Wednesday, April 3, 2013

An American Injustice: Spring Break

Act #93:  Don't assume everyone gets a break.

Spring Break.  You can't get more all-American than that.  One entire glorious week designated for rest, relaxation and vacation.  That is if you are in the top wage-earning percentage of Americans who can actually afford to participate in the ritual.  Please allow me to elaborate on just how problematic this week-long phenomenon can really be ..... and just how stress-inducing and impossible it can be for millions of Americans to fit a week-long unpaid vacation into their yearly planning.

What's with the scheduling?
Private colleges, public universities, private K-12 schools, and their public counter-parts - can and often do, cancel classes for spring break at different times.  So if you have kids in different schools, work at a college, want to coordinate a trip or childcare with family members, spring break can simply be a scheduling nightmare.

Not everyone at school gets the same break.
I worked as an administrator at a college for almost a decade and every spring the campus would become deserted when students headed to South Florida and faculty took their children on exotic beach vacations.  The best part was when they'd all come back and tell staff members stories of their travels.  

This ain't no vacation!
For most Americans, just because your kid's school closes down, doesn't mean your employer is going to give you the week off and consider just how tough it might be to arrange for 40 hours of childcare.  Or better yet, tell you, "You know what?  You work so hard through the year, so this one's on me - go on and be with your family!  Count this as vacation time!

Florida isn't cheap, ya'll.
The typical cost for a family of 4 to visit Mickey Mouse:  approximately $3000 - $4000.  Cuddling with your kid on the couch at home, while watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on the Disney Junior channel: just a fraction of that.  And the lines are much shorter.

Binge drinking, drunk driving, and rape. Oh my.
Don't even get me started on how this cultural phenomenon has become a cesspool for sexual violence and socially acceptable coming-of-age recklessness.  Research indicates that rates of rape (and overall stupidity) increase dramatically in college spring break meccas like Daytona Beach.  If your college-aged kid goes on spring break, you should lose lots and lots of sleep.  Lots.

So America, as you can see, Spring Break really is no break....for most of us.  What do you say we call this what it really is?  Faculty family fun week?  Non-minimum-wage-earner annual getaway?  College student life/reputation-ruining vacation?  Sexual assault promotion week?  Whatever you call it, please, don't insult the majority of Americans by calling this a "break".  Now if you lived in Denmark, you could definitely call the required six weeks of annual paid time off a break.  Oh, and that doesn't include the 52 weeks (yes, really, 52) of paid maternal/paternal leave for new parents.  Interesting that Danes also consistently report being the happiest people in the world. 

Photo Credit:  Spring Breakers (the movie).  This makes me shudder.  Thanks, but no thanks.

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