A snow day feels like a recent memory — the exhilaration of a snowflake-filled, school-free day. Snowmen line the sidewalks as the next few hours bring snowball fights and sledding.
It feels recent because it is.
When our semester began with back-to-back snow days earlier this year, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s campus became an overworked fourth grader’s dream. Cue the Husker-themed snowmen, fraternity-wide snowball wars and many a pickup whipping sledding students through parking lots.
If college is the gray, slushy area between childhood and adulthood, perhaps nothing inspires the child in us more than the occasional snow day. For many people, the snows days of their childhood were an escape from the droning days of the classroom — full of memories worth holding onto.
However, education has changed drastically during the last year with the rise of virtual learning. In the age of the digital classroom — as well as after — the idea of snow days is being challenged altogether. After all, what’s stopping teachers from simply moving class online for a day?
COVID-19 has forced us to reimagine our education systems, but we must remind ourselves that new isn’t always better. Both logistically and culturally, snow days are an important part of childhood and early education.
Especially in the digital age, we must protect the tradition of snow days.
When we think first about policy and rules, which American schools seem to clamor for the most, snow days are legitimate for a plethora of logistical reasons alone. Snowstorms can be particularly hazardous to power lines. With outages a constantly looming threat, internet access can never be dependable during a major storm.
Even after the snowfall, online school still isn’t a great option, especially for children with limited resources. We’ve already seen this disparity in how COVID-19 online school has affected children in poverty, with low-income students struggling to obtain reliable internet access and a device to use it on.
Public schools are often a haven of resources for low-income students, with everything from meal access to public transportation. It’s a gross turn of the page for public institutions to demand these students find reliable internet, which would probably come from another public place such as a library. This would require students to travel in unsafe weather conditions for the pure purpose of staying on schedule academically.
Furthermore, even when we leave the realm of logistics, snow days are still important. This is because culturally, they’re a learning and living experience that shouldn’t be doomed for extinction.
The American education system is heavily entrenched in routine. Units become chapters, chapters become sections, sections become daily assignments. It’s an efficient way to teach children — and a boring one. This model allows for little individual freedom, locking kids into a seemingly endless purgatory of schoolwork. In the meantime, the world outside their door operates far more chaotically.
Especially in the age of COVID-19, this issue is beyond prevalent. A digital classroom does not exist in a digital world of ones and zeroes. Instead, outside of the four corners of a computer screen, there is an entire mystical world of nature, science, and exploration.
Snow days give children something the standard classroom will never be able to offer — the opportunity for unbridled curiosity. These days create a sense of excitement and novelty that allow children to use their imaginations and create fond memories in the process. The unusual is what sticks with us, and snow days give children the opportunity to explore the phenomenon of their own without being constricted by a questionnaire.
Of course, snow days are not productive to every child. For every wide-eyed adventurer there is a gamer squinting at their console or a night owl who spent the day without opening an eye. Furthermore, some may consider snow days a rusty cog in the American education machine, derailing schedules and course material.
However, let’s be honest here — the American education machine is so rust-ridden, it’s one bad soak away from disintegrating. Especially after COVID-19 has thoroughly muddled retention and access across the board, we have a lot of issues to work out, even after the virus is gone.
Snow days have been a constant in American education for a long time. Post-COVID, education institutions need less variables to combat, not more. Eliminating snow days may well provide a new host of problems — like some of the issues mentioned above about logistics and culture — that would complicate everything further.
Let the kids have fun. It’s alright if they spend their day off growing turnips on a fictional island or waking up for dinner. Let kids be kids.
When the students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln heard about our snow days, we thought instantly of childhood memories, red-cheeked and smiling as we made snow angels atop parking garages and hot chocolate in our dorm microwaves.
The children of the digital age deserve to have memories like ours.
Emma Krab is a sophomore English and journalism major. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.