The history of summer vacation

sunset with boat and water

vacation teaser_0.jpgProfessor Stephen Mihm shares a history of how summer vacation took hold on the pages of Bloomberg:

By the early 20th century, the idea that parents and children alike needed to rest their brains and commune with the great outdoors had become an article of faith among the middle class.  While summer vacation never grew to the outsized proportions found in many European countries, it has nonetheless persisted as an American ritual, with July and August the peak months for family sojourns.

In recent years, though, this once-solid institution has eroded.  Many school districts, concerned about the “summer slide” that besets student performance, have begun to reinstitute school calendars that look suspiciously like the bad old days of the 19th century. The idea that kids might want to turn off their brains for ten weeks is increasingly seen as counterproductive, given demands for ever-higher test scores.

Adults, too, have retreated from summer vacation in recent years, with the average Americans taking a week less now than they did at the end of the 20th century. While vacation rates have experienced a modest uptick in the past year or so, they remain well below the long-term average.

While the original rationale may have been faulty and even partly fictitious, there is no great reason why anyone should relinquish these summer days of rest, relaxation and recharge. Here's to summer vacation - make sure you take some time away and come back energized to enjoy doing your best work.

Image: author photo from, of course, summer vacation.