.
High school students, especially those who work evenings, have great difficulty getting enough sleep when school starts early in the morning. Attending school full-time while working twenty to thirty hours a week is more than many students can handle. In the competition between schoolwork, which is rewarded with grades, and “real” work which is rewarded with a paycheck, school work usually loses out. Working teens would do better in school if they could (officially) take a reduced load. Working adults with gaps in their basic education would be more likely to return to school if class schedules were more flexible. Without abandoning the role of public education as a full-time, weekday program for children between certain ages, we should make basic instruction available part-time, evenings, and weekends for students and parents who would benefit from those alternatives.