From My Side of the Desk:
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Last Friday I almost gave myself a concussion. No, I wasn’t roller skating, climbing trees or, knowing my clumsiness, merely strolling up the street with my 180-pound Newfoundland, Tommy. This minor medical condition was a result of a head-slapping “No Duh!” moment after reading the drop head: “Proponents say officials should consider academic, health benefits in decision” under the headline, “School Board to study later high school start times” in the Fairfax County Times (April 20-22, 2012). Should consider these factors? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Nothing, nothing is more important than students’ academic, physical, mental and emotional health.
Yes, the costs of making such a change are crucial. So are such considerations for the youngest students as: Waiting at bus pick-ups in the dark and after school care. A solution regarding a proposed very late end time for middle school students that's amenable to all concerned must be found, too. As for athletic practices, although these are important, they should not attain top billing. That’s for academics-the reason schools exist in the first place. Football, baseball, basketball, tennis, swimming and diving, gymnastics, track, lacrosse, golf, etc. wouldn’t even be a consideration if institutions for reading, writing and arithmetic didn’t exist. And as a veteran teacher, let me reiterate the views of my colleagues in the classroom trenches: First period kids do try to sleep creating the need for repeated breaks from lessons to keep them from drowning in their puddles of drool. Valuable teaching time is lost every day due to tardiness, zombie-like teenage behavior and the lack of students’ ability to concentrate.
Another major concern that affects adolescents’ well-being is the latchkey time between the last school bell and the moment mom or dad open the garage door. According to www.afterschoolallstars.org, kids are three times more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors during these unsupervised hours, no matter how strongly parents have instilled house rules and expectations in their children. According to this site, these are the hours when juvenile as well as violent victim crimes rise. So does experimentation with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and sex. To borrow the format from the Direct TV commercials: “When your children get bored, they come down with the stupids. When they come down with the stupids they risk making harmful decisions. When they make harmful decisions they jeopardize their futures. Don’t let your children jeopardize their futures. Switch to later end of school times for teenagers.” We adults might enjoy a chuckle or two when we trip down the Memory Lane of our high school days, but we can rest assured that our parents sure weren’t laughing at our antics. Today’s moms and dads aren’t laughing, either.
Although that last paragraph reads like a conclusion for the reasons that middle and high schools should start at a later time, it does not end my frustration with the lack of common sense in some School Board members’ thoughts in this article. One member asked for more time to discuss the issue with the public before setting the later start time issue as a goal. Does this person mean that the last TEN YEARS haven’t offered enough time and evidence, either pro or con, to make a decision? Not one of the concerns that I recapped in the above paragraphs is new to anyone who has followed this debate or who has had to deal with teenagers during the before and after school hours.
Think about this: A decade ago, the children comprising the Class of 2012 were second graders. In that length of time they have gone from adding and subtracting to Advanced Calculus; they have mastered early readers and moved on to comprehending writings from Aristotle to Kafka to Zuzak. They have survived puberty and turned their backs on their Big Wheels for Real Wheels and drivers’ licenses. They have morphed from playing with Barbie and Ken to emulating Barbie and Ken.
How much time is needed to make a decision? Statistics show that teachers make an academic or behavioral decision every three seconds. Students aren’t allotted ten years to understand Quantum Physics, to get Algebra, to understand and explain Shakespearean subtexts or to analyze the causes and effects of World War II.
Speaking of World War II, the United States’ involvement, from the first deployment to the final shot, was three years and nine months. Alan Shepard soared into space on May 5, 1961. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon on July 20, 1969- allowing eight years and two and a half months for NASA to research, engineer and devise what it would take to reach this lofty goal. Our Presidents and their administrations have four years to make critical national and international decisions that have global effects; eight if they are re-elected. Medical personnel deal with seconds to make a life-saving choice.
Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin on September 28, 1928 after searching for anti-bacterial agents since the end of World War I. Okay, his research covered ten years, the same time various county School Board members have studied the later start times issue, but Fleming’s discovery is considered one of, if not THE most important discovery in the 20th Century. Although a later start time (Should we or shouldn’t we?) is of major importance to county residents, it does not meet the caliber of penicillin.
Sir Fleming had the will and commitment to stay the course until he came up with “the most efficacious life-saving drug in the world,” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Fleming). After reading and rereading the Fairfax County Times article, I must admit that I worry about the determination and dedication some School Board members are giving the start time issue. In the story, one member was quoted as saying, “This is something that can be done. We just have to have the will and commitment to see this through.”
Excuse me while I slap myself in the head again. I’m experiencing another ARE YOU KIDDING? moment. Parents have been fighting for this. Students beg for this. Teachers dream about this. It was even the topic in a Curtis cartoon in today’s (4/24/2012) Washington Post.
How many more months, how many more taxpayer dollars for another study does the School Board need to commit? The time for vacillation is more than over. Please! Just… make… a… DECISION! My brain can’t take any more ARE YOU KIDDING? head shots.
Until next week,