Suzy Maroon gets life exactly wrong in her July 5 letter, "A Tragic Waste." She praises Patrick Welsh [Outlook, June 20] for his criticism of summer vacation and laments that we force our children's minds to "shut down for extended periods" by letting them out of school for the summer. Nothing could be further from the truth. School is a wonderful thing and loads our children with information and special skills, but it is poisonous to the mind if we give inadequate free time to allow for other kinds of learning.

For children, summers are for learning to live an unprogrammed life. Summers are for getting to know friends and family, thinking, reading books that were not assigned, seeing sights at your own pace, learning hobbies and skills such as sports or cooking or computers or sewing or woodwork and restoring the mind. Schools are great for picking up new information, learning how to solve problems and gaining math skills. They are death on genuine, unprodded thought.

I learned more important things in my summers than I did during school, and so did my friends. Except for a few very simple uses, my algebra was worthless to me. My reading assignments slowed me down. But nothing about those summers was wasted. All my memories are there. The development of my religious life is there. Vacation, not school, gave me the life that has served me.

Extending the school year would reduce, not increase, learning. And we should consider who is pushing for this extension. The National Commission on Excellence in Education proposed longer school years. Should we be surprised? All specialists see their specialty as the center of the world. Why would educators be different? But specialties are just one part of our lives. We should keep that in perspective.