Let's begin with a fun parable:
A precocious little boy named Sylvester has just been tucked in for the night. His mother returns to the living room to finish watching "American's Got Issues." Suddenly, Sylvester calls out to her.
"Mom, is there asbestos in my bedroom walls?"
"Why yes there is, honey. Why do you ask?"
"Don't asbestos fibers cause lung scarring that can lead to all sorts of problems such as pulmonary fibrosis when I grow up?"
"Yes it does, sweetie! They are teaching you something at school! Of course, it can also cause interstitial pneumonitis."
"I know. So why aren't we having it taken out?"
"Don't be silly, Sylvester! That's not in our budget. Your SAT and ACT tutors aren't free, you know. We want you to do well on those! And don't forget Muffy, the $2500 mutt Daddy just bought."
Now for a little quiz on the above drama: "In a well-developed essay, demonstrate how Sylvester's mom differs from our public-school policy makers."
Acceptable correct answer: She's honest (sorry if any of you actually wrote a well-developed essay). She doesn't pretend that "it's all about the kids." She doesn't say, "We care about your kids' health." She simply explains the family's priorities to Sylvester.
Here is an example of our skewed priorities: We know that beginning high-school classes at 7:20 a.m. causes all sorts of health problems for teens, but we do it anyway, and we still claim to care about the kids.
Because of their biological clocks, their circadian cycles, teens should be in bed for another hour so. Then they need time to rejoin their souls to their bodies and to take in some form of nutrition, maybe even shower.
|My students pretending to be asleep back in '02. I'm pretty sure they were pretending.|
In the long term, sleep loss may lead to "obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease" and even early death.
Allowing students to go to sleep and wake up at their natural times, on the other hand, has been shown to improve behavior, learning, and even higher scores on those God forsaken exams we fetishize. Changing school starting times is one step that "does not require new teaching methods, new testing or large additional expenditure."
In my experience, when these problems are presented to school administrators, up and down the chain of command, they counter with budgetary concerns, after-school jobs, athletic events, and logistical problems for families with kids in elementary, junior high and high school.
So? Fix it! You're administrators! What the freak do you think we're paying you for!
And you, hypocrite reader!* Elect people who can identify misplaced funds, who refuse to be buck-passers, who know how to make a case for investing in the mental and physical well being of the next generation.
How hard that can be? The candidates wouldn't even have to exaggerate for a change. Who could possibly vote against our children's health?
*Editor's note: And writer.