12 March 2018
The Problem is Sunrise, NOT Sunset!
Let’s face it, daylight saving or summer time (Europe) is popular. Everyone seems to enjoy the extra evening daylight, but the change back and forth twice a year is indeed a pain, so I have a proposal for fixing this. It will work well in the Eastern U.S. and for much of the country if we do it right.
The objections to staying on summer time year-round are mainly that kids will be going to school in the dark if we do not set the clocks back an hour in the fall and I agree. School kids waiting for a bus or walking to school in the dark is not a good idea, but we can fix this and more importantly, we should. We fix it by giving the kids more sleep and starting school later.
There seems to be a growing body of evidence that early school starts are causing learning issues and health issues among school students from kindergarten to high school. There’s also evidence that early school starts are a factor in the growing obesity problem in children and may be a factor in depression. How bad is it? There are only two states where the school start time is after 8:20 AM!
Leaving our clocks on summer time year round cannot be done if we don’t delay school start times, but the science is screaming at us that we NEED to delay school start times.
So, what happens if we start school at 8:50 am at the earliest? Will school kids be waiting in the dark for the bus? Not in the Eastern U.S. Let’s look at Boston, DC, and Atlanta during the darkest mornings of the year (in early January). Atlanta would see a sunrise at 8:43 AM. Washington would be 8:26 AM and Boston would be at 8:13 AM, while farther west in Pittsburgh, the latest sunrise would be 8:43 AM. Keep in mind, this is the worst case, with even brighter mornings by the end of the month. If we started school at 9:00 AM, then it would be light for students traveling to school. In some districts with longer bus rides, schools could delay the start by 15 mins. for the darkest weeks of the year.
From Washington to Boston, the latest the sun sets in summer is just a little after 8 PM while in Oklahoma late June sunset is after 8:44 PM! The NE corridor could sure use some extra light in the evenings for more of the year! Florida is about to go to daylight time all year and it sure seems like we could do the same in the Northeast U.S. while giving kids some needed extra sleep.
I expect many objections to this based on the reduction in classroom time, and schools could go later in the afternoon, but I think that’s not really needed. The problems with our educational system are numerous but IMHO the biggest problem is cultural. American’s just do not value education as much as other cultures and this attitude unconsciously infects the minds of their children. Ten hour school days will not fix that and if you don’t believe me, read one of the best non-fiction books in the last year, Tom Nichol’s The Death of Expertise. Or, check out my fellow science geeks on Twitter who are labeled elitist when they post science that disagrees with someone’s worldview about climate change, vaccines, or biological evolution etc.