If you went to a school classroom 200 years ago, you'd see something remarkably similar to what we have today: A teacher talking to rows of kids sitting at little desks, each pretending to follow along in a textbook. Maybe the blackboard has been replaced with a whiteboard or a PowerPoint, but those basics haven't changed in generations.
But they're about to. Some of the most iconic staples of school life are about to disappear forever. Things like ...
You remember recess, right? It was that one time when you could ditch the desks and run around in a frenzied scramble like an extra-caffeinated Bosstone. Whether you spent your 20 minutes hurling dodge balls at dorks or cowering under the slides (to hide from the dodge balls), recess has been an institution for generations. And thank goodness for recess. At a time when kids are tripping over their guts and trailing their asses on the sidewalk behind them, a few minutes of physical activity can be just what the doctor ordered. Literally.
Maybe a few dozen dodge ball bruises would convince him to reduce all that target area.
Going Away Because ...
Four little letters: NCLB.
For those of you who have been out of the school loop for the past decade, those letters stand for "No Child Left Behind," which has, for better or worse, done a serious number on American education. Here's why: In 2001, President Bush and Congress passed a law saying we had to get better at school, specifically reading, language arts, math and science. Fair enough.
"Sometimes, I'm embarrassed to be seen with you people."
The tricky part came in measuring improvement. For example, if you had to figure out if you were improving at your naked-hula-hooping-while-eating-Nutter-Butters skills, how would you do it? You'd test yourself, of course! And that's exactly what NCLB decided to do with schools. Only instead of scoring your hula-hooping based on speed, appendage flapping and showmanship, NCLB rewards academic progress by tying funding with those standardized test scores.
"Each of those A's is $1.50 for the district. And they're also good for your future, or ... something."
And that's it. That's why schools have cut their recess and gym time. To give more time to the subjects that earn them money. By this point, it's estimated that 40 percent of American schools have either cut or are on the brink of cutting recess. For those schools desperately clinging to shreds of their playtime, more bad news is on the way. Dodge ball, it turns out, is about as welcome at most schools as an infestation of herpes.
Huge, red herpes.
Why? Because dodge ball promotes violence, obviously. As for tag, it promotes -- running? Tagging? More violence, apparently. That's right. In a world where tiny little baby sweatshop workers are scraping and scrapping just to stay alive, American parents are fretting over their children getting heavily tagged on the playground.
Good luck with the future, kids!
For most of us, the last day of school could have been called "Summer Christmas." It was that awesome. It was the one day of the year you could rip up your notebooks, moon your teacher and fart in the principal's face, all without any repercussions. Because it was summer! And you were free!
What you probably didn't know at the time was that your little orgy of liberty was an outdated relic of the days when your ancestors had to quit school every year to harvest the family crop in order to, you know, eat.
"We're free! Free to die of exposure and overwork."
Going Away Because ...
American kids aren't putting in the same hours at school as other kids around the world, and it's showing. And until someone mass produces a time-turner that can let every American student Hermione Granger the shit out of their school day, the hours are going to have to come from somewhere. Summer is just as good a place as any, especially considering that the long string of off days means kids experience a collective brain fart when they return. That means even more time lost spent trying to remind kids of what they forgot during their three months spent catching frogs at the creek and getting into adventures.
"Come on, gang! I just know there's a dead body around here someplace."
A lot of districts are now trying year-round programs that still give kids time off to do the family stuff that they would do over the summer -- students put in 45 days, then get a 15-day break. So, work nine weeks, play three weeks. In that system, the kids are still putting in about 180 days, but without the time wasted getting everyone back up to speed in the fall. Other schools are considering schedules that add 20 days to the school year, something that President Obama and his Secretary of Education heartily endorse.
Oh, Obama. We remember when you were all about having ice cream for dinner and banning chores.
In fact, 2.5 million American kids are already going to school year-round -- that's about a million more than 10 years ago. By 2012, it's estimated that 10 percent of all American students will be doing the year-round shuffle, much to the chagrin of parents who have yet to work out equally schizophrenic child care.
You could probably predict your high school classmates' future success based on how heavy their backpacks were at the end of the day. The kid who was hunched over because he seemed to be carrying home half the library each night was destined to become your doctor; the dude who went home empty-handed was more likely to show up on an episode of Cops.
"Bill wouldn't have strangled those hookers if he'd learned long division."
The point is, for as long as books have existed, textbooks have gone hand-in-hand with the studious life. The more books you were lugging around, the harder you were working and the more you were learning.
Going Away Because ...
Surprisingly, the chucking of an age-old tradition isn't about money. Schools are abandoning traditional books because e-books make more sense for a generation used to getting all their information from a monitor. And it's going to happen sooner than you think.
Huh ... they go up quickly considering they're made from a child's tears and asbestos.
Well, in parts of the world, anyway. What shouldn't surprise anyone by this point is the fact that United States is on the caboose of the paperless train. South Korea, for example, plans to be completely book-free by 2015, with its federal government pouring $2 billion into buying a tablet for every student, along with a cloud computing system that will give kids access to far more text than their strong little backs could have ever carried. South Korea isn't the only country on board, either. Russia, India and even broke-ass Greece are all investigating an e-book conversion.
Apparently Grade 10 science textbooks can house up to four people.
Don't get the wrong idea, though. It's not like Americans will be lugging rolled-up papyrus scrolls around while the rest of the developed world is teleporting information directly into their brains. Florida has earmarked funding for e-readers in every public school classroom, and individual schools in Virginia, Maine, California and other states have tested e-reader pilot programs. And remember, e-readers aren't just for textbooks. Those bad boys can house maps and atlases and encyclopedias and porn so academic it will make young minds EXPLODE (with knowledge, but also porn overload). And the kicker? In the long run, e-readers are cheaper than textbooks.
But they can't make you reach the top shelf.
Why else do you think broke-ass Greece would possibly consider them?