Let The Students Sleep

Shift the school day later.

 

Eight for work, eight for rest, eight for what we will. That’s the slogan that best represents the fight for a reasonable work-life balance, the one that led to the 40-hour work week. The venerable nine-to-five.

In my life I’ve seen the gradual erosion of the nine-to-five. I’ve seen commutes as long as two or even three hours each way. I’ve seen people working seventy or even eighty-hour work weeks, which where I come from (Canada) is literally not even legal. And I sure as hell haven’t seen wages go up to account for it.

But what I want to talk about for a moment is more than the labour movement. It’s about kids and the nine-to-five. And about how we aren’t even giving them that.

My local high school starts at 7:30am. It ends at 2:25pm.

Why?

This absolutely isn’t a post about teachers not working enough, by the way. If school starts at 7:30 and goes until 2:30, you know damn well they’re there from seven to five, doing coaching and club mentoring and music and theater, not to mention the lesson planning and the grading they take home with them every night. That’s its own injustice.

But what I fail to understand is why any school should start classes at 7:30 in the morning.

I can hear you saying right now that it’s to let parents drop their kids off and then get to work. Bull. If they were concerned about that, they wouldn’t close up shop until well after 6:30, if an hour and a half is the buffer you want to give working parents around the nine-to-five. It’s not out of consideration for parents, I promise.

Literally the only thing I can find in my scouring of the internet is vague references to agricultural life, cheaper busing, and an ingrained idea that if students are tired it’s because they’re morally lacking.

But year after year we get study after study demonstrating that school start times should be later.

It improves sleep time, which improves overall health.

It decreases lateness and improves attendance.

It improves student behaviour, which honestly makes everybody’s lives easier.

There are Many Many Studies On This.

Hell, even the CDC agrees.

So why are we doing this?

Recently, Boston had a fight over school start times, and the discussion was telling: everyone seems to favour starting school between 7:45 and 8:45, and according to the city, the buses would be too expensive if they did that for everyone, so some schools are starting as early as 7:15am. They were trying to follow the studies, they say, that show that teens need later start times. So they pushed younger kids earlier.

And apparently nobody thought of just pushing the whole schedule later.

I say: what about 9:30am for high school? What about 10am? Instead of keeping the vaunted “7:45-8:45” window for high school students and pushing the younger kids earlier, why not just push everything later? It’s not like the teachers are going to work any more or less (unfortunately—sorry teachers): they’ll just have to do their class prep, grading, and so on before rather than after the day.

One school in Australia tried 10:45am, though they admit they did have to scale it back to 10am to squeeze everything in by 4:30pm. It seemed to go over rather well, especially with the grounds opening at 9am.

And I know it’d throw a kink in the American cult of teenager sports. A day that ends at 3:30pm or 4:30pm means pushing sports into the evening. But maybe sports aren’t a good reason to hurt student attendance, health, and even completion rates.

Look, I get it. School is very important. It’s the foundation for the well-educated society we need to ensure our collective prosperity as a society. But it isn’t an emergency. It shouldn’t require students to be dragged out of their beds before the sun comes up just so they can meet an unreasonable and punitive schedule that objectively hurts learning outcomes and student health.

Let the students sleep. Shift the school day later.

Signed: The Remixologist

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The Featured Image is a woodblock print from the early days of the labour movement reading “8 Hours for Work, 8 Hours for Rest, 8 Hours for What We Will.”

I Don’t Know How To Convince You That GMOs Are Good

What would it actually take to prove to you that you’re wrong, that genetic modification is no more dangerous or harmful than any other kind of human agriculture?

On the heels of yet another study demonstrating that GMOs aren’t harmful and are in fact Very Good Things, I feel as though I need, once again, to address the 1-in-5 Americans that think the risks of eating GM foods are “high.”

What would it take? I’m asking you.

What would it actually take to prove to you that you’re wrong, that genetic modification is no more dangerous or harmful than any other kind of human agriculture? To prove to you that it is uniformly better in most cases? I can’t think of all the things I’ve tried to say.

They’re better for the environment. They increase the food supply using less land and often less water than traditional (and organic!) crops.

They use fewer and less harmful pesiticides than traditional (and “organic!”) agriculture.  Roundup (i.e. glyphosate) is safer and a better alternative to the other necessary pesticides.

They’re safer for humans because we know exactly what genes are changing, unlike the results of selective breeding which captures tens of thousands of unnecessary (and unstudied!) genetic changes. Unlike shooting your oranges with ionizing radiation so they won’t have seeds next time.

They’re healthier for humans. There’s rice that introduces vitamin A into the diets of malnourished children. There’s corn that contains less mycotoxin because it’s healthier. There’s potatoes that produce less cancer-causing agents when fried.

They’re not bad for farmers. Thy aren’t the only crops that are patented. The story about farmers being sued for seeds blowing into neighbouring fields is a complete fabrication. Nobody in India is comitting suicide over GMOs. Most farmers buy new seeds each year from other farmers who specifically grow seeds because it’s more efficient than trying to grow your own, so nobody even cares if they don’t grow well the next year from seed because that’s not what modern farmers even do.

They save taxpayers money. When farmers make more money—and they do with GMOs, because they can get the same or bigger yields with less investment of time and money in combating problems—they need fewer subsidies.

THERE IS NO FISHMATO. There was an attempt to make tomatoes frost-resistant that failed and it never went to market. There are zero GM tomatoes on the market and the only one there ever was failed commercially because of economics, not safety.

There is literally no argument against GMOs that holds even the tiniest bit of water, and all it takes to learn this is the tiniest bit of Google-fu and the ability to give just the most microscopic bit of credit to the group of people who’s only job is to study these things for a living—you remember them, right? Scientists?

And that’s really the problem, isn’t it?

You’ve lost the ability to trust in expertise.

You’d rather have your conspiracy theories about “Big Agro” and “Monsanto Shills” than a healthy stable food supply―so long as you get yours, that is.

Well right now there are Seven Point Six Billion Human Beings on this one exceptionally-taxed planet and that number’s not shrinking anytime soon. And we’re already using all the land we can. So you’d better suck it up and start trusting in science and scientists again soon otherwise the next time there’s a famine somewhere you’ll either A) be partly to blame, because your fear of expertise—that’s what that is, by the way, you’re afraid of people who know more about something than you, long and short of it—is doing things like leading your elected representatives to Ban GMOs in Europe For No Good Reason or B) be one of the starving multitudes yourself.

I don’t know how to convince you that GMOs are good, because I don’t know how to convince you to trust in expertise again.

But I sure as hell hope you suck it up and figure it out yourself, because we’ll all be in a heap of trouble if you don’t.

Signed: The Remixologist

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Photo source: David Kessler, CC BY-SA 2.0