The Trouble with Thanksgiving

It is my considered opinion after 36 years of experience that Thanksgiving and Christmas are too close together. There are many reasons to complain about the timing of the two holidays — the burden of traveling twice during the most dangerous and delay-prone time of the year, for instance. What I want to focus on is the academic consequences. Put simply, the existence of Thanksgiving wreaks havoc with the academic calendar, particularly on the semester system. There is just no non-awkward way to schedule around Thanksgiving, and the existence of Thanksgiving typically prevents the occurence of a week-long Fall Break, which — let me tell you — would be nice.

I propose that we move Thanksgiving to the second Thursday of October. It is not usually snowing anywhere in the continental US by that point, whereas Thanksgiving tends to be the time of year (at least in the midwest, where the crucial hub of O’Hare is located) when you get the first big snow storms. Travel will therefore be safer and less stressful. Everyone will also be happier and calmer, knowing that they’re not staring down the barrel of another family visit within four weeks. Indeed, it would rationalize the mainstream American holiday system by providing four quarterly opportunities to travel and visit family (Christmas, Easter, any number of mid-summer get-togethers, and New Earlier Thanksgiving).

This schedule creates a natural mid-semester break. And if adopted soon, that break would occur next week. Let’s get to work. I don’t think it’s too late.

15 Responses to “The Trouble with Thanksgiving”

  1. mattintoledo Says:

    I know it’s kind of the opposite of what you’re about here, but if you want this argument to get legs, you gotta bring up the extended Christmas shopping frenzy.

  2. Ruth Marshall Says:

    You mean like the Canadians? The only problem is that we’re thankful for the harvest bounty, whereas you’re thankful for having your colonial asses saved, as winter hit and you were all starving to death, by generous native americans – who you then went on to slaughter. I mean, Canada did the slaughtering too, but we didn’t make our perfidy into a national holiday…

  3. Ruth Marshall Says:

    But you’ve just reminded me that I need to order the turkey today, for the 16 people who’re coming to dinner this weekend… :)

  4. Ruth Marshall Says:

    It’s also why I always schedule first-term classes on Monday, wherever possible, since we get 2 Mondays off – Thanksgiving and then our weird ‘mid-term’ two-day break in the first Mon.-Tues of Nov.

  5. Eric Daryl Meyer Says:

    I’m glad that Ruth brought up that magical northern land ruled by reason in which such suggestions were enacted years ago. If only we could learn…

  6. Ruth Marshall Says:

    lol! yes, while you’re moving thanksgiving, you could throw in universal health care and gun control. :)

  7. cruth01 Says:

    I think the S1Ws are going to abolish Thanksgiving altogether soon, aren’t they? I mean, at least on college campuses around the nation…

  8. Craig McFarlane Says:

    Ruth: the origins of Canadian Thanksgiving seem to be ultra-nationalist United Empire Loyalists who, I guess ironically, brought the classic American holiday to Upper Canada. Although now it largely seems to be a scheme to keep turkey murderers and pumpkin growers in business.

    As is typical with whoever the sadists are who determine the academic year, we have a statutory holiday on October 10 and then “Fall Study Break” from October 24–28. Having a Monday class in the Fall semester makes a virtually impossible calendar to coherently schedule assignments and topics around—who wants to have a class, then not a class, then a class, then not a class? What a stupid schedule.

    Fortunately, the “Winter Study Break” incorporates the insane “Family Day” holiday (especially popular in the Ottawa region where a lot of people work in Quebec and, so, not only do they have to take a day off work to stay home and look after the kids because the daycare is closed) and we somehow manage to avoid the on-off-on-off rotation. And, equally fortunately, Good Friday and Easter rarely affect the schedule.

  9. Ruth Marshall Says:

    Just a belated final question for Adam and Craig (I was too busy dealing with the hell of hosting to check back) Are you really so keen on teaching undergrads that interruptions in the class schedule bother you this much? I for one, deliberately pick Mondays because of the class, not a class, class, not a class thing. ;) But then again, we U of T profs are a bunch of lame slackers. Here’s a video link that proves it, for your amusement – U of T Profs Read Mean Reviews.

  10. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I’m trying to gain a longer break!

  11. Craig McFarlane Says:

    Ruth: I’d prefer for the semester to end earlier or start later than have weird pacing across its span. I enjoy, for the most part, my time in the classroom. Perhaps at second-tier comprehensive universities we get to have better interactions with our students than you do at UoT, what with all the MRA and frat nonsense and that idiot psychologist.

  12. Ruth Marshall Says:

    ah, i see the logic. i forget we have 2 12-week terms, and teach 4 hours a week, so wanting a longer break would just seem rude. We have a very short xmas break, compared to most US place – 2.5 weeks (more if you don’t assign exams after classes end), but then we’re done in the first week of April every year! 5 full months off…shhhh. We can do a make-up monday class at the end of term for the one lost at thankgiving, but i generally put it to a vote, secure in the knowledge that there won’t be a majority in favour. With 70 kids in an upper-year class, we can have great contact, but only with a few at a time. But it’s the reality of a massive public university. Just imagine pol sci first year intro courses w 1200 in them…I teach a lot of fourth year and grad seminars, and I don’t put those on a Monday, for your reasons Craig… and grad seminars are always too short. still, i never find enough time to write during term, so i’m grateful for every day i’m not prepping and teaching. Hope you watched the video! the ones about the ex-stripper and the communist are priceless.

  13. Ruth Marshall Says:

    but Craig, you lost me with all the MRA and frat nonsense – who’s the idiot psychologist? This place is too big, i never know what the issues are…

  14. Craig McFarlane Says:

    Jordan Peterson. Check the Globe, Star, and National Post. All have reported on him in the past couple weeks and there have been demonstrations at the St. George campus. Barb Kay and that plagiarist at the G&M love reporting on the oppression of MRAs at UoT. Every third column or so.

    Classes at UoT are only two hours per week? We do three hours per week. (Or, sometimes, two hours lecture by professor plus one hour tutorial/lab by TA.) I think our largest room only holds about three hundred, so no 1200 student intro lectures for us. My course this semester has 64 students; enrolments for my courses next semester are expected to be 90, 90, and 100. Sadly, I don’t have any upper year seminars this year.

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