Let me start by sharing my daily schedule. I wake up between 6 and 6:30 a.m. to finish the homework I was too tired to do the night before. That is usually when I have my first cup of coffee.
I get to school at 7:55. I finish school at 4:45 (yes, that is later than most high schools, but the situation still applies). I then head to one of my extracurricular activities that all students pretty much have to do in order to be competitive on college applications.
I get home by 8, have dinner and shower, and start my homework a little after 9. On a good night, I will finish homework by 12, on a bad night it can be closer to 2. I am asleep about an hour after I complete my work and wake up 4 to 5 hours later and start it all over again.
I’ve come to learn that all of the activities that kids are supposed to do are just in the movies. In reality, the persistent grind of daily life does not allow for children to be children; we are worked like animals.
I am not complaining about the workload or even the work itself. I do believe in the value of hard work. There simply are not enough hours in a day to attend almost nine hours of school a day, two hours of extracurricular activities, a few hours of homework, and a decent sleep schedule. The modern school was designed during the industrial age when mind-numbing factory work was valued over innovation -- for its intended purposes, the system works perfectly.
However, the world has changed, and so should our educational institutions. All of us will be well prepared for a 9-5 workday behind a computer or in a factory, but few of us will be prepared for the creativity and vision of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Those who do excel will do so despite the school system, not because of it. Isn’t it time that our schools reflect our values?
Teenagers are the only age group that has this unique problem, and ironically, we are the age group that needs the most sleep. Many adults work incredibly hard, but the standard work day starts later than we start school, ends earlier than we end our day, and adults biologically need less sleep. Younger children also need less sleep than teenagers, and have less school and less work outside of school.
Imagine for a minute every adult in America was required to work 16-hour days. I guarantee legislation would be passed that forbade that immediately. The reason those laws are not passed is because the people who are forced to work the 16-hour days can’t vote.
I spent the last few days at school asking everyone I bumped into the same question: “What is the worst part about school?” Surprisingly, very few said the tests or stress; an overwhelming majority of the students I asked said that the worst part of school is waking up so early every morning.
I believe that making the school day start just two hours later would tackle two problems at once. It would solve the problem that kids don’t want to go to school, as my peers demonstrated. More importantly, it would allow for children to be children again, and allow them the proper time to develop into the kind of adults that can achieve the American Dream. Changing the time something starts won’t fix every problem in our education system, but its an awfully good start.
Zeke Bronfman is a high school student in Manhattan.