Thursday, September 21, 2006

Most important post of the schoolyear

Don't think school boards and teachers have kids well being as #1. No, their priorities are:

1-Their job.
2-Teacher's unions.
3-Their vacations.
4-Spending money on cute projects.
5-Maybe the kids.
Waking teens from their deep REM sleep before 7 a.m.--which during late fall and winter is well before the rooster crows--is much like approaching a lion gnawing on an antelope carcass. All the niceties that we've tried to instill in our children for the past 15 years about honoring thy mother and father go flying out the window in these wee hours of the morning. Breakfasts from now until June will be as somber as the death row inmate's last meal. We shovel frosted flakes down their throats so that the temporary sugar fix arouses them out of their comatose state long enough to get them out the front door.

When I queried my kids and their friends recently about how they survive on seven hours of sleep a day, they confess that the strategy is to catch up on a few z's during first and second periods at school. That would be fine if the first subjects were classes like social studies, which indoctrinate them with anti-American ideals anyway. But get this: The educrats who run the Fairfax County schools front-load the vital subjects like math and English at the start of the day because they actually believe "that's when the kids are most alert."

It's astonishing that a community like Fairfax, which prides itself on the quality of its public schools, retains a 7:20 a.m. start time despite the detriment to the health and scholastic achievement of our kids. Parents with teens are in open revolt to the idiocy of the policy and have even started a Web site,, to fix it.
Meanwhile, research overwhelmingly confirms that lack of sleep in adolescents has become a horrendous health problem in America. The National Sleep Foundation finds that teens now average between 6.5 and seven hours of uninterrupted sleep on a weeknight and only one in five gets the recommended nine hours. Of course computer games, chat rooms, sports schedules and the like have a lot to do with the late nights.

But so do their biological clocks. Studies show that spurting growth hormones in teens alter their circadian rhythm and naturally turn them into night owls, physiologically uninterested in 9:30 p.m. bedtimes and fiercely opposed to 6:15 a.m. wake-up calls. (This fact suggests that I myself am still in late puberty.)

So here is the inevitable ritual: Kids trudge through the week on insufficient sleep, barely limp to the finish line on Fridays, use the weekends to pay off the week's sleep debt by snoozing until noon and then try to readjust their body clocks on Monday morning. Prof. Jim Moss, a sleep expert at Cornell, says: "It's as if at the start of every week our kids have West Coast to East Coast jet lag." He finds that in the early morning classroom "the overwhelming drive to sleep can replace any chance of alertness, cognition, memory or understanding."
I remember driving past kids in Mayport, FL waiting for the bus WELL before 7am. Poor kids. Yep, mine are in private school. They get out of bed around 0730. Worth every penny.

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