Did the president send the wrong message when he decided to extend his family vacation in Hawaii, ensuring his children, Malia and Sasha, would miss two days of school this week?
Esther J. Cepeda, one of the new columnists we’re trying out on The Press Democrat opinion page, certainly thinks so. Cepeda, a former teacher, is a columnist for the Chicago Sun Times and the Washington Post Writers Group.
“ . . . I hate it that a president who has demanded accountability from teachers for their performance in the classroom has not extended that accountability to himself as a parent,” Cepeda wrote in a column we recently posted. “Parents are supposed to get their kids back to school from vacation on time. No exceptions.”
She noted that many school districts with high concentrations of Latino students, such as those in Sonoma County, “have struggled with getting these kids in school for the first day of classes in the fall, then had to deal with ones who missed the last week before winter break or showed up three or four days into the next term. . . . When I was a teacher, these students were the bane of my existence,” she wrote.
By coincidence, my wife and I were having a discussion about this very subject on New Year’s Eve with some friends who were visiting from Holland. They have a 10-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy. In the Netherlands, it’s against the law to have your children miss school for vacation, punishable by fine. And because our friends were going to have their children miss a few days of class – despite the fact there was a family health issue involved and a professional conference that their father needed to attend in the United States – they stood to be fined as much as 800 euros, around $1,050.
One can just imagine the squawking if we had such a system in place in the United States. Then again, if we did, maybe our schools wouldn’t have the funding problems they do now, as well as the problems with children falling behind in class.
Well, maybe not at Sidwell Friends School where Malia and Sasha attend. But certainly elsewhere.
- Paul Gullixson