Campaigns/Elections

Can Hillary Clinton Get Me Out of Gym Class?

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When I was in college, the few times I was foolish enough to take classes that began before 9 a.m., I had trouble staying awake. It's a challenge for my teenaged daughter to get up and out of the house in time for classes that begin at 8:30. So I tend to agree with Nancy Kalish, who argues in a New York Times op-ed piece that it's a mistake to start high school at 7:30 or earlier, which has become common practice:

Research shows that teenagers' body clocks are set to a schedule that is different from that of younger children or adults. This prevents adolescents from dropping off until around 11 p.m., when they produce the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and waking up much before 8 a.m. when their bodies stop producing melatonin. The result is that the first class of the morning is often a waste, with as many as 28 percent of students falling asleep, according to a National Sleep Foundation poll. Some are so sleepy they don't even show up, contributing to failure and dropout rates.

Still, I have trouble with Kalish's suggestion that presidential candidates should seize upon high school starting times as a national issue. Is nothing local anymore?

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  1. While I can appreciate this theory, I never had any trouble staying awake in class and nobody else in my classes did either. If you did fall asleep the teacher would yell at you or mock you relentlessly, so it didn’t happen.

  2. schools are slaves to the bus schedule, one of the most abhorrent devices of torture a society ever invented.

  3. I always fell asleep in class, but it wasn’t necessarily the first class, usually somewhere the one right before lunch when the adrenaline from the morning rush wore off.

    I still hated getting up at 6am for school everyday though.

  4. H.S. in general is a waste of time.

  5. solution:

    Oh gosh, I don’t even have to say it here do I?

  6. Showing up to class in HS usually just got me in trouble because I wouldn’t pay attention, bothered other people, and was generally a nuisance. When I ended up getting A’s anyway, my teachers had no other recourse but to kick me out of class.

    I don’t think it really matters too much what time the class is. Good teachers (the few there are) can make a difference on the margins but, overall, it would seem that most students are well on their way to being locked into their life potential by HS. The rest is just padding for college resumes.

  7. The fact that Congress’ warm-fuzzy-feeling attempt to (appear to) reduce energy consumption by expanding daylight saving now means that more northern-state students depart for school before sunrise surely doesn’t help the effect described here.

  8. You push back the starting time, you push back the ending time. This interfers with after-school activities and sports schedules. Perhaps properly motivating the high school students to perform by getting them to realize that the knowledge is useful and good grades lead to subsidized college would work just fine instead of telling them they are slaves to their biochemistry.

  9. I’ve heard this before. IIRC, one of the objections to starting H.S. later was that parents want the older children home when the younger ones get released. With the amount of single parent and dual income households, you can see why some parents would object.

    No link, you’ll have to trust my memory.
    Or not.

  10. I have trouble with Kalish’s suggestion that presidential candidates should seize upon high school starting times as a national issue.

    Actually, this sounds like a very valuable endeavor for the candidates – as well as Reason – to get involved in. You could start a subsite all about it, and assign several of your regulars to contribute there, write policy papers, engage the community, and so forth. This is such an important topic that practically devoting all of your waking hours to it would not in any way be a waste.

    P.S. I wonder what role the TV schedule has in this. Do the mel. production times change with the clocks? Are they different in the Mountain/Central TZ?

  11. Solution: have the first class be shop class. slicing off a thumb will wake those little bastards right the fuck up.

    On a related note: bring back shop class. How are kids today supposed to learn how awesome machinery and bleeding is? We’re raising a nation of Democrats, I tell ya.

  12. This prevents adolescents from dropping off until around 11 p.m., when they produce the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and waking up much before 8 a.m. when their bodies stop producing melatonin.

    Is that Daylight Savings Time or Standard Time? During what season of the year? At which longitudes?

    Excuse me, but this so-called study sounds like BS. Your body doesn’t know the difference between 7:30 and 8:30, all it knows about is where that time sits in your normal routine. Obviously, if teenagers are used to going to sleep at 11, they’re going to have a hard time getting up at 6am, but that’s more a question of routine than biology.

  13. I think the argument is that starting at 7:30 prepares those students that don’t go onto college for the real world.

  14. I’m 22 and feel really guilty about waking up after 10:00. As hard as I try, I can’t get to bed before 3:00 or wake up before 11:00

    While I can appreciate this theory, I never had any trouble staying awake in class and nobody else in my classes did either. If you did fall asleep the teacher would yell at you or mock you relentlessly, so it didn’t happen.
    One of my classes the teacher would take a Polaroid of you and post it on the wall. This other time, she made all of us silently walk out of the class, then she slammed the book really loud to wake him up.

  15. Hey Warty, that reminds me of the time in graphic arts when one of my classmates inadvertently attached himself to a playbill we were producing for a school play. He did this via a big old mechanical staple machine into which he was feeding the to be stapled playbills. I can still hear him screaming as he waved his hand around, with a playbill attached to this thumb, and blood spurting all over the place.

    Oh yeah, that shit wakes you up!

  16. so basically most people’s opinion on this can be summed up thus:

    1. If a particular stance is supported by science- “look, it’s supported by science! I must be right!”

    2. If a particular stance is challenged by science- “look, I did it this way and so did everyone else and we turned out just fine. They must be wrong.”

    The easiest way to tell if someone is a jackass or not is to find out how they’d raise your kid.

  17. I went to Catholic high school and they did a pretty good job of keeping us awake. The school days were shorter than the public schools (started at 8am at the earliest, all classes were done by 2pm at the latest, the upper-classmen were usually out by noon). We had more time in between classes and fewer classes each day than our public school counterparts. But expectations were much higher and we spent a lot more time doing homework, studying with other students, and participating in afterschool activities. I think that, for teenaged kids, it was a good way to keep our short attention spans occupied. If you fell asleep in class you could count on a ruler or a well-aimed chalk eraser heading your way. I graduated in the 21st century, before you think I’m one of the old farts around here 😉

    Longer days with early starts aren’t always the solution to educational woes. Part of the impetus toward longer school days is that parents treat it as a day-care instead of a place for their kids to learn.

  18. When I was in school, sleeping would get you a chalk board eraser upside your unsuspecting head at the least or a walk to the vice principal for a dose of the board of education and detention.

    If I got into trouble in school, for any reason, and my stepfather found out about it, the trip to the vice principal was the least of my worries.

  19. zigzagman:

    I actually had a physics teacher that went through the trouble of using a different eraser depending on what color the chalk was. That way he could tag the kids wearing white shirts with the red chalk eraser and the kids in the darker colored shirts with the white chalk eraser.

  20. This is shaping up to be another instance of the government jumping on an already well-entrenched trend, albeit a trend among local governments. Fairfax County has already moved high school start times back. I am under the impression that Fairfax County is far from the first in the nation to do this.

  21. Yup, we’ll just cater to ’em till they are completely fargin worthless.

    Warty, cracks like the one about a society of demcrats is the kinda vulgar shite that’ll get ya banned from here.

  22. The easiest way to tell if someone is a jackass or not is to find out how they’d raise your kid.

    I would sell them into slavery and retire on the proceeds.

    —-

    I had a math teacher in the seventh grade who could hurl a piece of chalk with astounding force and accuracy.

  23. I fell asleep during the first three classes every day back in high school. It was miserable, and I just could not keep awake. What’s worse, nobody seemed to give a shit. I never once got in trouble for sleeping in class. I’m all for starting the high school day later. My late-sleeping college GPA was exponentially higher than my supertired high school one.

  24. Isn’t the prevailing wisdom that US children continue to fall further behind academically in the global market place? I thought we needed longer school days.

  25. “Still, I have trouble with Kalish’s suggestion that presidential candidates should seize upon high school starting times as a national issue. Is nothing local anymore?”

    I guess having school start at 7:30 in the morning nationwide isn’t any stranger than having the kids in downtown Los Angeles out of school for the summer for the harvest and out during the spring so they can help with the planting.

    How else are you supposed to keep a family farm alive in downtown Los Angeles?

  26. I got really tired of getting up at 5:00AM to milk the cow, feed the pigs and eat my own breakfast before school but I never had any trouble going to sleep before 10:00PM. Buncha weinees.

  27. “I actually had a physics teacher that went through the trouble of using a different eraser depending on what color the chalk was. That way he could tag the kids wearing white shirts with the red chalk eraser and the kids in the darker colored shirts with the white chalk eraser.”

    That’s some quality education and props to the teacher’s creativity.

  28. I smell Democrats seizing upon the NCLB act to twiddle with just this kind of thing. No?

  29. Crimethink: It’s actually not true that your body only knows your schedule. It takes cues about what time it is, even if you generally live nocturnally, for example. I believe that the theory is that this is based on light levels, so it wouldn’t apply if you live in a totally regulated underground environment, but if you occaisionally see the sun, then there are a whole host of metabolic processes that apply only at night or whatnot.

    Obviously, your body doesn’t know that it’s 11pm. It might know that it’s three hours since sunset, though.

  30. This schedule will prepare our yuts for their futures of working the nation’s factories and mills.

  31. So, no one else is going to question how a teenager’s body “knows” the difference between 10 PM and 11 PM?

  32. …as many as 28 percent of students falling asleep…

    So we should start school later for the 68% who don’t seem to fall asleep in class, so that, perhaps, the minority who do will stay awake?

  33. or the other 4% who can’t do math after 7…like me 😉

  34. Never mind, I just saw Mr Sullivan’s comment above.

    Anyway, even the sunset and sunrise can’t explain this, since the length of time between sunset and 11pm is very different in June from what it is in December, partially because of seasonal changes, but also because of the switches to and from DST. Not to mention the fact that most kids are exposed to high light levels pretty much the entire time they’re awake.

    So, I’d need to see some extraordinary evidence to support the extraordinary claim that the teenage body precisely knows the difference between 7AM and 8AM all year round, despite the fact that during December, it’s dark at both times, and during June it’s light out at both times. And the writer’s “research shows” with no citation of such research doesn’t do that for me.

  35. Around 2:30 PST, my body begins the process of shutting down all functions in preparation for complete hibernation. Still. Forget expresso, nothing works, so I just slog my way through until wine-thirty.

    I wasn’t a morning person in HS until I got hooked up with that Donna chick. Then, bam, I was outta bed and zipping to school on my motorcycle, showing up just as she stepped out of mama’s car in a short skirt. I lived for her long brown hair and the shy smile peeking out from behind those big brown eyes. The ten minutes with her before first period was well worth the effort of dragging my worthless hide out of a warm bed.

    Moral: If the subject matter is worthwhile, high school kids can easily overcome a sluggish body clock.

  36. Cool! So we can have really groovie schools where, like, all the classes are, like, poetry and not, like, begin until 11?

  37. slicing off a thumb…

    I like the way you think, man.

    But, at my old Alma Mater there is no shop class anymore. No band, no auto shop, no electronics, no metal shop, no wood shop…..

    I know the art teacher. She teaches art in what used to be a room full of big fat American Vee-eights with skinny high school kids fitting them with Holleys.

  38. Society’s entire schedule is screwed and inhumane, quite literally. Our daily calendar is based around the fact that once upon a time most of us needed to wake up really early to go tend to the cows or whatever the hell it was we did. It wasn’t natural then to wake up when it’s still pitch black outside, and it isn’t natural now, but it’s how we still do things.

    The world could shift to a workday of, say, 11 to 7, and be far better off. Hell, make it 11 to 8 and toss in the afternoon nap that our bodies demand, and we’d be even better.

  39. I think public high school classes should start around never. Yeah, I think never is the best time.

  40. I am a morning person & have been all my life. Couldn’t sleep late if I wanted to. In the evening, I start to get drowsy around 9:30 and am usually in the sack by 10:15.

    OTOH I know lots of people who are “night owls”.

    Isn’t this more a situation where we should look at individuals and their personal body clocks, not ‘one size fits all’?

  41. Isn’t this more a situation where we should look at individuals and their personal body clocks, not ‘one size fits all’?

    Pay attention, Aresen. We’re talking about public high schools here. ‘One size fits all’ is the guiding principle.

  42. So I guess kids today have never heard of a “disco nap”?

  43. We didn’t have a name for it, but yes, it was a disco nap.

  44. IMHO, an idea school schedule starts with lunch, and ends at 5PM.

    -jcr

  45. >>schools are slaves to the bus schedule, one of the most abhorrent devices of torture a society ever invented.

    yep, that’s right.

    >>our daily calendar is based around the fact that once upon a time most of us needed to wake up really early to go tend to the cows or whatever the hell it was we did. It wasn’t natural then to wake up when it’s still pitch black outside, and it isn’t natural now,

    that’s right too.

    In middle and high school, I was exhausted in first period and starving by second. I ate a real breakfast every morning, but it was very early because I had to be able to make the bus. By the time second period came around, it had been over 3 hours since breakfast, and my adolescent metabolism burned up breakfast in about 1.5 hours.

    After lunch, especially during those hot southern springs, I went into food coma. So it was probably 4th period before I was able to stay awake and concentrate on anything.

    And I am to this day a night owl. Y’all morning people have it made in this society.

  46. Pay attention, Aresen. We’re talking about public high schools here. ‘One size fits all’ is the guiding principle.

    T

    Granted. But I can dream about common sense, can’t I?

    Gets whacked on the side of the head with an eraser. Teacher shouts out “Quit daydreaming, Aresen.”

  47. Wait, I thought all the kids were tweaking due to the meth pandemic.

  48. So I guess kids today have never heard of a “disco nap”?

    Yeah, I’ve simply called it a “Power Nap,” just like I call disco “annoying and dead.”

  49. But I can dream about common sense, can’t I?

    Damn crazy libertarians with their silly ideas. Common sense? Pfui! We’ll have none of that here! Education has no use for such things. Only until you have had all common sense beaten out of you by a doctoral program in education can you understand how the schools should work.

    And if you were daydreaming about common sense in high school, I don’t know what to tell you.

  50. crimethink, in case you’re still reading, here you go.

    Lots more here and here.

  51. Also, nothing beats having chalk thrown at you after its been used as a q-tip.

    Good ol’ Whitey Powers from 5th grade.

  52. it’s

    Hm. 10:15 am and my brain still hasn’t loaded the spell-checker. Apologies.

  53. Soon, prescriptions for Modafinil will be as common among schoolkids as prescriptions for Ritalin. These suggestions about adjusting school hours will not be tolerated!

  54. I’m 22 and feel really guilty about waking up after 10:00. As hard as I try, I can’t get to bed before 3:00 or wake up before 11:00

    I’m 40, and I have a similar problem. Maybe I’m just stubborn and lazy, but check this out: delayed sleep phase syndrome.

    Soon, prescriptions for Modafinil will be as common among schoolkids as prescriptions for Ritalin.

    Modafinil is incredible. No jitters, fatigue just goes away. Unfortunately, it’s a schedule IV controlled substance in the U.S. So, a prescription is probably a good idea.

  55. My high school had an optional “early” class that started at 7:40. Regular school started at 8:30. Since I was a morning person even as a kid, this was fabulous for me. 1 extra class allowed me to meet the required classes for graduation and still take 4 years of latin and the two period block of theater that I wanted for ME.

    Wow, a public school giving kids options (North Atlanta High School). I wonder how long that’ll stay around.

    Oh, and I don’t buy that teenagers are late to bed, late to risers naturally. What kid wouldn’t rather use all their energy later in the day after school rather than in it? I mean, other than those of us from farming stock who would get up naturally at 5:30 am during the summer because that’s when the sun comes up.

  56. Oh, and in response to Vanessa’s comment on teenage metabolism making the big breaks between breakfast and lunch in the school day: I think I’m a capitalist in part because of the kids who’d buy bulk snacks and sell them in class at a rate that made them money and undercut the vending machines – profiting them and those of us who bought from them. Naturally the school, with it’s precious vending machine money at stake, forbid it on the grounds it disrupted class. That no one was ever caught disputes that. Markets in rule breaking.

  57. “Local” went out the window with Raich v. Ashcroft. Take five minutes to link high school start times to interstate commerce in whatever ludicrous way you want and presto, national issue.

  58. Gonzales v. Raich. Forgot about the appeal and AG switch. Losin’ it.

  59. The problem is delayed phase sleep syndrome and it’s easily treatable by blue blocking glasses (lowbluelights.com) or darkness (photoperiodeffect.com)

    It’s serious, but further aggravating our clock problems is a bad idea.

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