Summer Therapy

We’ve come to the time of the year where students must succumb to social norms and conventional wisdom. It’s summertime, graduates have collected their diplomas, and teachers have sighed in collective relief. The nine-month rigor of an academic year, whether primary, secondary, or collegiate attendance, is draining and exhausting. There is a substantial reward to finishing academic studies, and that is a well-earned mental break from the induced mental stress of homework and study. Considering academia is becoming even more stressful and rigorous, you’d think there would be greater understanding of the therapeutic necessity of summer break. However, America has the following message for you:

What are you doing standing around, congratulating yourself like you’ve accomplished something? Get back to work!

There are plenty of elders who think that school’s primary purpose is to engender work ethic, create acceptance of authority, and foster regimen in our young people. There is little acknowledgement that school is becoming more difficult for young people. There is even less acknowledgement that this increased rigor might take a collective mental toll on the youth of America. In a time when there are so many questions about mental illness, it surprises me that a majority are still intent on increasing mental stress in our youth by pushing harder and harder for “personal responsibility,” especially when many states are stubbornly keeping the minimum wage low, increasing salaries for embedded administrative personnel, hoarding job opportunities from young people, eliminating those opportunities with technology, and belittling the academic diplomas by not hiring newly-qualified graduates.

I’ve got a message for those who consistently harp on those Americans who recently completed their academic studies: Lighten up! The necessity of a paycheck will compel us to find a job soon enough. We don’t need you to remind us. Please consider we have just completed a very thorough academic schedule—one which many of you have not endured and could not endure, since academic study has become so different from when you were in school—and we need to allow our mental facilities to adjust to the travails of American existence. Schooling is work! It exhausts the mind and body, in ways that many Americans who are NOT in school would never understand…or even think about enduring if faced with the possibility of returning to school.

If more Americans understood the need for a summer break, then maybe mental stress in this country might be reduced. Since everybody keeps asking how we reduce mental illness, without much suggestion of how to do so, consider this a small solution before you jump to knee-jerk reactions about the way things are supposed to be.

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  1. For the first time in four summers, I have elected to take a month off….of work. Having only one summer class is the least amount of time off I’ve had in this amount of time. School is indeed work, and couple that with incessant full-time work for successive years, and you produce people who must find ways to cope–or break (punny, eh?). Hopefully my psyche finds reprieve while enjoying Floridian beaches :j

  2. It’s almost a sickness in American culture that people simultaneously bemoan lack of vacation time and crave it while turning up their noses at the ‘lazy’ teachers who get so much of it. The following article was printed in The New York Times essentially supporting your message here (more on the workers’ side than on the future workers you focus on) that says what everyone but employers seem to know. People are overworked and being overworked does not necessarily a productive worker make — to be poetic about it.

    1. You’re right, and I was tempted to go more in-depth about how teachers need to rest their mental energies, maybe more than students in many cases…the article would have been three times longer (and might have deflected attention away from students’ accomplishments). I’ve cringed at the many public statements about lazy teachers who get to frolic all summer long without keeping their noses to the grindstones. It seems to be lost on many that most teachers have to find part-time jobs (sometimes competing with students, as this satire piece suggests) because most teachers do not get paid in the summertime…and honestly, many teachers DO have to teach in the summer, or attempt to teach on a schedule that does not offer many opportunities. I notice Obama used to campaign for year-long schooling at the beginning of his campaign…he doesn’t do that anymore (one of the reasons I like Obama because he’s capable of analyzing and changing his mind…a trait that politicians seem to think is a bad thing.) Thanks for sharing, both your comment and the article!

  3. You are right! A mental break is exactly what a student needs, in order to prepare for the next round of classes and homework. i was debating whether or not to take a summer class, but as my daughter, who is a teacher, put it, “Mom, do you want to burn out, you need a rest to get ready for the Fall schedule.” That may be true, but after all the years I waited to return to school, I feel like I am on a mission to get it done. I must remember that I also have to work to pay the bills and have a husband and grand baby now, along with my adult children to spend time with, They have patiently waited for me the entire spring semester. School can wait a few more months, when I am mentally rested and family fulfilled.

    1. It is so hard for an adult to juggle the responsibilities of being that adult with the rigor necessary to complete a collegiate degree…and it’s an expectation now, rather than the “luxury” it might have been deemed in recent American history. The modern student not only deserves a mental break; it is a necessity!…and I know you of all people deserve it, Beth. It’s good to hear from you, and I hope you are doing well.

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