When I was a kid, I remember watching an animated short on our local PBS station. Each scene in the short showed a character with something, for example, a little boy with a toy. The characters would shout MORE! and they would get more of whatever it was they desired. In the final scene, you see the Earth and all of its inhabitants yell MORE! again and again until the Earth begins to resemble a crumpled ball. The hand of God reaches down, picks up the lumpy Earth, and tosses it in a wastebasket. This movie had a profound effect on me. I didn't want to help contribute to making this world a pile of trash. I have a family history of hording and a healthy shopping gene, but I do the best I can and try to repurpose, recycle and reuse whenever possible.
This concept of thinking more is better is the philosophy of our culture of consumerism. We're caught between the idea that we must have the latest shiny new thing, but at the same time we don't want to just toss out the old thing, because it is still useful. I should know. I have a DVD/VCR combo that no longer works as a DVD player. Even though we gave in and bought another DVD player, the other unit will stay as long as the VCR works. What happens is that we end up with so much stuff we don't know where to store it all. So what do we do? Apparently a whole storage business has arisen from our need to have more. People rent space to store their stuff. Mistress Stuff has her own place where she can be visited and kept away from our clean lives.
But it doesn't end there. This idea of MORE infiltrates our whole being. We don't just drive somewhere, we have to see if we can get there faster than we did last time. That will give us MORE time to be where we're going. Better yet, we can schedule MORE activities if we just get the timing right. If you stay at work longer, you will make MORE money. Athletes train longer so that they can compete not only for that gold medal, but so they can also make record breaking feats. Winning doesn't seem to be enough anymore. You need to prove you are MORE than simply a great athlete.
Now there are calls to give students MORE time in school. Why? My favorite line from this article: President Obama and Duncan say kids in the United States need more school because kids in other nations have more school. We need MORE because THEY have MORE. Seriously? The article itself contradicts this idea. In spite of several countries having longer days, American children spend more instructional hours in school.
This emphasis on more is so detrimental. I can tell you from experience, if my living room is cluttered, I don't even want to be in there. Too much stuff stresses me out. The same goes for a full schedule. If we have too much to do in a day, I stress. The stress physically affects me, so my solution is to pull stuff off the calendar or at least give myself a day without commitments so that I can decompress. How will schoolkids decompress? I doubt teachers will give less homework just because the school day is longer. I doubt over-achieving parents (or overachieving kids) will lighten the weekend activities to compensate. I see a nation of overtired, cranky kids who don't know what to do with themselves when they finally get a break. How sad.
I know I am slightly biased here. My own children are homeschooled, leaning toward unschooling. My recent readings at the Freedom to Learn blog and elsewhere have molded my educational philosophy, along with my observations of my own children. I recognize that they are individuals and they each have their own learning style and interests. I honestly don't know how any teacher with a full classroom of students manages to keep the children engaged for five minutes. I have great respect for them. But I still disagree that MORE time will make these children better students.