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Poor Grades Tied to Class Times That Don’t Match Our Biological Clocks (berkeley.edu)
910 points by dpflan 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 432 comments

I used to have lots of problems getting up early and always championed later times. Growing up through my twenties, it was great seeing finally seeing more and more evidence for a later school start and I was hopeful for future teens.

But it wasn't until my first kid that I finally understood that school doesn't start this early because it's good for the learning experience.

It starts this early so parents can get their kids to school and start working afterwards, without getting fired.

Schools can still help with this by trying to schedule the core academic stuff later in the the day and the less mentally intense stuff like PE earlier in the morning.

My kids' elementary school actually does this. They tell parents "if your child has a doctor's appointment or needs to be out for a portion of the day, schedule it at the beginning or end of the day to make sure they don't miss anything important."

The problem with that is rotating schedules is more economically efficient than loading all the class-types onto one time of the day. This would mean you need more PE teachers in the morning, more math teachers in the mid-day. There's a reason schools have multiple periods of each course, and that those periods rotate day-to-day.

One interesting follow-up study could be to compare night-owls/morning-larks in rotating schedule schools vs schools with fixed schedules. We could then see do night-owls do significantly worse in the classes they only take in the morning, vs night-owls who take classes rotating throughout diff periods of the day?

At the root of it, they define "core" as Math and English with the goal to centralize those two in the middle of the day as much as possible.

Physical Education, Art, Spanish, Music, History, Science, etc are scheduled around those accordingly.

The main reasoning is simply that math and English are the two subjects that build upon each other the most from grade level to grade level and because of that, they are considered the "core".

It's not about which subjects build on each other. These two are the subjects that have mandated federal testing in the US [1]. Low test scores in reading and math have consequences for schools and their leaders, so they get the priority slots.

[1] https://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/every-student-succeeds-act/...

hm, that's very debatable. alot would contend history and science are core but others aren't. I've heard many complain that they never use math in the real world. I think math is core but the problem is its very opinion based. I don't see how other subjects don't build on each other.

If you sleep through European history, you can still learn American history. If you sleep through biology, you can still learn chemistry.

If you sleep through algebra, you can't do calculus, period.

> If you sleep through algebra, you can't do calculus, period.

Despite my best efforts in high school


so true. STEM master race.

that's why anyone can just sit in a history or physics graduate level course and be fine because they don't build on each other.

Organic chemistry would never depend on bio or chem 1.

however, if you sleep through algebra 1, its not used at all in geometry so its fine. And neither are used in discrete math.

such a bubble..

what if i told you most students don't learn anything past algebra anyway?

Physics is applied Maths, of course they build on each other. History and historical knowledge builds on other things, geography most obviously, but primarily on itself. It’s easier to learn and remember history if you already know some. But having studied history it’s quite obvious that at an undergraduate level it builds on itself much, much less than something like Math or Physics. The degree to which upper level courses depend on lower level courses is minimal.

Different fields differ in how much they are built on mental models and how much they’re just a grab bag of connected facts you have to know and learn. Biology has more disconnected you just need to know it stuff than Chemistry.

I think you're reading a lot more into my comment than what's there. I'm not claiming that math classes have a completely linear dependency chain, nor am I saying that no other subjects have classes with meaningful dependencies, and I'm especially not claiming anything about graduate level course work in any subject.

Organic chemistry is not an elementary school course. Science taught in grade school usually has few inter-dependencies because it aims to cover a very broad range of topics at a very basic level. Ditto history.

Math is like going to the gym but for your brain. I consider it the most expensive sport that you can play. to do math You may never need anything you learn in math but I know it changes my problem solving abilities for the better. The more Math I know the more creative I can be when solving problems.

I agree with you 100% that the average person doesn't need math throughout their lives. We need to stress teaching statistics though in schooling (high school especialy) because that is something that manipulates people constantly .

I suspect it depends on the age of the students. In grade school when kids are learning to read and do addition, it's hard to imagine anything more core than that and science/history taught at that age is more about getting kids exposed to those concepts rather than actual learning. But once kids get to secondary school and English transitions to British Lit, American Lit and other variations on "read books and write an essays", the actual class time seems much less important than science classes where high school students actually learn the core tenets of Bio, Chem and Physics.

This policy is at an elementary school, but it’s probably a good assumption that a similar policy could adjust in high school for exactly that reason.

the importance of the ability to calculate and communicate are debatable only by people in total denial about how pervasive both are in our society. should those people really have any say in the curriculum of our children's future?

hm, that isn't what i said. You were ranking them relative to eachother and i said people might disagree on the relative rankings. I said that "people may disagree that math and english are more important than history and science". You responded as if i said "Math and english aren't important". Those are two completely different arguments.

Are the people who never use math high earners? If not, then their complaint actually supports the importance of math.

yeah. they start and run successful small businesses across the country. making millions of dollars. Outside of engineering and accounting, very few professions need math.

just because someone doesn't use math in the real world doesn't mean that it wouldn't benefit them to.

The actual problem began when humans invented candles and lightbulbs and started staying up past 8pm, and going to bed at inconsistent hours, therefore waking up tired the next mornings.

Our optimal sleeping time is based on the rotation of earth around the sun. We have removed our brain's natural sleep trigger (lack of light) so our sleep habits have been getting out of whack for the last couple of hundred years.

What is really interesting is that human's natural sleep cycle is not to sleep continuously for 8 hours. Our natural sleep cycle is to go to bed when it gets dark and then to wake up for a few hours in the middle of the night and get up and do things (apparently this is also the time when most sex happened since other family members in the same room were still asleep) and then go back to sleep and get back up at dawn.

Does this mean the natural sleep cycle time is a lot less in summer than it is in winter?

Why would other family members had been asleep? Wouldn't this natural sleep cycle have applied to everyone?

I live at 60 degrees Northern latitude, and I sleep a lot more in the winter. And it's really difficult in the summer too, because it never gets dark and you need to go to bed to get up in the morning.

For some reason it's not difficult for me to sleep past sunrise, but very hard to go to bed before sunset or wake before sunrise. And some people are the opposite.

This just applies to adults. Children and teenagers naturally sleep longer than adults and probably slept throughout the night. Plus, apparently people didn't all get up at the same time during the night. Some would be up from midnight-2am, others from 2am-4am, etc.

For those landing on this comment, some reference: http://slumberwise.com/science/your-ancestors-didnt-sleep-li...

For the most part i agree, but how about summer times in the northern regions in US or the world when sun doesnt set until beyond 9pm or say Norway where it can be until midnight or more than 60 days in some areas?

If you mean day/night, that's the rotation of the Earth around its axis, not the rotation around the Sun.

In most of the US, during elementary school, you generally have 1 teacher throughout the day that teaches all subjects, and you only leave to go to PE, art, or music once per day.

Since the whole getting kids to school early so that someone can watch them while the parents work only really only applies to younger students, this isn't a problem.

> Since the whole getting kids to school early so that someone can watch them while the parents work only really only applies to younger students, this isn't a problem.

I'd guess that a significant fraction of teenagers would have difficulty waking up and getting to school on time if they didn't have a parent around to wake them up, feed them breakfast, push them out the door, etc. Not all teens are self-motivated and independent enough to do this on their own every single day.

> There's a reason schools have multiple periods of each course, and that those periods rotate day-to-day

Could you elaborate on this? What is the reason? Saying it's "more economically efficient" than grouping class types is something many of my teachers would disagree with, as they have lives they would love to get to outside of school (e.g. if a PE teacher gets out early in the morning, they can go to their second job or see their own kids) and complain about having to stay at school because there isn't enough time between similar classes that are spread across different times of day.

Because a single PE teacher can manage five rotating classes of twenty kids throughout the day. If kids didn't rotate periods, then all 100 kids would take PE at the same time. That would require extra PE teachers, because one teacher cannot manage 100 kids. Multiply this effect by every different area (music teachers, art teachers, etc.) and you have to hire a bunch of extra teachers which is a waste of money. Plus, those teachers would only be busy for part of the day, so their wasting a lot of their time.

> That would require extra PE teachers

It would also require a much larger gym and much more equipment. Same for all other subjects: many more musical instruments for music class, etc.

These specialized teachers are non-existent in many schools. You may have a PE teacher, but they may or may not already be full time. Art teacher? LOL

Many school districts around the country are far too broken to worry about start times. The republicans have done a very good job of starving education for money over the last 20 years, and rampant corruption within the teachers unions and school/district administrations doesn’t help the situation.

Everyone keeps saying PE but imagine 1 math teacher trying to teach 150 kids at once. Not effective with traditional teaching. We already struggle with overly large class sizes making it harder to teach.

I got to go to a fancy school where there were like 12 kids in the class. It was amazing, I learned so much during my time there. Conversely, I went to some pretty shoddy city schools as well and the teacher could barely get the students to just be quiet.

I will say in yet another school (I moved A LOT) for my final semester of high school I went to an alternative school where you did all your coursework on the computers. You could work as fast or as slow as you wanted. It didn't take very many teachers to run that at all. The computer took care of most of it, including hints and letting you rewatch how to solve the problem. I loved this-- school was always kind of boring and I was always one of the first to finish and just end up reading a book...but I was able to finish up my whole class extremely quickly (I think a month or so, it's been a few years).

At least where I went to school, teachers generally had full schedules with maybe one period empty for prep. If they are teaching multiple sections of the same class, it isn't feasible to lump all classes of a certain kind into one part of the day. The same person can't teach multiple classes at once.

I remember nothing worse in High School than waking up showering and getting dressed for school, only to have PE class first period.

Ah, that is a bummer. My high school allowed us to take PE in the summer, for a couple weeks. It was only, maybe, a few hours a day. That way when school started we already had credit for it and none of us smelled awful (well most of us anyway).

What was so traumatizing about the showers available to you in high school? Because I certainly remember first period gym, and I just took a shower afterwards. Then I was right as rain.

It was partly social consequence, and party not wanting to be late for class. Since no one used the showers, the ones who did were usually considered weird or creepy. Even more so when the showers are open designed and you are naked in front of the entire locker room(high school only I think). The bigger half though is not wanting to be late for class. Most schools operate on a 5 minute timer between classes and even being a few seconds late is grounds for punishment. Being that you rarely ever get into the locker room and dressed back into your day clothes before the class is over, you're already pressed for time before you even consider using the shower.

Yep. When I went to high school, literally no one showered. I never saw a single person shower after gym class.

The thing that baffles me about it, is that if you're going to do physical activity like that, a shower after should be mandatory unless you are going home. Otherwise it's pretty gross. The result will be people not trying hard in gym, or people being unsanitary.

I guess this is all because we're ashamed of our bodies or afraid of sexual perverts? What the hell happened to us that we are this way?

I would have been afraid to shower in high school, the way it was. I have since showered in front of many strangers in the military and nothing bad has ever happened to me as a result. If you do have something odd happen, then that should be dealt with. But come on man, high school is not a prison. You are pretty safe to take a shower there.

tl;dr our society would rather be dirty and gross than see the naked bodies of our peers or be seen.

Would partitioned showers help with this problem?

Middle schools already have partitioned showers. At least mine did, I imagine most others that have them do as well. The biggest issue with the showering are the time constraints. The social stigma is present, just in a minor fashion. Being late to class trumps all else.

My middle school did not. No doors on the bathroom stalls either.

The time constraints are imposed by a school administration that assumes you will not shower or does not want you to shower. The real problem is people are afraid of nudity.

My school didn't allow us to use the showers after PE. First period PE meant you could either minimize your participation or be sweaty all day. The showers were only available for the sports teams after school.

Don't know how common that is.

My middle and high schools both required showering after PE class. You had about 10 minutes to shower and dress after class. It was part of the grade actually, if you skipped the shower you got docked a letter.

As I recall it was because all the other teachers didn't want a bunch of sweaty smelly kids in their classes.

I have never asked, but never saw anyone use the shower after PE at my school.

Middle school and high school kids can be viciously cruel and disgusting. Things that if done by adults would land them in jail and on a registry. Your school probably made the right call.

We all showered, and there was plenty of time allocated. This was in Sweden, though. Yet another weirdness about American schools...

Probably the effort of getting ready once and then having to get ready again. Not traumatizing, just a pain. Some people are particular about their routines.

All people are particular about their routines. Some to greater degrees than others.

Are you familiar with the phrase: "There are two types of jobs, those you shower before, and some you shower afterwards."

What's that have to do with routine?

You shower after manual labor jobs. That's just a matter of practicality.

Yeah, but that's at the end of the work day. Difference here. Though I just wouldn't shower in the morning.

I really have no idea what this side tangent is about.

I made a comment that getting ready twice in short order is a pain, which is why people wouldn't want to have PE first thing.

I don't see what any of this has to do with the difference in showering schedules between white collar and blue collar labor.

My dad worked in a factory and showered after he got home from work. That was the time of day that made sense because his work was hot and sweaty and dirty.

I suppose the idea could have been that you could have just not showered at all and showered once you were done with PE, but still unsure where this detour is headed.

It’s a class marker, a sign of social status. Sweating is shameful, as is being low social status. You don’t see your father’s job, which he showered afterwards, as something shameful but loads of middle class people would because they’re insecure in their social status, they associated with people of similar income but lower social status. People with much higher status don’t care because they don’t, there’s no chance of them being associated with those with lower status.


Please stop posting flamebait and taking HN threads off topic.


Please stop jumping to the conclusion that I am off topic.

My thesis that ties this story together, and showering in PE class, is that some people see boats, guns, and sailors moving through the water, but are somehow incapable of acknowledging that it constitues a navy.

The result in this article, people do better when their awake, can be thought of as a frequency plot. This study effectively performed fourier analysis. They studied a comprehensive data set over a long enough time to deduce the cohesion that is evident when controlling for time.

Here's a thought experiment: can you empathize with a transistor? Imagine your a transistor, and I'm a transistor, and we can somehow still communicate. Im a pnp, and you're an npn:

npn: Its obvious that we're just transistors. You keep spouting nonsense about these logic gates, and how their the future. But please, show me the logic gate. I don't see it. You can't even tell me what it looks like.

pnp: look, when you put enough transistors together, you get an AND gate. In another configuration, you can get an OR gate.

npn: Please stop posting your controversial opinions here. This guy. I bet you're gonna tell me about magical flip flops and arithmetic logic units. Thats because you get all your news from science based sources. You should really try and get your information from a more diverse set.

At least in my high school gym class, you weren't given enough time at the end to both shower AND get to your next class on time.

That's great. I showered and then continued to sweat for 2 hours though (I was massively obese). HS Gym was a nightmare.

Funny enough, I did lose the weight, and am in much better shape now, through activities that are the antithesis of HS gym (turns out riding a bike and swimming for my own pleasure beat the torture of team sports any day)

It’s an awkward time for many kids. Personally, I dreaded the experience.

Here's a secret: we all did.

But ask yourself this. Think back in time to those dreadful experiences and remember the people who didn't _appear_ to dread the experience.

Those people dreaded walking naked amongst their 14 year old peers as well, they just did a better job at convincing you that they dreaded it less than you.

You could even say that those were the victors who wrote your history.

Um, no. Other than some awkward jokes on the first few occasions, it was fine. Possibly this is because the school I went to was pretty new and didn't have any kind of established social hierarchy or bullying culture - it existed, but more as personal animosity.

tmuir 11 months ago [flagged]

I just laid out the derivative of your behavior, and then you said

"thats ridiculous, we quickly adapted over a short amount of time".

So, if I hear you correctly, what your saying is that as your understanding over time, lets call this du/dt, has a positive rate of change?

You're probably right though, the biggest trick Copernicus ever pulled was convincing everyone of heliocentricity by employing mathematics. We've been under the illusion ever since.

14 year old me made many decisions that don't seem particularly rational from the perspective of 14+<20-something> me.

People have different perspectives on these sorts of things.

Excactly. When I was about 4, paper cuts were the worst thing I could imagine. Now they are trivial.

It doesn't mean that 4 year old me was stupid because I thought they hurt so bad, it just means that I've experienced things that hurt much worse.

I wonder how they schedule that. Does that mean that all PE classes (assuming PE is part of the "unimportant" category) are either at the beginning or the end of the day? What does the PE teacher do in the middle of the day, then?

Often PE teachers (and coaches) are also teachers. My civics, geography and geometry teachers were all football coaches. Incidentally, they were also not very learned in their respective courses.

This was the same for us. The exception was the teacher that made me fall in love with history as a subject. He was also an assistant basketball coach, but he was passionate about history.

Teach health? Sex Ed? Preparation and setup? My PE teachers in JHS and HS were more than just PE teachers. Was my school just an outlier?

It probably depends on the size of the school or school district.

I went to large schools for both MS and HS, and all of our PE teachers only taught PE throughout the day, as it was offered all seven class periods as there were simply too many students to only offer the class two to three periods.

In HS, freshman tended to have the largest class sizes as they only had two class periods to choose from, and were split between male and female. They'd rotate through all sports during the school year. All other years got to choose their class period and were able to select the sport(s) they wanted, and would rotate through different teachers quarterly, within that same class period, based on those selections.

Coaches that only taught electives usually rotated in teaching Health/Sex Ed and Driver's Ed.

Yeah my high school had 2,500 students, there's no way they could've even fit everyone onto the field in the morning let alone have the staff to handle that.

It depends on the school and the state.

I went to a small district where they shared roles. My wife went to a huge school where the PE teachers taught only PE and were paid coached as well.

In some districts, you need certification in a subject... a gym teacher can’t teach math.

And they couldn't be certified for both? In NRW, Germany afaik (almost) all teachers have two or more roles.

Probably -- I think the specifics vary from place to place.

This brings back memories for me. My friends and I realized even at a young age that we shouldn't have hard classes in the morning, and we almost always chose PE/arts first.

So and how about the people who would like to have the mentally intense stuff early in the morning? For example, I have the clearest mind about 5 minutes after I got out of bed.

Anecdotally I definitely did better in High School when I had band first thing in the morning.

Sorry, not from the US. What does PE mean?

Physical education. In India, in our schools it mostly meant playing Soccer.

The irony of defining a regional term in the context of other regional terms.

Physical Education

That emphasizes that the purpose of school isn't as much to educate children as it is to provide an economy of scale for babysitting so that more adults can participate in the workforce.

I wonder how that dynamic will interact with the decreasing need for adults in the workforce.

It's not just economy of scale for babysitting, though that is a big component. In fact, the timing of compulsory education being enacted into law coincides with men coming back from the world wars and the creation of child labor laws, denying children the right to work so their parents could have better jobs. I'm not here advocating putting kids back in the factories, just pointing out the history.

In addition to that, I think it's clear that there's two curriculums at school: a spoken one and an unspoken one. The spoken curriculum is math, science, reading, etc. The unspoken curriculum is mass social indoctrination around conformity, complacency, and willingness to do boring work with minimal reward for long periods of time. Essentially, to psychologically prepare children for the realities of work life.

> denying children the right to work so their parents could have better jobs.

This is basically what I'm saying; educational requirements are an easy way to track the workforce. At the end of the wars, the labor market contracted hugely (as those soldiering jobs went away), so our society cut the least valuable workers out of the workforce. That it had humanitarian justifications, in that those workers also had the least personal agency and influence over their working conditions, is almost coincidental.

>In fact, the timing of compulsory education being enacted into law coincides with men coming back from the world wars and the creation of child labor laws, denying children the right to work so their parents could have better jobs.

Compulsory education in the US started in 1852 in Massachusetts and ended in 1918 in Mississippi:


The first modern compulsory education was enacted in Prussia in 1763.

I use to think this way but as I got older I realized it was just a projection of how bad I was with girls in school.

One boy's mass social indoctrination is another boy's ultimate fuck party.

It doesn't take 12 years to teach a kid calculus and literature and their prerequisites.

Right, it's more that our society has decided that humans have no value until they're at least 18 (hell, with college degree requirements that age is approaching 22), so we have to store them somewhere until then.

Kids under 18 used to be valued as factory workers.

Our society decided humans become more valuable when they are given the opportunity of a childhood filled with education instead of manual labor.

That's a nice way of looking at it, and I'm not going to argue against it per se, but a cynical part of me thinks there's simply more money to be made by pushing loans on young adults and then using them in the workforce.

US student loan debt is somewhere around $1.4 trillion. For comparison, mortgage debt is somewhere around $8.9 trillion. That's a pretty damn big market. [0][1]

If that education was free, I'd wholly agree with you that it's simply our society deciding this is for the betterment of all. But when you combine these two sources of debt (student loans so we can get jobs that afford us home mortgages) then we're looking at a new, weird, first-world form of debt bondage. [2]

Again, I realize that's a very pessimistic point of view. Will be interesting to see how the history books view it in years to come.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Student_debt#/media/File:Stude... [1]: https://www.marketplace.org/2018/02/13/economy/divided-decad... [2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt_bondage

This applies to young adults; not children. You're not wrong, but you are slightly off topic.

You’re not alone in thinking this.

That's a better way to put it; we've decided that humans' lifetime productivity is usually maximized by putting off the requirement that they be productive until later in their lives.

i don't think that's how ppl with means view things


this is on my eventually 2 read list

tmuir 11 months ago [flagged]

Does it make your nebulous conspiracy theory more believable or less believable when you consider that the age of 18 is generally when people's bodies have reached full maturity?

Personally, if my 22 year old self travelled in time three years backwards to meet 17 year old me, and then travelled 20 years forward to present day to me current me, I have no doubt 18 year old me would the odd man out in this triplet.

18 maybe for physical appearance, but mental maturity and brain development completes in the early-mid 20s. I would definitely be the odd one out at my current age if I were stuck with 17 and 22yo me, unless you were just using physical appearance, in which case yeah, I guess 17 would stand out.

Mental and social maturity continues developing for most of your life. Different life stages have different common problems, and you need to learn different skills to solve them - or sometimes just to cope with them.

In the same way that there isn't much practical (i.e. economic) interest in tailoring schools and college classes to people with different daily cycles, there isn't much interest in teaching people about common problems ahead of time, or running some kind of continuous life challenges training that could potentially do a lot to improve life quality.

In my 50s, one of the common problems my friends have is dealing with parents who are either dying, recently dead, or have a terminal illness like Alzheimer's.

Of course that happens to younger people too, but there are actuarial peaks where it becomes massively more likely that you'll be dealing with a certain set of challenges in a certain decade of life.

There's shockingly little information around about some of these challenges. So it's incorrect to assume that the learning ends after school or college.

You won't learn anything about dealing with these challenges there. You won't even be warned they exist.

I don't think it's particularly a "conspiracy theory", in that there's no cabal of people trying to cover this up. It's more an optimization function; we have N productivity units, and M humans (where M > N), so we hire from the most productive subsets of M. For the less productive subsets (largely youths, criminals, geriatrics), we encourage institutionalization to minimize the portion of M-productive required to maintain the unproductive ones.

If you look at post-industrialization patterns, the age at which humans become productive has been increasing as the productivity of humans has increased. On a subsistence farm, a 6-year old can be doing useful work to increase the productivity of the farm. In a coal mine or factory, an 8-year-old can do productive work. 16-year olds can do construction, food industry, but for jobs with decision-making responsibilities (as more and more jobs are today), we don't trust anyone under 22.

They have? Because last I checked puberty and physical growth tend to peter out around 13-14 for females and 15-16 for males (male growth plates seal at about 15; in females, about a year after menarche, and menses itself stabilizes about two years after menarche).

Does it make his nebulous conspiracy theory more or less believable that you somehow think the age at which we stop warehousing kids actually has nothing at all to do with physical maturation?

tmuir 11 months ago [flagged]

Allow me to contextualize all of your controversial deflection:

You specifically selected parts of the body that finish maturing earlier than my statement, because it was the most controversial thing that popped into your head. It didn't pop in to your growth plates, it didn't pop into your elbow. It didn't pop into your left middle toe. It popped into your head.

You should allow these very statements to marinate in that same head, and see if you can come to the correct conclusion as to which part of your body I was referring to in my original comment.

A kid. Now put 30 in a classroom.

And now add 'no child left behind' (aka 'no child allowed to get ahead').

Imagine the horror if we gave other things equal priority with work when we made decisions about how to organize our society.

Oh well.

I'd imagine that there were groups of humans who did this, but they got out-competed by humans who gave a higher priority to work.

There are several countries in Europe that give maternity/paternity leave and vacation time to all full time employees by law. The result is not a massive drop in productivity, on the contrary studies have indicated higher overall productivity in many cases. There are things besides short term business gain that societies can invest in that can end up with everyone better off in the long run, even economically.

What does that have to do with school start times? Do parents take “parental leave” every morning to take their kids to school later? Of course not.

And maternity/paternity leave has little to do with school age kids.

France has the “genius” idea to have school only 4 days per week in most places. So Wednesdays off. Parents have to figure out what to do with their kids — they can’t exactly take off every Wednesday. And why does this 4 day week persist? Not because of ideal learning outcomes but because of teacher unions.

Europe isn’t better at everything and America isn’t worse at everything as people often like to suggest. And all of those great “benefits” people like to point out — they aren’t free. Salaries are dramatically lower in Europe and taxes higher — so even when all of these benefits are tallied, Americans still have more disposable income along with lower unemployment and a far more robust economy.

For sure there are great things about Europe, but don’t minimize America because it’s fashionable. Look at actual numbers.

> Salaries are dramatically lower in Europe and taxes higher — so even when all of these benefits are tallied, Americans still have more disposable income along with lower unemployment and a far more robust economy.

I wonder what you mean by "Americans", I really don't see how a minimum wage American part time worker has "more disposable income" than someone in Europe with any measure of health insurance?

Minimizing America may be fashionable, but the awful situation of a lot of working people in America is not at all made up, and, no, the money doesn't compensate it. It just compensates it (maybe) for software engineers.

You sure are condescending for someone that doesn't include citations.

As another commenter suggests, this isn't the same as flexible working hours.

And also, it doesn't fairly compare because this is legally forced, instead of letting the market determine such needs. The comment you're replying to is suggesting that naturally, companies which start earlier and aren't as accompanying of flexible working for parents, will do better in the market. Your comment doesn't debunk this theory.

tmuir 11 months ago [flagged]

Let me guess, you believe governments should be run like companies, right?

Perhaps, ask yourself why you come down on the side of moneyed interests in every point you make.

When I see this kind of dogmatic badgering, Its almost like my brain is superimposing a Fast Fourier Transform frequency plot on that person, and all of the energy is found to be in a single bin.

Your single bin is money. As this pure tone, it is literally your equation.

I don't have to tell you that this makes you give whores a bad name.

This crosses into personal attack. Please resist the temptation to do that even when you disagree strongly. It's particularly bad when combined with ideological battle, which is off topic on HN to begin with.

This isn't an agreement or disagreement with your underlying views; it's that you can't go offside when expressing them. Same applies to the other team.


Edit: it turns out you've been doing this a lot. We ban accounts that do that, so please don't do it any more.


The UK.


(I was actually shocked that Americans don't always get paid holiday.)

Note that we also have 6 months paid maternity leave, and 1 weeks paid paternity leave, with both of those extendable on a lower pay rate.

New legislation from the 2010-2015 government allows parents to share this leave, even if they work at different companies, and start/stop it during the time when it would be taken (so mum can take the first 3 months off, then dad take a month off, then mum again, etc). Sorry for the hetero-normative example, adoptive parents also get paid leave in the same way.

It's actually six weeks maternity on nearly full pay and then about nine months 'statutory maternity pay' which is about £145 per week. Paternity leave is the same level as statutory maternity pay. Obviously individual companies can offer better deals than this. I got four months full pay with my job for example.

That doesn't source the actual claim that these reforms increased productivity. Everyone knows about vacation time rules in Europe, few have read economic analyses of them.

The U.K. gets a “paid” holiday?

So why are salaries in the U.K. so much lower than the US?

Seems like the only one paying for holidays is the worker.

According to Gallup in 2013 the median incomes in the US and UK were $15,500 and $12,400 adjusted. Considering that US citizens pay on average 10% of earnings on healthcare where the UK doesn't that makes it more akin to $14,000 vs $12,400.

Except here is something you didn't know - that British citizen isn't paying income tax at all. Their 0% bracket goes all the way to about $16,000 USD Today. That US citizen is paying about $1650 in income tax because there is no 0% bracket in the US. So in actual take home income they are almost exactly the same. The mess of tax code in both countries makes the calculations more complicated, plus other taxes, etc - but the point is that no, U.K. citizens are not being paid "so much lower" than the US on average, but they do get the benefit of never dying of preventable illness because they can't afford to see a doctor while having all that extra aforementioned paid time off and holiday benefits that US workers don't have.

Additionally, the US isn't even at the top of median individual income. Fennoscandia collectively has the US beat, by on average about 20%. Which is going to be offset by their average ~25%ish income tax, but still its comparable returns.

It turns out that if your economy is abusing you to get more productivity out of you that you don't get a better living out of it.

US doesn't have a 0% tax rate, but there is the standard deduction and other tax credits that mean a large chunk of money gets exempted from income tax, often much more than just $16,000 USD.

Posting this a day later, so probably won't get seen much, but I just looked at my 2017 tax return.

I made ~$80k USD and because of various tax incentives (3 children mainly), I paid almost exactly the $1650 ($1683) figure you mentioned for federal income tax.

So my intuition is that the tax burden for most poor families is almost nothing.

From http://news.gallup.com/poll/166211/worldwide-median-househol... ?

I would expect self reported income like that to be based on take home pay (so after taxes). And for many in the US, they will have health benefits that they don't include in the self reported figure (they may not even realize the amount their employer pays). That's hard to account for compared to the "everybody can use the NHS" included in the UK figure.

From your link: 'Gallup asked respondents in most countries the following question: "What is your total monthly household income in [local currency], before taxes? Please include income from wages and salaries, remittances from family members living elsewhere, farming, and all other sources. Again, please provide your total monthly household income."'

I don't have any argument to make about relative quality of life between the US and other countries, because that's largely subjective. That being said, Fennoscandia is an aberration. They are monocultures with virtually no 3rd world immigration. By comparison the US actively seeks immigration from third world countries. There's a lot of political turmoil right there over this issue, immigration policy changes due to being in the EU, bringing in lots of refugees, etc. has brought in a lot of workers who are only really prepared for low skill/wage work, but these countries simply don't have those kinds of jobs available. They're having a hard time figuring out what to do with them.

> That being said, Fennoscandia is an aberration. They are monocultures with virtually no 3rd world immigration.

Untrue for Sweden[1] and Norway[2], which have respectively 14.3% and 16.8% of their populations foreign-born. Not all of those foreign-born are from developing nations but developing nations figure heavily in the top-30 list for Sweden.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_Sweden#Demograp...

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_Norway

Sweden is such a monoculture that when you look at Swedish demographics all Swedes are considered the same and you only count the immigrants as different. The second largest group of immigrants after Syrians is Finns, so a very similar culture. In the US if you look up demographics you barely see the 13% of the population which is foreign born as an *. Instead you get 17% hispanic, 13% black, ~62% white, 5% other. There's no accounting for the difference between a Mexican and a Cuban or a German and an Italian American. If you looked at Swedish demographics the same way it would be more like 95% white, 5% other. The largest single Church in the US is Baptist which accounts for barely 10% of the population. Meanwhile the Swedish National Church accounts for over 60% of the population, the second largest group is "unaffiliated" at 30%.

Norway is not significantly different when looked at in a similar light.

And, by the way, Netflix gives an entire paid YEAR off for maternity.

I wonder why? Could it be that competition has inspired them to compete? My point: free markets are a powerful thing. When there is no differentiation and everyone is “the same,” then it stifles innovation. Working at Peugeot is no more interesting than working for Renault. Which means their cars are going to be average. But if Peugeot were offering some great benefit, the best engineers would flock to Peugeot and that would result in better Peugeot cars. Renault, in order to compete would have to try and top Peugeot, which then leads to great engineers going there.. and so on until competition pressures ultimately drive companies to higher and higher levels of success and innovation. Just like what happens in Silicon Valley. Instead, in Europe, you have this malaise, this equalitarianism that inspires nobody. There is a lack of ambition.

So 5000 Netflixers having pretty fantastic maternity leave is your answer for tens of millions of Europeans having pretty fantastic maternity leave?

Arithmetic is actually pretty useful for thinking about what more labor friendly laws might do in the US. Say you decide that every employee should get a paid day off if they work for 240 hours (this is 6 weeks full time, so someone averaging 30 hours a week would receive 6.5 paid days off each year). How much would that cost? It would cost right around 3% of what they are already being paid. And since we know people with no paid time off are working low leverage jobs, we can probably infer that it would come right out of the consumer surplus that their employee provides to customers.

But sure, let's pretend that some small baseline of non-hell would erode ambition in people competing for jobs at Netflix.

Unfortunately for your argument, companies in the UK also compete by offering paid maternity leave longer than the legal minimum - like PWC which offers an entire paid YEAR.

That's great for high end software engineers. What about Walmart or McDonald's employees?

German legislation (sadly not directly available in english) [1]

12 months paid leave at 67% of previous income plus 2 months if shared with the other parent.

1: https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/beeg/index.html

And where is the European Apple? European Google? European Facebook? Even the European Intel, ARM, now belongs to Japan.

Why the focus on IT? Automobiles, trains, embedded controllers, space and commercial flight, weapon systems, high-tech manufacturing. All those are areas where Europe has at least one industry leader.

There are so many companies you never hear about because you aren't in the industry they operate in.

Because the question was about outcompeting. Automobiles, etc., there are many competitors, including some American. And weapon systems, there is a national security reason to maintain regional leaders, no matter how inefficient.

In IT, I find it funny that Google has a higher market share in Europe than in the US.

Why outcompete? Why the need for a quasi-monopoly? Why can't half a dozen companies work a market in competition and create better products for everyone? Many problems with Facebook and Google come from not it outcompeting other companies and making things worse for society as a whole.


The USA is below both Norway and Ireland in the rankings table of GDP per capita, pretty consistently over the different measurements.

About 1/4 of Norway's GDP is oil and gas (US is about 7%). Ireland is a particularly ironic choice given their recent GDP growth and subsequent dip were mostly from being a tax haven for wealthy US companies.

I wouldn't personally attribute either of these to better educational or societal systems.

>> GDP per capita

Are we going to ignore the effects of immigration and the comparative policies of both nations here, or just pretend that a mostly-homogenous nation like Norway (or other Scandi countries) should be equally compared to the United States?


Comparing the USA as a whole to Ireland or Norway is ludicrous. Compare it to the EU, China, India, Indonesia, Brazil. If you want to compare Ireland to the US you should be looking at individual states. If you insist on comparing to individual countries at least look at ones that are at least a tenth of the population of the US, like France, Gernany, the U.K., Russia, Turkey, Italy, Ukraine.

Ireland’s gdp per capita overstates its wealth substantially as large parts of the economy by value is subsidiaries of US companies which repatriate profits back to the US. For economies like Ireland and Luxembourg better to use gross national product than gross domestic product.

Better again to use average individual consumption but statistics on that have only just begun to be gathered. Average household consumption makes the US look pretty great. The only country higher is the UAE and the top 5 is rounded out by Hong Kong, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Petrostates, city states and the US.

You can't value economic success solely on the size and influence of companies. In Germany (Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg especially) there are literally thousands of very successful small-middle tier engineering firms doing highly specialized work in very specific areas. It might not be Facebook or Google or even BMW in terms of size and influence, but they are the very core of the economic success in these states.

In EU we didn't have the same amount of military government spending that you folks had. Most of the technological base for the ICT revolution was paid by the US taxpayer on the grounds of beating - or at least keeping in check - the Russians in a war. But yeah, even Ayn Rand got her assistance from government, why not her followers?

If you think every form of natural selection is automatically proof that whatever came out is the best option, then you do not understand evolution at all.

He didn't say that at all. The only fact you can derive from evolution is that some things existed, and now they either do or don't exist. That's exactly what he is saying.

You could argue that maybe some solutions were not even tried before, or that they were tried and abandonned for random reasons. But actually, since the evolution process took a long time, we can reasonably say that we are witnessing the mean outcome of these events. Aka, in this case, the overwhelming majority is a work-related school schedule.

This doesn't invalidate 'free schools' such as Montessori, as these could be good local solutions. They just apparently don't scale to the ensemble of society since they didn't yet and had plenty of time to do so.

Another remark : this doesn't apply to things that were recently invented or discovered.

You are assuming the fitness landscape never changes, which is not a good assumption.

Outcompeted in what sense? Making money? I mean, I guess if you argue that the people who did it will on average have more political influence due to having more money then it's plausible, but there's an even more plausible argument: People in charge of major organisations don't like worker flexibility because it's logistically difficult, and "more work-oriented == better productivity" is the most intuitive meme ever, so it caught on.

Outcompeted in the sense of still existing, whereas the other doesn't exist anymore... I don't find it very reasonable to jump to more specific conclusions, such as arguments over money or political influence. There could be millions of other important variables.

Political and social influence, including the ability to "influence" other societies by bombing them, is the reason for wealth.

The story of western civilization is work smarter and rest more, so good luck climbing the hill you've pointed at.

If you mean "enslaved", maybe.

I too struggled for years during adolescence with early school start times and being generally super tired for the first 1 or 2 classes of each day. As an adult I also realize the pragmatic nature of school start times supporting our fairly typical 9-to-5 work culture.

However, I think it's important that we try to learn from this emerging data. If a body of empirical evidence starts strongly suggesting that starting school 1-2 hours later will improve information retention and learning, and if we collectively wish to maximize the success and potential of our youth then we must begin to change in order to support these goals.

I hope that by the time my future child reaches school age we will have begun to embrace a more data-driven approach to learning along with the necessary support structures to support such a change. Perhaps labor laws could be constructed to allow for more morning flexibility for parents that can demonstrate they are the legal guardian of a child whose age is between some range. I'll hope for the best.

There are different methods of schooling! Granted, they're more work for the parent, usually costly, might not work with a normal 9-5 schedule, and a bunch of other potential problems.

But if you have the resources, you can look for what you believe would be the best path for your future kid.

That makes sense to a degree, but it always killed me that in my school district had elementary school starting at 8:30, and high school at 7:15. They told us that it was to stagger the buses and give high schoolers time to work part-time jobs, but it was rough. Especially because the bus ride took another hour out of the morning.

Also, most elementary schools around there offered before and after school programs that working parents can leverage to fit their schedules. That, and neighbors who took turns watching the bus stop to make sure everyone made it on time, gave us enough support to get to school when parents were on tight work schedules.

> They told us that it was to stagger the buses and give high schoolers time to work part-time jobs

One additional reason is so that the older kids get home before the younger kids so they can supervise.

It's all perfectly rational. Unfortunately, ensuring students are rested and alert is far down on the list of priorities for education scheduling.

> It starts this early so parents can get their kids to school and start working afterwards, without getting fired.

Numerous teachers in my school told me the real reason school doesn't start later is because of... wait for it: Sports.

Sports games/teams often finish practice/games as late as 6-8pm, especially after traveling for a game - and that's with a district whose high school started at 7:40am and middle school at 8am.

Is it too much for schools to actually prioritize academics over sports? Colleges are the same way.

Sports could happen in the morning if school started later, they tend to be more free daycare than the root cause here. Sports have become a priority in schools, which will cause teachers to become resentful and blame them for everything.

I doubt it. You figure an hour to gather and travel to a game location, 2 hours for the game, an hour to return... schools would have to start at noon.

And can you blame them? Why are sports being prioritized by institutions whose existential purpose has nothing to do with athletics?

>I doubt it. You figure an hour to gather and travel to a game location, 2 hours for the game, an hour to return... schools would have to start at noon.

If you guess it would take five hours, they could gather at 5 AM and school starts at 10.

>And can you blame them?

No. Doesn't change that they would be unfairly blaming this particular issue on sports.

Why do parents need to take their kids to school? I always walked to the school bus, no parents necessary

For some, a bus simply doesn't exist. For others, there is legitimate concerns over the safety of their children -- I would not feel comfortable leaving my kindergartener or first grader walk to a bus stop almost half a mile away at essentially the wee hours of the morning when it is still dark outside.

If you are the kid who lives at the first stop, sometimes your bus time is as early as 5:55. I would never force my child to be up at 5 something to get ready for school. That is beyond ridiculous.

Finally, there are legitimate concerns over bullying. Kids are ruthless on the bus and is a real problem. When I attended high school almost two decades ago now -- fights, bullying, name-calling and harassing were common -- sometimes by the bus driver themselves! I can only imagine how much worse it is now.

Young children are naturally early risers and it's entirely appropriate that their school hours start early and allow parents to drop them off. It's high school and college students that would benefit from later start times and can be trusted to get to class themselves.

The bus system in most of the US really is terrible.

There is 1 adult to supervise 40 kids and drive a bus. I wasn't really bullied that much as a kid because I was always about a head taller than everyone else, but any bullying I did experience was on the bus.

What concerns make you feel uncomfortable? Do you feel uncomfortable leaving your children with close friends or family as well, since statistically most abuse occurs from someone in that group?

Why on earth would parents be personally taking their children to school? When I lived in a sprawling exurb, there was a school bus stop a couple blocks away supervised by another neighborhood parent. When I lived in a more compact suburb, everyone walked - again, in groups.

Something is catastrophically broken about your urban planning, school system, or community if every family is personally driving the kids to school. Maybe this meta-problem needs to be solved before addressing start times.

> It starts this early so parents can get their kids to school and start working afterwards, without getting fired.

Yep. School is subsidized babysitting.

My kids' elementary school doesn't start until 9:00, and both of us work. We've had to get morning childcare just for 30 minutes before school. It's expensive and stressful for all of us.

Do you work in IT like most people on HN? I though most tech companies were flexible about work hours.

School ends at 3pm though, so even if early means getting the kids to school, what about getting them back from school?

Of course there are school buses but then those apply to the morning as well.


Every person is a little different. One of our kids is definitely very alert and ready to learn in the early morning. The other one, unfortunately, isn't. The one-size-fits-all schedule is much more for the convenience of adults than for the effectiveness of education, unfortunately. Some of the other commenters point out that important things should not be too early or late. That may well work better. But I'd be a little worried that there is no such thing as one good schedule that works for every child or even a significant fraction of children.

I did too, but I always assumed that if school started an hour later I'd go to bed an hour later and still struggle to get up. Why do you think it would be different?

Did you ever try? I can't tell you why but me and many other people seem to have a biological clock that is out of sync with our societies expections.

For whatever reason I simply am more energetic and happy if I sleep until noon. Even if that means sleeping 12 hours, instead of 8 or so.

I did try living by my own biological clock and it was a complete disaster. Ruined my life for several years. My natural clock is non-24, but not by much, no more than 25 hours. So if left to my own devices I naturally drift "West" every single day. The only way I can cope is to take strict control of my wake up times and force myself into a 24 hour cycle.

The phase is irrelevant to me. So if I'm going to take control I get up earlier because I find that is more productive for me. I hate every single morning of my life, but if I let my clock do what it wants I hate my entire life.

That sucks but could also be true for me. My best performance is when I sleep when I feel to and wake up when I want to. Which works pretty well once you break all the social norms.

I also had the same..but when I stopped watching TV and went to bed earlier I was able to get up be as productive as ever.

In related news, poor performance at work tied to work hours that don't match our biological clocks.

I am one of those long sleepers. One time my job hours were cut in half and I took only 4-5 hour afternoon work. My productivity was pretty much the same than with 8 hours before.

I wish more employers would be more flexible with time.

Exactly. School acts more like a daycare center for kids of busy working parents. They’re the customers.

I have been writing about ways to reform the whole experience for years:


What about those kids who wake up early?

I've always been a morning person. Even as a kid I remember waking up with the sun because sleeping always felt like a waste a time with so much fun stuff to do.

I remember staying up as long as I could because there was so much fun to do.

This is probably a generational thing. When I was kid almost all the fun things to do were outside. Surf, ski, swim in the river, fish, sports, etc... all were daytime and outside. We had a NES, and later a SNES but we only used those when it was raining :)

  so much fun stuff to do
Some of us...

DID NOT. (and still do not)

...have "fun stuff" to do.

A lot of it is due to athletics - my school had to end practices before certain times and could not offset the school day without blowing away athletic programs.

Mine was the same way, but athletics should really be in the morning.

My cross country team had no problem getting up at 7 in the morning for weekend and summer practice.

> It starts this early so parents can get their kids to school and start working afterwards, without getting fired.

As a working parent, totally agree. Employers should be more accommodating for working parents just like they do for maternity/paternity programs, but they haven't yet.

Big corporations with HR and dedicated benefit personnels are more tolerable than most startups, unfortunately.

In every company Ive worked so far (small to middle sized software places in switzerland ) it was the most normal things that parents, especially with young kids, can get plenty of freedom with their time within reason.

I was really surprised to see this is not the standard in the software world (where you can do your job just as well in overshifts to compensate for lost hours)

comment as been deleted, as much as HN can let me...

I downvoted you because it didn't seem productive to try to start an argument about why people are specifically talking about parents in the context of discussions specific to students and their parents.

And you felt it necessary to pretend that people are explicitly trying to give parent's special treatment over non-parents, which isn't something I've seen anyone in this thread argue for.

And now I've gone and derailed the discussion further and given you the argument you were looking for.

> I downvoted you because it didn't seem productive to try to start an argument about why people are specifically talking about parents in the context of discussions specific to students and their parents.

That's fair, my comment does sort of sway. I'd delete it if HN let, my apologies.

To be fair, I did ask what it meant exactly, which was what I led with - but you're right, I did ask a second question.

I'm Still unsure what it means, exactly.

> And you felt it necessary to pretend that people are explicitly trying to give parent's special treatment over non-parents, which isn't something I've seen anyone in this thread argue for.

No, I didn't. I'm not going to argue the root, because you're right, it detracts from the conversation at large. Yet, I was not pretending by any stretch. (ie, my intent was not fake, again, this is not an argument, no one comment lol)

There’s an excellent ted talk about delaying school starting times.

failed my first period computer science class cause i just could not wake up for it.

Our school district just spent the last year trying to convince parents we should shuffle around start times to make high school later and elementary school earlier.

It was a complete clusterfuck. Both teacher and parents alike at both the elementary and the high schools all had a million reasons why it couldn’t possibly work. Since there are a limited number of buses which are shared, you can’t move one start time without moving the other.

It came up at every school event, sports practice, kids party, to the point where I would just walk away when people starting bitching about it one way or another.

The biggest issue was we had a new superintendent who wanted to “start a dialogue” about the start times rather than actually make a policy change. It took up hundreds of hours in PTO, Administrative, and Town Hall meetings and of course ended up in absolutely no change in the end. Everyone’s opinion of course had to be heard, whether it was a longer commute that a teacher would have, or then not having time to drop off their own child before getting to class, or impacting afternoon sports, or the something about the bus route, or... Of course none of the debate actually addressed if students would possible learn better from it.

I was so glad when they finally sent out the email saying they were dropping it just so that I wouldn’t have to hear the constant bickering.

It was like an engineering team with no lead and a non-technical manager arguing over what DBMS to use where no decision could be made until everyone agreed we had the “right” solution!

It's happening where I live too. It's amazing how quickly the discussion moves past "what's best for students" and into the "it's annoying to me personally" and "when I was a kid, we suffered" conversations.

To be fair, "I got fired from my job because I couldn't get there on time anymore because school starts too late" isn't particularly good for the children of the people getting fired either.

One person's issue with work is worth compromising the learning of all the other children? That's not exactly what I'd call fair.

Not everyone is a programmer in the Valley or East Coast that can just Slack their manager "will be an hour late today because X!" and everything is fine. For the vast majority of people, even white collar employees, not being at work at 9 a few times may mean termination.

It seems that such people can't possibly deal with legal problems, medical problems, car problems...

It's not as if you can schedule such things. Well, you could add more problems on a schedule I guess! You can't avoid the bad surprises.

That's very true. Many workers have to go to work with medical problems, take desperate measures if they have car issues, and lose their job if they get arrested.

If you've already missed 1 day for "my car broke down" and another for "I was vomiting", that one time you need to get the kid to school might be your 3rd strike.

I can't help but think American work culture / expectations are pretty toxic.

It can be this bad, but it's not very common.

Usually it happens in a job with fixed hours. Are you opening up the store in the morning? You'd better be there on time.

Exactly. Or even production line workers. You can cost the company big money if they have to stop the line for you.

There are lots of jobs where it is not unreasonable to require punctuality on a pretty regular basis.

> It seems that such people can't possibly deal with legal problems, medical problems, car problems...

230 times a year? they probably can't.

It depends a lot on the community where it's happening. In some places, that 'one person' is actually the majority case.

It’s not just one person. As amazing as it sounds, lot of people are expected to be at work on time.

A cynical explanation here would be: those in charge wanted the appearance of having considered these changes without the headache / political risk of actually changing them.

Absolutely correct. The superintendent didn’t have the clout necessary to pull it off. What I think she underestimated was the sheer volume of discussion which would ensure which basically made it impossible to get any other policy changes done last year.

Of course none of the debate actually addressed if students would possible learn better from it.

Is that important if there is no way to make a different schedule work from a practical perspective?

What blew my mind was how parents of elementary school students somehow needed the late start time to make their work possible and parents of high school students needed the late start time... to make their work possible.

I tried explaining that parents of high school students almost certainly were once parents of elementary school children, and those elementary school parents will almost certainly one day have kids in high school, but gave up.

The best part was the parents who had kids in both schools who would still argue against the change :-)

It is generally understood that students ages 14-18 are substantially more self-sufficient than students ages 6-11.

Speaking for myself, I was largely self-sufficient in terms of managing my day at 14. My peers were as well. The major inconvenience of the early hours was being unable to chaperone a younger sibling.

Raising children is one of the fundamental processes of human society. If there really were a will, we could rearrange everything for them.

But the way we treat children and teenagers is rather callous and cynical at the system level.

If there was a will, teenagers would be allowed to come sooner or on bike or fully by themselves.

If raising children would be really considered important, caregivers needa would not be treated with "shut up and do the things the most complicated way".

For that matter, calling school that starts an hour sooner then optimal "calous" is overly hyperbolic, manipulative and dramatic.

> For that matter, calling school that starts an hour sooner then optimal "calous" is overly hyperbolic, manipulative and dramatic.

Do you know how miserable it is to be chronically sleep deprived for, like, a decade? Yes, it's callous to make someone suffer like that for the convenience of everyone else.

You can and should go to bed earlier. Learning to go to sleep is important part of adulthood.

The debate about whethe start an hour later or sooner due to natural rhythms is completely pointless for students that don't sleep even minimal needed amount of hours. Those need to fix "hours slept" metric first.

Yeah let's ignore the research that shows teenagers literally have a shifted sleep schedule and can't actually go to sleep early in a reliable manner.

What's going on here is that we don't give a shit about people, and we like pretending that the world is fair, so whenever we're committing an atrocity (yes, this is an atrocity, sleep deprivation is a form of torture), we try to blame it on the victim. Because "we have generated an atrocity, built our society around it, and are now trying to not come to terms with that" is a tougher pill to swallow than "teenagers just all, universally, suck".

This is garbage and I really wish parents would start seeing this as a big issue, big enough to raise hell not just with their school, but with their job and with society at large. Parents sure seem to have enough energy to cause teachers problems...

Sleep deprived person is able to sleep in the dark. Try again. And no, even if suboptimal, middle class teenagers don't go through atrocity nor torture.

If you actually went to bed and stayed there and could not sleep anyway despite being horribly sleep deprived, then you really should visit some sleep center to help you. It is not nearly the same as mild performance drop due to having suboptimal sleep time.

> sleep in the dark

I'm not sure what you're even trying to say. This is about chronotypes and a teenager-specific sleeping pattern that has been identified and studied.

Sleep deprivation is torture, this is not my definition. Sorry, we, as a society, decided that not letting people sleep properly is really fucking crappy. If you want to disagree with that, take that up with the party that came up with the terms. Messing with someone's sleep is a major offense, and there are various ways in which it can happen, and psychology recognizes them, even if you don't.

Yes, I'm sure most teenagers have means to go to a sleep center, with their full human rights and disposable income. And when pretty much every teenager has this problem I'm sure that's a good use of resources.

I don't know about this man... I get your point but it's a little over dramatic.

My 13 year old girl lives with us half the time. Her other parent the other part of the time.

They let her keep her phone with her all the time. She can completely skip sleeping entirely for more than 2 days when she has her phone all night, texting with friends. She's having fun, but then she crashes and burns HARD when she comes back to our house. Get's sick, can't focus, emotions out of control.

At my house we take her phone away at 10:00pm, and she is passed out 5 minutes later. Funny thing is, I sometimes take away the phone on Sunday, in the afternoon, and she will pass out 5-10 minutes after that too.

Her body just needs a lot more sleep than it is getting. This is probably true with a lot of adults too. We use electronic stimulus to keep us going far beyond our "natural rhythms". Take those away and people can sleep.

If the natural rhythm of a teenager is to be unable to sleep until 2:00am, what are they supposed to do if they ever change time zones? People may have a naturally tendency to be a night owl or whatever, but that is hardly the most important element in the sleep deprivation story going on right now.

This. I mentioned up above that I've always been a morning person along with most of my friends. But, I didn't grow up with a device attached to me. Most of my activities growing up were outside. Going to school early meant more daylight after school to play. Even on weekends I was up with the sun, and often earlier since the surf was typically better early. All spring and summer we would be up at ~4:30am to go fishing. Kids staring at devices all hours of the day has had an enormous impact on their lives that I'm not sure we fully understand yet.

I've never been a morning person. Always been awake late and struggled to wake up in the morning. Imagine how it feels to have people dismiss this as a problem with screen time when I grew up without any screens! (Literally - not even a TV).

I think you will find that people like to generalize everything to black and white so things make sense when in reality there are much more complex things at play, not to mention that humans are not designed to fit one mold. Somehow this is a commonly accepted truth when it comes to baby with “all babies are different” but when focus shifts to teens and adults we are supposed to be neatly organized into cstegories and labels. Pleeeeeeeease...

My point being, your situation is not necessary comparable to others. Case in point, as a child I had a difficult time falling asleep at night without screens. I woke up late and was always tired in the morning. You might attribute this to a number of some factors we probably don’t have time to discuss here. Now, as a teenager I was able to fall asleep like a rock on most days but was still tired the next day in class. I can’t tell ya how many times I’ve heard “that lazy guy” Label being applied to myself and others who shared this trait because imo it’s too convenient to label someone rather than trying to understand the underlying issues.

In any case, I tend to agree that school most definitely starts too early for a growing human being whose development takes place at night and specifically mostly during slee when body is at rest. Is it a surprise then that a developing body requires more sleep? Circadian cycles or not, kids should probably start school at a later time. Now, whether society can accept this and modify adult schedules around new findings is a question not easily answered. I suspect for this to happen, society as a whole will need to move away from 9-5 or at least become more remote and or flexible.

Enforcing sleep deprivation is torture. But that goes far beyond having a terrible wake-up hour. If you can sleep freely in the same 12 hour window each day, you're not being forcibly sleep deprived.

If you are sleep deprived to the point of "torture" you will fall asleep right during the day in noisy place.

No study of teenagers sleep patterns found that they are tortured via sleep deprivation. That is lie.

Uh... lots of high school students literally fall asleep in the middle of class. There's a reason it's a pop culture cliche.

That is not caused by different natural rhytme, that is caused by them not going to sleep till they are exhausted. It does not happen if they are not allowed to watch TV or browse the net or chat of social whatever and are sent to bed by parents.

That pop culture cliché also have only kids who don't give a fuck about anything doing that. And it is fuelled by it being perceived as cool. Overwhelming majority of students don't sleep during class.

I mentioned it because I was one of those kids. There was nothing "cool" about it, and I found my persistent insomnia, relative to high school schedules, frustrating at best. I got detentions several times for falling asleep in the middle of classes I personally found interesting.

I am pretty confident that that level of insomnia is not cause by normal teenager sleep patterns. If you can't sleep so much that you sleep in sch ool, then your problem is medical.

> If there was a will, teenagers would be allowed to come sooner or on bike or fully by themselves.

Wait, are there some places in US where teenagers aren’t allowed to do that?

They are not allowed to come home by bike now? What am I missing?

My campus had a rolling start of day, depending on the university that's attended.

I don't know when it was enacted but it certainly helped with congestion in the transports in the morning and in the cafeteria for lunch.

Students are autonomous though. I can imagine that school pupils are not and they cause troubles for parents.

> Students are autonomous though. I can imagine that school pupils are not and they cause troubles for parents.

We could have made school children autonomous far sooner if we wanted to.

The school district my kids are in does this. High school starts 1 hour after elementary, and the buses just run the same routes twice.

That’s what it is here except reversed — buses do the high school run first, and the discussion was around reversing it - like you would think it would have been from the start.

> night owls were especially vulnerable, many appearing so chronically jet-lagged that they were unable to perform optimally at any time of day.

I experienced this with an 8am biology class I was required to take. It wrecked my whole day. About 1/3 of the way through I just started skipping the class and then later getting notes of the lecture from a friend of mine. It ended up working dramatically well. I got an A, while my friend who got up every MWF to take the notes, got a B. It was kind of a wild result since my studying was based almost entirely on her notes. I hadn't given it too much thought, but it would make sense if being sleep deprived is what hurt her in this case.

Anecdotally, (and as a story for anyone similar to me/with kids similar to how I was) I spent most of my life until college thinking that school/learning was the most miserable process in the world, and that I was terrible at it.

It turns out, waking up at ~6 every morning, and usually not going to bed until 10/12 thanks to after school classes and homework, left me with less sleep than I even need to be functional now as an adult and turned highschool into a special sort of "kid jail".

I got punished innumerable times for sleeping in class, and probably spent more time by % fighting to keep my eyes open than I did paying attention. (I had at least one teacher who threw chalk at students who slept, it was such a common occasion)

This changed like a lightswitch when in college I was able to assert that I didn't take any classes before 10. By the end of my masters I had a 4.0 (highschool had been a struggle to maintain a 3.0 with much easier classes), although it took most of that time to re-learn how to learn and pay attention. The difference was so stark it puts a fire in my belly just to think about the amount of resistance I've seen to changing this status quo. I recognize this is "for adults/work" but as a working adult I refuse to concede that we can't come up with a solution that doesn't so entirely steamroll some kids for being wired to need more sleep.

My worst semester at University I had three 8am lectures... I knew I was a bit of a night owl, but at this point I didn't realise that I actually had a severe sleep disorder. I had just assumed that what people said (you just have to be disciplined, just go to be earlier, etc.) was potentially true, which was demoralising. It was actually pretty liberating to find out about differences in circadian rhythms. I still get similar bad advice, which is about as useful as "just be happier" is to a clinically depressed person...

College was rough for me, I felt best sleeping on a 3am to noon schedule and half of my required classes could only be scheduled before noon. I managed to get through it but still felt like I was unable to learn as effectively as I could have. I also recall being a zombie in high school because I was forced to wake up at 6 every day and could not fall asleep until midnight, and at the time my body required much more sleep than I was getting...

From age 12 to 23 I thought something was wrong with me as a human because I was tired, depressed,and anxious but I've learned that when I sleep well those symptoms disappear. Life has been much better since I gained more control over my schedule.

I remember in my high school classes kids were always super tired in am. On many occasions where we had subs come in and put on a movie, many kids would just fall asleep. I had to fake being awake by pretending to be looking down between the desk and my legs and when the teacher walked by I would just “pick up” my pen and get right back to work - I was sleeping the whole time.

How did/do you deal with your different circadian rhythm? I have a friend who can easily sleep 12 hours at a time and consistently goes to bed past 3am and wakes up in the afternoon (and has also dealt with depression in the last). I’m wondering what else I can do to help besides push for no screen time past 10pm etc.

Sleeping 12 hours at a time frequently is hypersomnia (at least if actually sleeping, not just in bed unable to sleep). The wikipedia page on hypersomnia links to a number of things that can cause it, including depression. If possible, getting evaluated for sleep apnea is a good idea since that is at least fairly easy to treat (even if the treatment is rather annoying :/). I have Non-24 and insomnia and had hypersomnia when I was younger.


I would encourage your friend to look at the Circadian Sleep Disorders Network site:


There is a mailing list mentioned there for people with circaidian rhythm disorders, a good way to hear about what works or doesn't work for other people (you don't need to join the organization to subscribe). There is a huge amount of individual variation both in how people are affected and what helps deal with it. Some people do well if they stick to their internal schedule and some of us don't. Unfortunately, there isn't really good treatment for circadian disorders and trying to live on the shifted schedule can be the easiest for for people who do well on that schedule (which is not to say easy as finding a job on such a schedule can be very difficult).

The standard treatment recommendation is melatonin and avoiding light before bed and light therapy in the morning. This works for some people, at least for a while, but not for most people (I'd recommend putting some effort into trying to adjust the schedule, just know that it might not work). If avoiding all screen time is too difficult, I recommend turning the color temperature on f.lux or redshift way down (I use 2500K). Also worth noting that trying to adjust your schedule by shifting forward can turn DSPS into Non-24 (that is what happened for me, and the CSD-N survey shows it has happened to a bunch of people while only a few find it helpful), so I'd highly recommend against that (unfortunately some sleep doctors recommend it). Also, stay away from benzos; they don't work long term but are addictive.

So how did you solve your sleep disorder?

I haven’t yet... Managed to convince work to let me come in at 10-10:30am and I typically work until 6:30-7pm, or leave a bit earlier and do an extra hour or so from home at 9 or 10pm. So I still do a standard amount of hours for full-time here, just shifted back one or two hours.

Apparently your sleep cycle does slowly get earlier as you age so maybe I’ll be able to do 9am to 5:30 in a decade or so! I may go back to the doctor and try melatonin supplements or something, but as long as work’s OK with it I’m doing alright.

It’s hard to go to bed earlier because of interruptions and noise levels on campus, but if they can be managed, so can this problem. The idea that there is some innate biological problem is silly IMO. Young people have no unusual difficulty adjusting to time zones when traveling, but they do have computers and cell phones that are like brain cocaine and very difficult to self manage. I started scheduling shut off times for my kids’ cell phones and magically they now get up more bright eyed and get themselves to school on time.

Though I suppose there is a self-talk component too, whereby if you convince yourself it’s an innate problem (you’re young, you’re a developer, you’re special) then it might feel more like one. I used to tell myself I couldn’t exercise in the morning, a belief I maintained into my forties, then one year I needed to, after about a month of getting used to it, I was then a morning exerciser...

It's not silly. It is in fact a real thing.


So they have a hard time getting to sleep on time - but it is because of behavior patterns. If it were due to maladaptive body clock regulation there would be evidence of poor adaptation when traveling to different time zones. If it were due to melatonin dysfunction there would be some wild swings in affected populations between summer and winter periods. Instead this is fully explained by routines. Just ask the college swim team who have to get up at 4/5am to train before class, how do they get up so early? They get to bed early.

This is so idiotic. The argument is not about how to wake up on time, the point being made is that you are not as attentive when your circadian rhythm is misaligned with tasks that require a high degree of attention.

What is so idiotic is the concept of a natural circadian rhythm that is being claimed out of correlation studies of social cohorts, when there is no fundamental hypothesis to support the idea that young/old people have innately different rhythms.

I agree with you that people do not perform when their rhythms are not in sync with their lives’ demands. However commenters and the article writers are inferring there is some inherent trait that prevents their body clock from adapting.

It's a biological thing and there's plenty of research on it. And there _is_ evidence of "poor adaptation."


I just want to say thank you for that link. I just read it and that is exactly how I feel. Really nice to get an explanation.

Even when I'm very deliberately making sure there are no distractions (no lights on, no electronics, fan for white noise) and/or I'm exhausted (been awake for >2 days), I find it _very_ difficult to sleep before 3am, and that time will gradually slip back to the point where it's often easier to skip a night's sleep to "resync" my sleep schedule. Probably not the case for every one, but it's difficult to not see that as some innate difference, especially as it has persisted for years across multiple environments.

What is the biological property of 3am to you? Is it a particular time of darkness? Is it a set point of time after you have woken up? What happens when you travel to a different time zone, do you adapt?

Circadian rhythms depend on time since sunrise/sunset.

As I understand it, it's more of an internal clock that can be shifted by sunrise/sunset light/dark - but there appear to be a biological/inherited component. Hence some mammals have evolved a rhythm more dependent on seasons than day/night, due to polar day/night cycles: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/41942188_A_Circadia...

Which in turn might imply that humans still being rather young species is tuned to a rather strict day/night cycle, as seen close to the equator.

I'd say you owe that friend a round or two.

This strategy worked well for me too until Circuit Theory. As an "early morning"[] class it was easy to bum the notes from somebody else, but the darn quizzes tanked my grades enough that I had to repeat the course the next available semester.

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