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(Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
(Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

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The Amazing Kreskin on 'year-round' schooling Add to ...

Mentalist The Amazing Kreskin will be performing at the Edmonton Folk Festival on Aug. 6. He is currently working on his 19th book, Conversations with Kreskin.

Where did you go to school?

Essex County, N.J. - Grover Cleveland High School. Grade school was Lincoln School.

Where did you spend your summers?

By the time I was 12, I was already performing, doing private parties. I was always at home. I didn't go travelling because my parents couldn't afford it. I spent time with aunts and uncles in New Jersey. I had relatives in Bethlehem and Allentown, Pa., and I spent weeks of my summer with them.

What's your favourite summer vacation memory?

Playing pinochle in a boarding house in Point Pleasant, N.J.

"Year-round" schooling - is it a good idea?

I think it is a wonderful idea. Kids today have a sense of entitlement, that things are owed them. I'm not blaming the kids. It's the parents, because they haven't given sufficient love to their children.

While we have approximately three months of vacation here in United States, that was never meant to be the case. There was summer in which kids stopped going to school so they could work on the farm. There was no such thing as long months of kids idling around figuring out what to do. We have shortchanged our youngsters. We have not prepared them for the real world. This is too much stress, this is too much pressure, too much homework is not giving them quality of life … This is a lot of B.S.! Very, very sad.

The agrarian-based school year had more like six months off, but has long passed into history. The chief rationale now for summers off is temperature - it's too hot for school in summer.

You can imagine how crippled, damaged for life, pupils were when I was going to school! We went in June. It was very, very hot. And the kids went home to live and there was no air-conditioning. For generations, people survived. We have become a very lazy society.

"Year-round" is a misnomer. It's actually more one month of summer vacation with other break periods being spread more equitably though the year. But has a two-month summer break become sacrosanct?

I think it is going to be hard to change. Our politicians do not want to offend or cause any conflict. Let's face it, they're not interested in the future, they are interested in the next election. We have become a spoiled, entitled generation.

And two months of summer vacation is part of that?

Of course it is. I have a feeling they could manage with less time.

One of the arguments against an all-summer school break is learning loss. Students forget information over a two-month layoff.

They have gotten away from the training that is necessary to build up a learning pattern. And when they are not in school, they are whiling away their summer. If there is one significant change I have noticed in our culture, [it's that]when I come into a town after school hours, I don't see as many kids out playing any more. That says it all.

Year-round schooling is thought by some to widen the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged kids. Children from wealthier homes have options to travel, enjoy organized sports or classes, attend camp - learning experiences. Poor kids are more likely hanging around and watching TV.

If there is a problem between kids that are wealthy and those that are not so wealthy, I think we should remind ourselves of something. The most remarkably successful people in the Western world in modern times are largely those who have had troubled childhoods, have been in economically stressed areas. People who struggle seem to learn to climb over problems and consequently can handle the future with much greater skill.

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