As it turns out, Vincent Damon Furnier — aka Alice Cooper — did not write a timeless classic when he penned “School’s Out.” In the past, school ended in June. It was as if we made it to the end of a long, strenuous race and that we could focus on what we actually felt like doing.
However, school has changed dramatically. The goal now is to engage students, first and foremost. We only succeed when students know what they are doing, why they are doing it and care about doing it.
Legally, students stop attending school in June, but school districts need to find ways to merge with their communities to continue servicing students during the summer.
The possibilities are limitless. How hard would it be to organize a two-month writing workshop? How about a daily nature walk through one of our many beautiful state parks? How about providing summer internships with local businesses? How about weekly student concerts where young people can perform their art? Maybe we could have picnics where we do nothing other than come together as a community to celebrate our children.
What we need to do is make education relevant for our students and our community, not just because it’s a traditional institution, but because there is a legitimate, crucial purpose for it, one that extends far beyond the borders of our local school districts. The implications in the 21st century are global. We are competing against rapidly rising economies and successful systems of education from around the world.
If we continue to treat education as an isolated institution, we are going to continue to fall behind. If we continue to ravage public school budgets in the name of politics and cost-cutting, we will hurt our nation’s economy in the long run.
We need to retain our creative and unique offerings in a fiscally responsible way, keeping in mind that every program we take away from our students is one less experience they have, one less advantage they will take with them, and one less strength they will bring to our local and international communities.
If we reduce formal schooling to the four core content areas, special education, and/or only early-childhood education we will strip away our identity as Americans.
We are a creative, unique, and independent country, and our schools have supported this identity for the past century. To maintain it in this difficult economic climate we have to further an exceptional level of programming.
We need to create a culture in which school is never out. We need to do it for our children and our economy.
It will be the ultimate expression of our love for our young people if we can put them in a position where they can pursue and achieve happiness and peace throughout their lives.
We can do this through education, the greatest gift we can give our children.
Kevin Briggs is vice principal of Bellefonte Area Middle School. This weekly column is a collaboration of Centre County Communities that Care serving Bald Eagle, Bellefonte, Penns Valley and Philipsburg-Osceola area school districts, and Care Partnership: Centre Region Communities that Care serving the State College Area School District.