Yesterday, someone recommended an article in the Bearden Shopper-News to me. It was described as an intelligently thought out explanation based on existing research. So, I read the front page article, “Thinking outside the AJ.” The article was accurately described as intelligent UNTIL the author decided to complain that high school “has BECOME a cultural entitlement” because of things like the prom. Seriously? Don’t you think that high school students have had Friday night football games and a yearly prom for more than a few decades now? Have you missed that one of the points of after school activities is creating a sense of community and school pride? Don’t you recognize the benefits of high school students participating in organized school sports and activities? Many high school students work very hard on their classes and a little bit of fluff to break the monotony is not entitlement.
As for the rest of your article, while I agree that school is about learning, I want to see the existing school hours spent as wisely as possible. That does not necessarily equate to more hours in a classroom. We are still talking about children. Eliminating home and parents from a child’s waking hours is a suggestion that should not even be entertained. The arguments against later start times are just as important as the “teens need to sleep in” study. Having Knox County high schools on two different schedules would make it impossible for students at one school to take classes or be on teams with students at another school. The dual-enrollment college classes would have to choose one of the two schedules, leaving out a large group of potential dual-enrollment students. Students who already stay at school until 9 pm several nights a week would be out until 10 pm on school nights. Teachers who volunteer to sponsor after school clubs would be far less likely to do so when it would mean not having dinner with their own families. Moving clubs and activities to before school negates the entire “sleeping in” benefit that you are touting. Local businesses would hire the students from schools on the earlier schedule and students on the later schedule would be less able to find part-time jobs to save for college expenses.
Lastly, let’s talk about your idea that education “won’t ever happen” as long as we are not “thinking outside the AJ.” Without the people in the Andrew Jackson building, there would be NO public education system. We have to think and do WITH the people in the AJ. People from area universities, businesses and agencies that serve children and families were in the AJ this week to collaborate on solutions. Solutions that don’t ask underpaid teachers to work longer hours. Solutions that recognize that learning isn’t just sitting at a desk. Solutions that don’t ask schools to be parents. Solutions that don’t blame football games and prom.