It sounds ludicrous. A 10 hour school day? As a teacher I was repulsed at the notion. However, as I scanned through a few articles on presidential candidate Kamala Harris’ plan, I began to think of the possibilities — which was necessary given the specifics of the proposal have yet to be made public (and likely won’t be unless her campaign picks up steam). I was also relieved to learn that she wasn’t thinking of making teachers teach for 10 hours a day, rather, she’s proposing to offer 10 hours a day of programming at school in order to accommodate the working schedule of the typical American family.
My initial fear was that it would cause students to hate school. While I hate to admit it, children get much more excited about spending a day off of school rather than spending more time at school, let alone an additional 15 hours. But I realized my mind automatically took a cynical viewpoint and failed to look at the opportunities.
For the privileged, it’s hard time imagine not having the opportunity to participate in after school activities, whether it’s soccer, gymnastics, dance, tutoring, science clubs, or music lessons. Most that will report on this, speak on television about this, or work in schools and comment on this proposal, likely didn’t experience the other side — the upbringing where parents worked multiple jobs and were not able to afford to pay for such activities. These families would likely have to cut costs whenever able, with child care being the first to go once the child can take care of themselves, leading to more non-structured time with a potential role model.
It’s clear from the brief reports on Harris’ pledge (she’s behind in the polls, and this sort of announcement didn’t exactly draw in-depth reviews) that the whole 10 hours wouldn’t follow state academic curriculum, so one would image extra-curricular type activities would be offered to a wide range of individuals, all with different interests. Plus, Harris wants to offer more public summer programming to children. The concept would level the playing field for many.
Upon reflection, I wonder if the 10 hour school day would be mandatory? If a parent would rather pay a private individual for music lessons, or choose a different child care provider, would they be allowed to opt-out of the non-academic time? Some families in the middle and upper-middle class may have to weigh the decision of public childcare/extracurricular time versus private, much like many wrestle with the idea of public or private school.
I envision school in the future being completely personalized, where AI programs and data analysis determines a student’s most effective daily schedule, collaborative pairing, extra-curricular activities, and so forth. Actual school facilities, in turn, would become a sort of drop-in center, operated during longer hours than we’re accustomed to. This concept along, with Harris’, could work in unison with this likely shift in programming.
So while initial reactions may be on the cynical side, they may miss the overall picture Kamala Harris is trying to paint of her vision of the future of school in America. I’m hoping she gets the opportunity to elaborate on her plan.