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Bill Fischel said in January 14th, 2010 at 3:45 pm

This story is almost right. Farmers did indeed send their kids to school in summer and winter in the nineteenth century. The “agrarian calendar” was not the current calendar of fall-winter-spring. But the reasons suggested for it here are probably not the most important. Kenneth Gold shows that cities in the late 19th century had school in the summer. Nobody had AC back then, so going to school or working in a hot factory was not a big deal. The real reason for the Sept to June calendar is the widespread adoption of age-graded schooling. Rural schools of the 19th century did not have age-specific grades, and so they could have a “term” of school whenever they wanted for as long as they wanted. But age-grading required coordination among different schools. You had to start and stop at the same time so the third graders could start fourth grade together with those from other schools. I make a big deal of this in chapter 4 of my new book, Making the Grade: The Economic Evolution of School Districts (Chicago 2009). Age-grading was a remarkable (and problematical) invention that is so logical to us now that we misunderstand the schools of the nineteenth century that did not have it.

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[…] no longer follow an agrarian, or farming calendar.  Back in the day, students needed to be off in summer to help out on the farm.  Most U.S. […]

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Defending the Teaching Profession – WastedWords said in October 15th, 2012 at 12:14 pm

[…] And now we come to the heart of many people’s gripes about teachers: they get two whole months off for summer vacation, how outrageous. Before seeing how much further you can cram your head up your butt, consider that a variety of different factors led to the current school calendar (and it’s not the agrarian cycle, see [1] and [2]): […]