Jean Davis, in a letter to the editor of the New Zealand Herald yesterday, writes: 'How many former teachers remember the days of trying to motivate their pupils during the heat of February and early March?' The education minister, she says, should give serious thought to rescheduling the summer school holidays so that they run from mid-January to early March, with Christmas becoming a four-day break, like Easter.
This is exactly what I have argued in two posts already this year, and not only Davis but other correspondents, bloggers and columnists (eg, John Roughan) have argued the same. Clearly there is a growing mood about this matter. I don't think anyone is about to occupy city centres demanding immediate action from the government on it, but by the same token it's no longer an idle theory but a genuine issue of public interest.
If it ever comes to it, changing the school year will probably not be the biggest obstacle; after all, the length and timing of school terms have been a lot more fluid in recent years. No, the thing that will be hard for many to swallow is the apparent diminution of Christmas to the rank of public holiday followed by a return to work. But Christmas is already doing a pretty good job of diminishing itself; and Matariki is on the rise. Fifty years ago, calendar events like Lent and Advent were far more prominent—who knows anything about them now? Fifty years from now, I predict, Christmas will still be observed but all the nonsense about snow and sleighbells will have gone, and the religious significance will be minimal. It always was a hit-and-myth business anyway.