Wanted: A High School That Starts Classes at a Reasonable Hour

The educational establishment is so brain-dead the most basic ideas rarely get a hearing.


Screen cap from To Sir, With Love

Via the Facebook page of Kendra Okonski comes a link to the 10-millionth study showing that adolescents need more sleep than regular humans, and that they are given to slow starts in the morning. One of the obvious implications of this is that kids would benefit if high school started later in the morning than it does for 99 percent of students. My own sophomore son gets up around 6:10 in order to show up at a school that gets things rolling at around 7:15 A.M.

In a new set of guidelines, the American Society of Sleep Medicine recommends that kids between the ages of 13 and 18 get eight to 10 hours of sleep a night. Which nobody does, thus compounding the hormone-challenged years with sleep deprivation. Hilarity—and crying jags, fights, depression, bad performance, etc.—ensues.

"Early school start times make it difficult for adolescents to get sufficient sleep on school nights, and chronic sleep loss among teens is associated with a host of problems, including poor school performance, increased depressive symptoms, and motor vehicle accidents," guideline author and former AASM president Dr. Nathaniel Watson said in a news release from the group.

"Starting school at 8:30 a.m. or later gives teens a better opportunity to get the sufficient sleep they need to learn and function at their highest level," he said.

More here.

For me, one of the surest signs of a state-enforced monopoly is that most schools, whether public or private, look the same and act the same. About 90 percent of K-12 students go to public schools and while charters, home schooling, and other forms of more personalized and individualized education are gaining steam and changing the status quo, the simple fact is that most kids go to schools that are not all that different than the ones I went to as a kid in the 1970s, or that my parents went to when they were growing up in the goddamned 1930s! School starts in late August or early September and lets out in late May or early June, with requisite vacations that don't take into account parental schedules or the well-observed loss of learning that takes place every summer. And schools start ridiculously early in the mornings and then let out in the mid-afternoon, for reasons that make no sense at all. Don't buy into the myth that we're prisoners of a agricultural-economy schedule, by the way. Even if that were true (and it ain't), those days have long since passed and even farmers these days don't work by an ag calendar.

I know there are schools out there that have adjusted their schedules to better edumicate teenagers. It really shouldn't be so rare, though, and I can't imagine it would be if school choice were more robust than it is. The Libertarian Moment—increasing comfort with choice and personalization that is abetted through technological and cultural innovation—has remade and improved every aspect of our commercial, professional, and personal lives. We can produce and consume all sorts of cultural expression on schedules of our choosing, we can work from home or an office, we can live with whomever we want and eat an ever-increasing array of food. And yet when it comes to legally mandated school, our kids are still getting up in the dark at a time when they are not just battling darkness but biology. That should change, and yesterday.

Related video: Libertarian Bob Luddy isn't waiting for the public system to change. He's building a chain of low-cost, private schools right now.

NEXT: DOJ Investigation of Police Killing of Jordan Edwards Something to Watch

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  1. Lots of kids want to stay up late and get up late. Start school later, they’ll stay up later.

    1. Not sure that’s true. We’re programmed by nature to sleep at night. Most people can only push it so far before they actually get tired enough to want to go to sleep.

  2. From the discussions in the St. Paul (Minnesota) school district on this issue, the two main reasons for keeping the early high school start times are: (1) allowing more time in the afternoon for extra-curricular activities (athletics); and (2) not forcing the elementary-age school kids to start their school day at zero-dark thirty because the district doesn’t have enough school buses to transport everybody at the same time, so each set of grade levels needs a different starting time. I suspect reason (drink!) no. 1 is more applicable as high school sports offer some form of revenue generation.

  3. Via the Facebook page of Kendra Okonski comes a link to the 10-millionth study showing that adolescents need more sleep than regular humans, and that they are given to slow starts in the morning.

    Did start times change to 4 am or something in the last . . . few years since I left high school?


    a) go to bed earlier.

    b) a 7 am start time is not early, even for adolescents, if you went to bed earlier. Hit the rack at 10PM and you’ve got a whole 8 hours of sleep if you get up at 6.

    Plus, its not like the vast majority of students have a very challenging 1st period – unless they’re complete muppets, anyone with half a brain took something disposable for homeroom *specifically so it wouldn’t matter if they came in late*.

    In a new set of guidelines, the American Society of Sleep Medicine recommends that kids between the ages of 13 and 18 get eight to 10 hours of sleep a night.

    Yeah, I’ma going to go ahead and say that this is a quango and there’s about a 99.99999999999999999999% chance the numbers were pulled out of their arse with the flimsiest of non-peer-reviewed studies showing a not-statistically-significant *correlation* between length of sleep and academic performance as justification. And that 10 years ago they said it was 8 hours but its been bumped up because no one was paying attention to them then either.

    1. We really don’t need to change start hours – not that there’s no reason *not* to change them. But if I was a teacher (and, really, who thinks school has anything to do with the students) I’d prefer the early start so I could get out of their at 2 PM after my grueling 7 hour workday. Beat the traffic going into work, beat it coming out, plenty of time to get some errands done and get home before everyone else gets off work.

    2. As a kid, I functioned better with 10-12 hours of sleep.

      I also functioned on better on sugar until the crash came.

      1. I always functioned better with large amounts of sex, drugs and rock, but that’s just me

    3. You’re assuming a kid is actually able to fall asleep at 10PM, which is often not the case and that’s a big part of the issue. If your body wants you to sleep from, say midnight to 8AM, it’s going to be hard to fall asleep at 10PM. This isn’t just another way of pampering kids. It’s about altering an arbitrary schedule to better align with biology/nature.

      1. That’s the way I was in high school. I literally could not fall asleep before 10:30pm and I was constantly fatigued in high school.

  4. School schedules are based on simultaneous equations designed to maximize bus utilization to assure social engineering; the students exist merely to go on the buses and identify as the correct race to get more federal bus funds. Learning is irrelevant, as long as they figure out to vote for democrats by the time they register to vote, all is well. Oh, and eat all the crap Me-shell says they should.

  5. We should take it easy on those teens. They’ve had a hard life.

    1. If the kids learn better because schools starts at 10 am, then why force them to start earlier?

      I have always thought earlier start times for school was based on parents work start times synching with school, since many schools were technically baby-sitters. Another reason might have been prepping kids for the workforce and letting them sleep in would be inconsistent with employment start times.

  6. Loudoun county schools do a pretty good job w this. Elementary starts around 8:00, middle 8:30 & HS 9:00. We put 4 kids, k-12 through there and it really did match there natural sleep patterns.

  7. this comes up in Ontario on occasion. I recall part of the later start is adolescents also stay up later for biologically related reasons.

    opposition is 3 pronged:

    later start times screws up parents day/bus sched

    fuckem they must learn to punch a clock

    fuckem they are lazy/back in my day

  8. I got up at 7 started school at 8 and turned out just fine. We need to stop pampering children and assure that they are exposed to “challenges” early in life to adapt to the adult world which will “screw” with them every single day. If as you say children need at least 8 hours each night then put them to bed earlier. Kids are more responsible then we give them credit .

    1. should make them force march to school with whip wielding overseers!!!

      1. Sorry, that would require them to be out of mommy’s sight, leaving mommy open to charges of neglect. She has to be able to see them “safely” on the bus.
        Besides, not all schools are 5 miles away, uphill, and in the snow.

      2. Love it.

    2. Just because you’ve been “put to bed” doesn’t mean you can actually sleep. And since when does changing an arbitrary schedule to some other arbitrary schedule count as pampering?

  9. The Libertarian Moment

    A “moment” is something that doesn’t last very long. Hasn’t this alleged moment been going on for years now? Because if “You can buy a wide variety of products on Amazon” equals “Libertarian Moment”, it could last a very long time!

  10. Schools exist to provide income and benefits to the educators and administrators.

    Any education received by the students is incidental and is of no concern to the two aforementioned groups.

    Unless start times are tied to how much teachers and staff get paid, nothing will change.

  11. Kids are gonna do what they do. Sometimes just to be contrarian. My 17 year old doesn’t start until 8:30. She gets up at 5:30 a few times a week to drive to the rink and figure skate when ice time is cheap.

    At that age I would have slept until 8:10.

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