By Hardy Jackson
To my way of thinking, the most important innovation in education in my lifetime has been the creation of the Fall Break.
Yessir. It is more important than the “new math,” “phonics,” or even “outcome focused, assessment based, curriculum development.” And it beats “No Child Left Behind” by a long shot.
Every school should have one.
Fall Break allows Daddies like me time to do something with those little ones that I wouldn’t normally do at a time I wouldn’t normally do it – like share a learning experience.
I remember one in particular.
It all began when my son’s sixth grade teacher, discovering that we were going to the coast during Fall Break, asked us if we could bring back some beach stuff for when they study the beach.
Sure, we said, figuring a bucket of sand and a few shells was what she had in mind.
Teachers, especially elementary school teachers, especially sixth grade teachers, are a sneaky lot. They have to be. They teach sixth graders.
Which is why, when we left for the beach, son’s teacher loaded us up with a stack of plastic boxes for sand and stuff, 12 mason jars for specimens caught and four jars of alcohol for preserving what we put in the jars.
It promised to be the best beach trip yet.
Arriving at the coast we immediately discovered some problems.
First, it was raining – a tropical system out of the Gulf was moving in.
(Local society folks were in a dither because the storm promised to dampen the Sunday “Champagne Gospel Brunch” they were hosting to raise money for good causes. The last time I saw champagne and gospel used together someone was telling folks to read the gospel and not drink champagne. Just goes to show you I guess.)
Then, when the sky cleared, we hit the beach only to find that the shells were pretty well gone.
There had been some. However, professional shell folks had stripped the beach clean. Today they are probably being sold at Wal-Mart.
But there were still some pin shells scattered around, their iridescence catching the light, and a few treasures that the pros missed, but pickings were slim.
Later crabbing on the bay got us some fine specimens for the jars.
Between all that, we fished. I watched my daughter reel in her first saltwater catfish and my son land what must have been a 5lb redfish – which will surely grow to 10lbs by the time he gets to telling the story back at school.
All in all, it was a good trip.
Which brings me to my second point. Why should Fall Break be restricted to kids, teachers and a few fortunate parents?
Why not a Fall Break for everyone?
Back in the old days, Fall was a pretty intense time down in Dixie. Cotton to be picked and ginned, wood to be cut and stacked, the harvest to put up in cans and jars, doing all the things that must be done to get ready for winter. Not much time to relax and reflect.
So you would think that modern Southerners, with no cotton in the field, no wood to cut and grocery stores close at hand, would ease into Fall loose and laid back. But no. Instead we have followed tradition and filled up what should be space with events and games and festivals. Halloween has become a major commercial celebration. Rather than a time to count our blessings, Thanksgiving has become a carefully orchestrated eating orgy, planned for weeks, anticipated with anxiety and finished off with indigestion. And Christmas, psychologists tell us, is the most pressure filled season of the year.
What we need is a Fall Break.
For everyone. Not just kids and those with kids.
And if you want to launch a campaign for it, I’ll sure support you.
On one condition.
Anyone getting a Fall Break will have to agree to use some of the time doing something they would not normally do for someone they would not normally do it for — like making beach boxes for a 6th grade teacher.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson, professor emeritus of history at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.