Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The first day of school in Michigan: school uniforms and tourism

Today is the first day of public school in Michigan.  To mark the occasion, I'm having Discovery News ask a relevant question: Do School Uniforms Help Students Learn?

Parents, students, and school officials have been fighting for-and against- school uniforms for years now. So as the 2013 school year begins, Anthony seeks an answer once and for all: do school uniforms really help students learn?
As the video shows, the answer is no, it won't serve students or schools well.  That wouldn't have deterred Detroit Public Schools when I was teaching there from 1998-2000.  The district was seriously considering adopting uniforms to improve discipline.  Besides, teachers were already scolding students over their clothes anyway.

Speaking of the first day of school, I have a story I tell my students about why schools start after Labor Day in Michigan to illustrate the power of the tourism industry here.  When I first moved here in 1989, school started before Labor Day.  In fact, some of the rural school districts started two weeks before Labor Day.  That drained visitors away from the state's tourist attractions, something I could attest to first-hand having worked at a tourist attraction from 2000-2002.  The tourism industry in the state, which swaps being the second largest sector of the state's economy with agriculture (the largest is manufacturing), engaged in a multi-decade campaign to move the first day of school after Labor Day.  By 1999, they achieved a partial victory by mandating that schools not open the Friday before Labor Day.  In 2005, tourism defeated public education with the passage of a state law mandating that public schools open after Labor Day.  As MLive reported two years ago, it served the tourism industry well.

Public schools' post-Labor Day start beneficial for local and state tourism; parochial schools not required to follow suit
Jamie Furbush, president and chief executive officer of the Frankenmuth Chamber of Commerce and Convention and the Visitors Bureau, said that the later start to the school year has boosted Labor Day weekend travel.

“The post-Labor Day start has been very beneficial for tourism in the entire state, and Frankenmuth is no exception,” she said.

“As people are preparing for school and doing last-minute shopping in Birch Run, we are a great place for them to try and combine school preparations with one last weekend away. We find that to be the case during Labor Day weekend.”
I use this story to point out how the local tourism industry stands in the way of placing wind turbines out on Lake Michigan, never mind that one of the great tourist towns in the state is Holland where people go to see windmills.  I should also use this as another example of how messing with Americans' entertainment is a sure way to get them to act.  That seems especially true if one's business is entertainment.


  1. I entered Public schools in 1955. We always went back after Labor Day. Schools continued to return after Labor Day as i went through college, moved out west for two years, taught in Detroit for two years, and finally found a job in the suburbs. It didn't change until I had been teaching abbot 25 years. The rain schools traditionally started after Labor Day was because the children were needed for the harvest. Yes it guys back that far. None of us liked it when it was changed to after Labor Day at first, but we got used to it and there are some benefits. However I believe it helped to kill out state fair, one of the oldest in the country. It so make me sad to have August chime and go with no state fair. That alone would have been reason to keep the school start date as it had been for so many years.

    1. I'm from California, where school didn't start until the middle of September. That schools in Michigan started before Labor Day when I moved here 26 years ago surprised me. I liked it better when schools opened the day after.

      As for moving the opening of school up killing the State Fair, I hadn't heard that before, although I believe you that it contributed. However, the official state fair died after the law mandated the current start. Also, it's not really dead, as a private state fair exists.