Welcome to the dawn of the New Millennium . . . the genuine start of the New Millennium, that is: 01-01-01

As any pedant happily will explain, the stroke of midnight ending New Year’s Eve 1999 really was ringing in only 2000, the final year of the old millennium.

Blame it on poor, old Dionysius Exiguus.

Back in 1582, this hard-working monk set down the method by which the initial epoch was derived, at least according to the reckoning used for the Gregorian calendar. Other calendars do it otherwise, but the method blessed by Pope Gregory XIII in the Sixth century has grown to be accepted far and wide.

And so it was that Dionysius began compiling a table to mark the dates of Easter. Rather than starting with the year zero, the monk began with January 1, 1 Anno Domini (AD).

(Now, “AD” is not embraced in every quarter, either—but that’s another matter.)

Suffice it to say, Dionysius was using Roman numerals, which have no zero . . . or so the story goes. In any case, under the Gregorian regime, centuries come to an end in years concluding with “00” and millennia end with “000.” They begin in years ending in “01” and “001.”

Thus, the Second Millennium ended Dec. 31, 2000, and the Third began January 1, 2001.

So, Happy New Millennium!

Lots of smarties know all about this “genuine millennium” business, of course. But here’s a bulletin less well known: Unless a new calendar-reform movement springs up in the next 999 years and 11 months, our New Millennium—now that it’s really here—will have five more days than the one just ended.

That’s right—a whole extra workweek.

This has to do with the fact that Pope Greg’s calendar boys vaporized ten days in October of 1582 and then counted part of that year under the Julian calendar. As a result, the millennium just ended had 365,237 days, but the one we’re launching now will have 365,242 days. (Start planning now for how you’re going to handle the extra time.)

Those in the school field are going to need as much time as we can get, too. More than 1 million veteran teachers are nearing retirement right now. By the end of this decade, we’ll need nearly 3 million new teachers. The educator shortage we’ve witnessed up until now will seem like a cakewalk.

That’s partly why giant corporations such as Microsoft and 3Com are rolling out major new productivity tools for schools (see page 59). Both these companies and, to a greater or lesser extent, many others as well have fashioned hardware and software solutions intended to cut the drudgery out of classroom management. These programs promise, in one fell swoop, to let educators marshal instructional content from around the world, tailor it for the local classroom, correlate it with the academic standards of individual states, disseminate it to individual students, monitor and grade the students using it, and communicate with parents and others about the learning students are achieving.

These innovative programs couldn’t come at a better time. Unless we discover how to make teaching a much more efficient, psychically rewarding—and, thus, attractive—undertaking, the bright New Millennium we’re embarking on this month is going to seem to drag on for a whole lot longer than just those five extra days.