The Longest Day

Now, here’s something I can’t figure out about our mayor, Rahm Emanuel. He wants the Chicago Public School to day to run from 8 in the morning to 3:30 in the afternoon, and to last two weeks longer than its current September 6 to June 13 schedule, because that’s how much schooling our children need to be competitive.

Emanuel is a guy who can afford to send his kids to school anywhere: to a military boarding school in Indiana, or Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. He could build a school that runs from 8 to 3:30. Yet today, the Emanuel children began their education at a school that falls short of the mayor’s own standards. The University of Chicago Lab School’s day runs from 8 a.m. to 3:05 p.m., and the school year ends on June 7, which is a week earlier than Chicago Public Schools let out now.

This morning, Emanuel visited STEM Magnet Academy, Genevieve Melody Elementary and Skinner North Elementary, three schools that voted to institute the longer day Emanuel favors. Those would have been good choices for a parent who’s concerned that schoolchildren aren’t getting enough instructional time.

But do we need to repeat the real value of a private school education? It’s not about the quality of the instruction, or the length of the school day. It’s about ensuring your children go to school with other members of their social class. Like a membership at a country club or an athletic club -- whose facilities aren’t much better than a public golf course or a YMCA -- private school education is one of those services in which the price itself is the product, because it ensures that only the elite can participate.

Perhaps Emanuel thinks public school kids need more instructional time to even the playing field with their more privileged peers in private. Ward Room’s prediction: even with a shorter day and a shorter school year, Lab grads will get into better colleges and earn more money than CPS grads. 

Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!

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