Summer Vacation Is a Decadent Excuse for Sloth


Get a job, Junior!

I have always been suspicious of summer vacations. 

As far as I can see, they serve no purpose but to induce laziness, idleness, and indolence among otherwise meritorious students. What message does it send to the young people of America that their hard work during the school year is inevitably followed by a period of enforced slovenliness? Surely impressionable youngsters get the idea that the former exists only for the latter—that is, the only reason to strive for straight A’s is the luxury of sleeping in all summer long. 

Remember the famous scene in the classic movie The Graduate where Dustin Hoffman’s dad rebukes the recent college graduate for lollygagging in the family swimming pool?

“Look, I think it’s a very good thing that a young man, after he’s done some very good work, should have a chance to relax and enjoy himself and lie around and drink beer and so on,” he says. “But after a few weeks, I believe that person would want to take some stock in himself and his situation!”

How much better served Dustin Hoffman would have been if he had immediately followed his college career with a job—any job, even flipping burgers. He would never have gotten mixed up with Mrs. Robinson.

If I sound unusually censorious about summer vacations, maybe it’s partly because I seldom experienced them myself. From the third grade onward, I was homeschooled, and henceforth the traditional distinction between the school year and the summer collapsed. My parents tried to approximate summer vacations—our school assignments generally ended in May and began again in September—but, as a practical matter, there was little to distinguish the summer from the rest of the year. The months tended to blend together.

To start with, the anticipation of being home all day is diminished when you are already home all day. For homeschooled kids, there is no particular novelty in eating a hot lunch prepared by Mom, having the television or radio on in the background while reading textbooks, or getting the mail as soon as it arrives. There is also no novelty to going to events or on outings during the daytime hours, since that happens during the homeschooled school year, too. 

More importantly, homeschooling encourages a certain catholicity that carries over into the summer months: During the school year, I was working within the curriculum, which, in my case, included such unexpected subjects for a third- or fourth-grader as Greek mythology and French. But, beyond the planned coursework, I also had the luxury of pursuing my own interests, which included contemporary American literature, classic movies, and even classical music. 

Those interests did not cease upon the arrival of summer but, if anything, intensified. I had all day, rather than part of the day, to read, watch, or listen to anything I wanted. Homeschooling instills discipline and self-starting that makes independent study possible outside of the school year. 

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Unlike kids who looked to summer as a liberation from bleak, oppressive, stuffy classrooms, I greeted summer as just another season. My family seldom took trips, never had a swimming pool, and did not host barbecues, so what I did during my “summer vacation” was, to a large extent, simply a version of what I did all year long.

Looking back, I am grateful for having never fallen for the false romance of summer. Instead, I learned what all summer vacationers must ultimately reckon with: Unless they plan on becoming a teacher or a university professor, summer vacations will be conspicuously absent from their adult lives. You cannot abandon your job just because the calendar has turned to June; you cannot ditch your responsibilities merely because the weather is warm outside. Summer vacations instill a false expectation that a life of leisure is the noblest pursuit of man.

What to do about our nation’s summer vacation–industrial complex?  How to counteract the inertia brought about by three months that promise nothing to do? How to end the ritualistic trips to Disney World, Six Flags, and similar tiresome destinations? Motivated parents might consider adopting a kind of homeschool regimen during the summer—your kid will be that much further ahead come the fall—but, failing that, why not simply tell Johnny to go get a job? One thing is different about the summer: Lots and lots of lawns need mowing.

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By admin

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