Where our values clash with reality

An article I just read explains that Seattle schools experimented with a later start time for jr and hi school. Results were positive for improved performance for the students starting later. It turned out students went to bed at the same time even though they knew they did not have to get up as early.
This was based on an observation: teenagers natural clock puts them to sleep around 1 a.m. and gets them up around 9, as I recall from an article a long time ago. Schools in Minnesota or Wisconsin had switched to a later start time with similar good results. But that is science and this is America where millions of Americans remember getting up a 4 in the morning to milk the cows….. or was it their parents who did that…….. well, maybe their grandparents or even great grandparents. But we all know that kids in the good old days rose with the dawn and trotted off to school full of high spirits.

But that is not what teachers see first hour. My student is a h.s. senior and his classes start at 7:20 and there are earlier classes (the article did not mention that many ambitious students take “A” or “Z” hours, something starting at a godawful hour and thus have to be at school by 6 or so. Why doesn’t Farmer John drop by a school early one morning to see the kids who are already in class at 6:40). He is autistic, so he hits the bed early and sleeps. The typical kid is not sleepy then.

The article does point out an important part of this: that the Socratic seminars and other thinking classes demand a level of mental energy missing early in the morning in most teenager. My own schedule, now that I am retired, is early morning for mental activities and the afternoon for exercise and chores and the evening for slowing down. I’m ready for bed by 10 and 6 or 7 is a good wakeup time for me. Kids are different.

Notice that the two places I’ve mentioned are known for their progressivism: the upper mid-west, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and the northwest, Washington. I can just hear the snort and see the sneer among the population in….. oh, let’s pick a state……. Kansas, Arkansas (b/c they rhyme). “Mollycoddling!” they’ll cry. Most teachers will prefer the earlier schedule b/c they can get off around 3 and get stuff done. Lots of stake holders here: school personnel, parents, law enforcement…… ah, wait. Law enforcement likes the later release b/c it gives kids less time to get into trouble. And what about the center of all this, the kids? Has anyone polled them?

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