The end is the middle. The middle is the end. All because of the beginning.

Such is the calculus of today’s summer vacation, the last full week of which started Monday, only 46 days into the three-month summer solstice.

School on Aug. 13? Seriously?

Do the math and we’re breaking out the Trapper Keepers and calculators nearly two weeks before the State Fair even opens.

Even the colleges are racing to the middle of summer. This year, Nebraska’s university system begins classes Aug. 26, Creighton starts Aug. 21, and Chadron State opens Aug. 19.

Sure, the calendar’s back door is moving a little in May, too, and we’ve added breaks and in-service days for teachers.

Any way we figure it, though, we’re in the summer-shortening business.

August is many things, including National Goat Cheese Month and home to International Lefthanders Day (the aforementioned Aug. 13).

And despite Aug. 1-7 being Simplify Your Life Week, this is no month to be starting school. Unless, of course, you live in the real world.

Which is where our local schools and the rest of public school America have to live.

Starting dates for many school districts across the country are also creeping ever closer to Independence Day. Los Angeles Unified and Chicago Public Schools start Aug. 14. Nashville kids have been in class since Thursday.

New York City still follows a more traditional northern calendar, with its public school academic year running from Sept. 9 to June 26.

I suppose it’s a matter of perspective.

Tell Nebraska schoolchildren that summer starts June 26 and you’ll have a revolution on your hands — even though actual summer starts on June 21.

What’s at work here is the confluence of two powerful forces: research and politics.

We know from the former that more “contact” time between student and teacher can increase academic success. The more the darlings are in school, the better they seem to do.

Better is what we all want as patrons and teachers and parents and students, even if the kiddies don’t quite realize the power of an education as yet.

Politicians need to assess schools because they now call many of the biggest shots in education. Look no further than the much-maligned No Child Left Behind for proof.

Test scores are an easy read-and-response tool for the politicos who to date have shown much more interest in raw numbers than in genuine and comprehensive assessments, the kind classroom teachers understand are crucial to student development.

Ergo, our contemporary calendars gnaw away at summer, increasing the time we spend with students beforehand so they have a chance to rock the big tests the state schedules for spring.

That’s the real world: August be damned, summer be shortened, test scores be better.

Don’t get me wrong; better test scores are a good thing.

Kids and schools — and especially teachers — are being asked to give up August (we’ve ceded more than half of it in Grand Island) to meet the standards we’ve set for them.

We’ve added a little time to the school day in places, too, wringing out every conceivable minute of each school day because, according to research, our international competitors are way ahead of us in the race for student/teacher time.

Let’s hope we’re right — because for millions of schoolkids the middle has become the end and the beginning. For real.

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