Why Do We Even Have a Summer Break?

Blake Milhoan, Features Editor

No matter how close or far we are from the last day of school, Summer Break is always a fresh topic of discussion. However, what usually isn’t on people’s minds is why we even have this break in the first place. A huge multi-month gap between two grades doesn’t seem like the ideal decision to make, especially since attendance rates are always a point of contention.

The most popular belief seems to be that summer break stems from a time when children needed a large amount of time to work on their parents’ farms. In actuality, schools where kids most commonly worked on farms had a short summer and winter term as most crops were planted in the spring and harvested in the fall, according to PBS News. Though it was a common occurrence for children to work on their parents’ farms rather than go to school during the summer, this was just one of the many reasons why schools leaned more toward a break in summer (pbs.org).

The actual origins of summer break aren’t very black and white. The change from no breaks to various breaks throughout the school year with a huge rest period to close off the grade was gradual. According to The Washington Post, “In many cases, officials never formally set out to rethink the school calendar. Rather, year-to-year exigencies — ranging from fiscal limitations to popular pressure to have holidays off — led to school-year reductions that, once undertaken, were difficult to undo” (washingtonpost.com).

One of these various reasons was that the attendance rate worsened towards the end of the year. This was mostly because of the poor to non-existent ventilation that buildings had at the time, making the heat during the summer practically unbearable. This resulted in an upper-class urban tradition to go on vacations during the summer to the cooler rural areas. This practice eventually extended to the middle class during the Nineteenth Century (washingtonpost.com). According to the website Technotes, another influential reason why a Summer Break was created was the introduction of the eight-hour workday, as well as various workers’ rights advocated for by unions (tcea.org).

Summer Break is considered a blessing to many students and teachers. However, studies have shown that it is actually a detriment to a student’s learning experience. According to PBS News, “Long summer breaks have been shown to cause children, especially lower-income children, to lose ground academically. It’s a phenomenon known as ‘summer slide,’ where students return to school in the fall having lost a full month of learning, on average.” Studies have also shown the benefit of summer programs to help reduce the loss of a student’s education, as well as the benefit of smaller week-long breaks spread throughout the school year (pbs.org).

Even though there is a solid argument to be made against Summer Break, any attempt to get rid of it would falter thanks to the overwhelming love for this time of year. The various reasons why a Summer Break was first implemented remind us of its importance, not to mention how relieving it is to finally be free after a whole school year. “I like having time to focus on myself rather than school,” said Senior Farzana Akhter. No matter its origins, it’s undeniable that Summer Break is a beloved time away from school for all. The school year just wouldn’t be the same without it.