The Difficulty in Seeing Clearly

It’s time I admit it. I’m dying. To be fair, we’re all dying. I’m just having to come to grips with it on an accelerated schedule. No, I didn’t receive a diagnosis or finally face a gaunt reflection in my bathroom mirror. I just had to buy my first pair of ‘cheater glasses’.

I look devastatingly handsome in them. At least that’s what my wife says in her mind when she laughs aloud at me while I wear them. I don’t mind the mockery because I can actually see better with them. Reading’s pleasurable again and screen time’s less of a chore.

I imagine something similar will happen with education, particularly with the starting times of high school. Someone, be it a superintendent or a school board member, will engage the data and finally decide that school starts too early for teens. After all, the medical field has ruled conclusively that early starts to the school day inhibit learning in adolescents. Anyone with a brain or agenda can google it and with or without glasses, get results that read “sleep deprivation, depression, weight gain, irritability, lack of focus, and lower test scores.”

Better yet, visit an 8:00am World Civilization class, unannounced. Bringing a cattle prod and a bikini model might liven things up a bit, but so would coffee and a mid-morning nap.

This is not hyperbole. It’s the truth. Teens are not at their best when it’s early. Changing their starting time opens the possibility to less discipline problems, more engaged students, and better test results. Unfortunately, these possibilities don’t seem to be enough to change the status quo.

My school district starts high school at 7:40 am. Some of its students get on the busses at least an hour earlier. I cringe just thinking about what time these kids get up in order to eat breakfast and make it to the bus stop on time. 6:00 am? 5:45 am? What parent alive can get their 16-year-old to bed by 8:30 pm, thus ensuring the doctor-recommended nine-plus hours of sleep needed for adolescent brain and body growth?

I’m told that the starting times are what they are because of logistics. Quite simply, there are not enough busses to ship both high schoolers and elementary kids to school if they started at the same time.

Then buy more busses! Perhaps it’s my glasses talking, but it seems clear to me that the early starting times aren’t what’s best for those teens. It’s what’s most convenient for adults. If that’s not a clear enough solution to the problem, get rid of busses altogether. Push back the start of the school day and have kids walk to the schools closest to their homes.

Though, I don’t need my glasses to see the problems that would bring. Ensuring a quality education at every school, regardless of the neighborhood, requires too many sleep-deprived nights and groggy mornings for those adults in charge of providing it.