The Real Reasons Students Get Summers Off

General Election - Education

As a kid, did you ever wonder why students get summers off from school? Is it so that your teachers could have a mental break and not go insane? Is it because school administrators thought that students wouldn’t learn anything in the hot summer months and could use the time to go outside and exercise instead? Or is it simply so that people have an excuse to go to the beach and be bums for weeks on end?

Ultimately, there are a few legitimate reasons why students get their summers off, and they date back farther than you probably would think, as this major education reform took place during the 19th century. Here are six real reasons why students get summers off.

  1. Standardized school years - During the 19th century, school administrations wanted both rural and urban areas to be on the same school schedules. However, this was initially difficult. Rural schools had two terms – one in the summer and one in the winter. Urban schools, on the other hand, ran year round. Eventually, reformers were able to have both areas come to an agreement, allowing kids to have summers off. But the big question is, why summer? Why not winter for the holidays, or fall for harvests?
  2. The summertime was “weak” - The answer to why reformers decided upon giving students summers off is simply that the summer term for rural schools was viewed as weaker period the school year. Teachers during the summer were mainly young women in their mid to late teens, while schoolmasters, who were mostly older males, took over classes in the winter term. Therefore, because of the 19th century view that men were better teachers than women, the winter term could not be cut out and instead the weaker, less-needed summer term was abolished.
  3. Vacations - While individuals in rural areas viewed the summer term as a weaker period of schooling, richer, more affluent families from urban city areas also saw the summer as a less important time for education and went on vacations together. Thus, it was an easy decision to give students summers off since urban school reformers were already attempting to limit the school year in the mid-19th century anyway, as they wanted to align the school year to the schedules of those wealthier families who would always vacation during the summer months.
  4. No AC - There wasn’t that beautiful invention called “air conditioning” available in school buildings for students and teachers back during the 19th century. Imagine having to teach (and learn) during the insanely high temperatures of July and August. Heat during the summer months was just too unbearable for schools to handle.
  5. Training for teachers - This is probably a lot less true nowadays then it was back in the 19th century, but during the 1800s, teachers weren’t really required to go to college or get certified. Therefore, having the summer months off would provide teachers with time for additional training to better their abilities.
  6. Kids just needed a break - Even though the idea’s not given much medical credit today, doctors during the 19th century believed that kids physically needed a break from school and that it was medically unsound to keep them confined to the classroom all year round.

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Chris is a graduate of Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, where he majored in English and FIlm. He has been writing for TVOvermind and Uncoached for two years and has written about numerous different television shows and pop culture topics. Contact him through Twitter (@ckinger13).
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