Bill Kirk’s article in a recent issue of The Eagle-Tribune cites the latest controversy that Superintendent Berman and School Committee Chair Scully have ignited with their push to delay the start time for when school begins for the middle schools and the high school at the expense of having the town’s youngest children walk to school in the dark.
Parents of young children in our town are outraged, as they should be, because this is one more example of the educational-industrial complex pushing for a change that may benefit a few at the expense of the many. These are the same folks who, over several generations, have pushed, first, the “New Math” followed the last few years by the “New New Math” — all of which fail in educating kids to be as proficient in mathematics compared to when kids were taught mathematics by “Old Math.” I have taught mathematics at the university level and cannot understand the way in which my elementary-age grandkids are being taught to do basic problems in arithmetic and problem solving, so I am not surprised when they cannot understand what’s going on, either.
But returning to what this school start time “flip,” a fiasco in the making, will mean, Matt Bach, president of the local teachers union, is completely on target when he says there are far more important problems to address in educating children than wasting time and money on this proposed “flip.” I’ll toss out one indisputable need that the money to be spent to fund this schedule “flip” would be much better spent on: funding full-day kindergarten for all kindergarten-age children in town. To spend money to “flip” start times around while leaving full-day kindergarten unfunded would be a total failure of the School Committee to have their priorities screwed on properly.
When my generation was in high school and television was a major source of wasted time for my generation as cellphones and social media have become for today’s high-schoolers, delaying start time for us by an hour or so, as is being proposed here, would have meant one thing: We’d just be able to stay up an hour or so more to watch another hour of TV and be just as sleep-deprived as we had been under an earlier start-time schedule. Delaying start time for high-schoolers now will merely result in the the same effect. Just as water always seeks the lowest level, high school-age kids will just stay up that much longer, hanging out with whatever on their cell phones and Internet tablets, feeling OK in doing so, because school starts later.
Common sense ought to prevail on this, but I have my doubts if Superintendent Berman continues to promote this scheme. If parents want high-schoolers to be less sleep deprived, do the social media equivalent of what most of my generation's parents did: Unplug the kids from their cell phones and social media at a sane time. It will work, and the elementary-age kids in town won’t be figuratively thrown under the bus as the sacrificial lambs for this hair-brained scheme.