Discussion: School year length

I've started reading the Chronicles of Narnia. The only one I read as a kid was The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, so when I saw them in the children's section of the library last week I decided to read the whole series. So last night instead of writing a Q&A for Ask Moxie I was finishing up The Horse and His Boy. Sorry about that.

But it does give me the perfect chance to bring up something that's been bothering me for a few days. I found out that there are some school systems that started classes already for the fall last week. The first full week of August. And my immediate reaction was that that was immoral. (Yes, immoral. I think my co-workers thought that was a little hyperbolic, too.)

I feel like since kids don't choose to go to school, they shouldn't be forced to go for as many hours as adults can squeeze into the day and year. They should have a ton of downtime to think their own thoughts and control their own actions. Starting school so early in August just seems wrong to me, like the adults in charge think that without school the kids will be running wild. And I don't think having a longer year is really affecting how well kids learn. It's just giving teachers more time to teach to the standardized tests. (I can't imagine being excited to come back to work for that.)

I realize, of course, that some of this also has to do with financial and logistical pressures on parents. Since most families don't have an adult home full-time anymore, it's easier and cheaper to have kids in school as much of the year as possible. But I don't think that's good for kids. I'd rather have my kids in a daycamp playing games and running around than in school (which may not even have a single recess during the 6-hour school day, but that's a whole different issue entirely) for the summer. But daycamp costs money, and school is free. What choice can parents really make?

Yes, this is whole bundle of problems. Can we sort it out today in the comments section? What do you think about the expanding school year?