What School Start Times Say About the Stifling Strictures of Public Education

As a lifelong late-sleeper who
went to a high school with a brutal 7 a.m. start time, I’m thrilled
see The New York Times cover

new research
indicating that students at high schools with
later start times performed better on measures such as mental
health, auto accident rates, attendance, and sometime grades and
test scores as well. I napped through first and second period
fairly consistently during my high school days, even in classes
that I liked, and even when my teachers allowed my to tote my
technically off-limits mega-thermos of coffee into the classroom in
hopes that it would keep me awake. Even when I wasn’t passed out on
my desk, I still didn’t learn much. I was basically zombified until
third period or so—shuffling and groaning from class to class, but
not really alive and engaged.

And while supporters of early start times frequently argue that
they’re better for kids who participate in sports and other
extracurricular activities, because they make more room in the
afternoon, for me the opposite was true. I quit competitive
swimming once I reached high school because practices started at
something like 5 a.m., and nighttime band practices kept me out
later during the weekday anyway. Waking up in time to swim would
have been incredibly difficult just by itself. Trying to do it
while staying up for band—and the inevitable home that had to be
finished after practice—would have been impossible.

Sure, some of this was basic teenage laziness, but I’m not the
only teenager to have had trouble with early morning school start
times. Overall, the research is pretty clear that teenagers tend to
have later sleep cycles, and that early class start times impact
performance at school and elsewhere. That’s why places like the
Brookings Institution are recommending later start times, and why
the Times report is built around the story of a successful
student push to get a school board in Missouri to ditch plans to
make an early start time even earlier. As the Times notes,
this is a movement decades in the making; the research has been
pointing in this direction for a while.

But here’s the thing: Later high school start times may be
better on average, but not every teenage student is semi-comatose
until 9 a.m. I knew kids who liked going to bed and getting up
early, and others who managed to earn great grades, play sports,
maintain active social lives, and otherwise perform just fine on
five hours of sleep. And while it wasn’t true for me, the benefits
for many after-school activities are real—especially for teenagers
who work part-time jobs. Indeed, that was one way that my school’s
hellishly early start time actually helped me: Throughout my senior
year, I worked a few days a week at a local grocery store. The
early start time meant school was out before 2 p.m., so I was able
to stop at home, change clothes, and grab a snack before starting
an afternoon shift.

All of which is to say that what works for some students doesn’t
always work for others. The real problem then isn’t early start
times so much as it is the centralized rigidity of the public
school system.

For many kids (and their parents) there’s little or no choice
about what high school to go to, and what time to be there. You go
to the school you’re assigned to, and that’s it. Private options
offer some flexibility, in some cases. But even moderately priced
private schools are expensive. And in many smaller and medium-sized
towns, the competition is weak at best.

Sure, it’s nice to see that some school districts are taking
note of the evidence in favor of later start times for high
schools. But it would be even nicer to imagine a world in which the
evidence didn’t take 20 years to filter into school systems’
decision-making processes, in which small bands of school-board
bureaucrats weren’t making one-size-fits-all decisions for
thousands of students, and in which teenagers and their families
had a variety of meaningful options available—options that might
include, among other things, variable start times, and perhaps even
school days that weren’t constructed on the traditional
seven-hours-starting-in-the-morning schedule at all. In other
words, it would be nice if there were choice and competition in
public education, and if innovations and adjustments like later
start times weren’t news. 

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A.M. Links: Congress Invites Pope To Speak, Scott Brown May Run Again, Facebook To Start Running Video Ads

  • can he perform an exorcism on congress?House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)
    extended an invitation to
    Pope Francis
    to address a joint session of Congress in 2015, an
    invitation supported by leaders from both parties. It would be the
    first time a pontiff addresses Congress.
  • In a post on Facebook, CEO
    Mark Zuckerberg
    said he called President Obama in the wake of
    revelations about the NSA’s surveillance operations to express
    “frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of
    our future.”

  • Scott Brown
    , formerly a senator from Massachusetts, may be
    preparing for another Senate run in 2014, in New Hampshire.
  • That
    former cop
    who fatally shot a man for texting in a Florida
    theater? He was texting too.

  • Facebook
    plans on starting to run 15 second video ads for users
    in early April.
  • The mayor of
    , who also serves as governor of the Benadir region of
    Somalia, has suggested that all security agencies in the region
    report directly to him.

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Kurt Loder Reviews Veronica Mars and Grand Piano

Kurt Loder
writes that  Veronica Mars is better-looking than you
might expect of a film that was shot in about 30 days. The
picture is a serviceable extension of the original teen-detective
series, which ran from 2004 to 2007 (when the CW dumped it for
insufficiently impressive ratings). Fans will be happy to see that
Bell’s Veronica is still a tough cookie with a nice line in deadpan

Grand Piano, writes Loder, has a Hitchcock setup and
stylish lighting and restless camerawork that recall Brian De
Palma. But the movie left him in no mood for an encore.

View this article.

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Brickbat: Let’s Go to the Tape

DeKalb County, Georgia,
police officer Demetrius A. Kendrick has been indicted on a charge
of violating his oath of office after allegedly planting
 on a man. Kendrick claimed he saw Alphonso Eleby
toss away some marijuana after he and another officer stopped him.
But video later showed Kendrick was the one who tossed something at
Eleby’s feet. The charges against Eleby were later dropped, but not
because of the video. The DeKalb County police department was
unable to find the marijuana Eleby was accused of having.

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Scott Shackford on the Tom Brown Show on WEZS at 9 P.M. Eastern Time

I will be chatting up a storm with Tom Brown on the
appropriately named Tom Brown Show, airing on WEZS in the
lovely state of New Hampshire. The show runs from 9 p.m. to
midnight Eastern, but I’ll be up early on the schedule. We’ll be
discussing the various events making news this week and you can
tune in online here.
Many Reason staffers have been on the show. This is my first time,
so I’ll try not to screw things up too horribly.

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Raw Story Totally Busts Reason in the Great Dildo War of 2014

BustedRaw Story‘s David Edwards totally
busted Reason on our report that Lousiana residents swarm
the state’s sex shops to stock up on dildos on the taxpayers’ dime!
He even headlines his story, “Busted:
Libertarian magazine falsely claims poor families can buy sex toys
with food stamps

Ouch. That hurts.

Actually, our own Elizabeth Nolan Brown blogged TV station
report that a Gonzales, Louisiana, lingerie store accepts EBT
. She noted, “I hate to be one of those people who makes a
huge deal at any hint of benefit abuse, so let’s acknowledge that
we don’t know how many (if any) people have used federal benefits
at Kiss My Lingerie.” After hearing back from the store owner,
Elizabeth added that the number of people who have actually used
the cards in the store is “zero so far.”

Debunking…something…Edwards also reached out and chatted
with a clerk at Kiss My Lingerie. “We don’t accept that for adult
toys,” a store employee told Edwards. “No, no way.”

Well, except that WAFB reports that, whatever the store policy,
“there’s no violation of the law with the store accepting the card
for lingerie and other adult items.”


Edwards says Reason didn’t respond to his request for
comment by publication time. When we receive it, we’ll get back to

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Ukraine: Thousands of Russian Troops at Border, Kerry Demands an End

All eyes are on the
Russian-Ukrainian border as heavily-armed Kremlin forces line up
for “military

The New York Times writes
that today Russia’s “Defense Ministry… outlined what was
described as intensive training of units involving artillery
batteries, assault helicopters and at least 10,000 soldiers,”
noting that this directly contradicts their denial of troop
movements yesterday.

The head of Ukraine’s National Security
that there are actually 80,000 troops.

At a meeting with President Obama today, interim Prime Minister
Arseniy Yatsenyuk assured that
Ukraine “will fight for [its] freedom… and never surrender.”

Nevertheless, interim President Oleksandr
Turchynov stated today
that Ukraine will not use force against Russia, because it would
make “containing the situation… impossible.”

Significantly, the three regions in which Russian forces are
gathering are
not at all
near the Crimean peninsula, which is in the south,
but situated along Ukraine’s eastern border. This raises
that Russia may stage an even more aggressive invasion
on top of the 25,000 troops already occupying Crimea.

This weekend, Crimea will face a referendum on whether or not
the region will join the Russian Federation. According to Reuters,

of the two options on the ballot would actually allow
Crimea to retain its current status as part of Ukraine. The U.S.
and E.U. refuse to acknowledge the vote, asserting that the
military occupation prevents any legitimate opportunity to

Secretary of State John Kerry issued a specious warning about it
today. “There will be a response of some kind to the
referendum itself. If there is no sign [from Russia] of any
capacity to respond to this issue … there will be a very serious
series of steps on Monday,” he said
at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing. Kerry will meet
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov tomorrow in London,
according to the Washington Examiner.

Read more Reason coverage of Ukraine here

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Anti-Protest Law Passes in Australia – Punishment Includes Fines and Imprisonment

The Australian state of Victoria has just passed an extremely anti-democractic law criminalizing protest (recall Japan and Spain moved to do the same late last year). For those of you unfamiliar with Australian geography, Victoria is one of Australia’s five states. It is the second most populous and includes the city of Melbourne (a city of four million), so this isn’t some parched piece of land near Ayers rock with more kangaroos than people.

It is very disturbing that this is happening in 2014 in a Western “democracy.” It demonstrates two interrelated social trends. That the “people” are waking up to elite corruption, and the power structure is terrified that their bullshit propaganda is no longer effective. The friendly mask of government is coming off…

From PBS:

The Victoria state government in Australia passed a law Tuesday that will give unprecedented amounts of power to police to suppress protests. The Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill passed through the Victorian parliament despite heavy opposition within the general population. During the legislative proceedings alone, police arrested four protesters in the legislative chamber’s public viewing chamber for causing disturbances.

“Despite heavy opposition within the general population.” Silly serfs, you think what you want matters?

Under the new law, police can order protesters to disperse if they are blocking the entrance to a building, obstructing people or traffic, or most notably, if the police expect the protesters to turn violent. The penalty for violating orders to move ranges from a $720 fine to arrest and imprisonment. Under the new law, police would also be able to obtain exclusion orders banning protesters from certain public places for a period of 12 months; the violation of which carries a maximum jail sentence of two years.

Take note of the word “expect.” The police can simply “expect” than any protest they don’t want happening will turn violent. What a sad joke.

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Anti-Protest Law Passes in Australia – Punishment Includes Fines and Imprisonment originally appeared on A Lightning War for Liberty on March 13, 2014.

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NSA Makes Latest ‘Enemies of the Internet’ List

Enemies of the InternetIf any publicity is good
publicity, the National Security Agency (NSA) is just rolling in
it. The latest headline grabber is the high-profile electronic
surveillance agency’s ranking—along with its British counterpart,
Government Commmunications Headquarters (GCHQ)—on a list of
“enemies of the Internet” that otherwise features the usual scurvy
screw of thumbscrew-friendly authoritarian regimes. The listing
comes, of course, courtesy of the NSA’s widely publicized (by
Edward Snowden) spying on the communications activities of
Americans and the world at large.

Published by Reporters Without Borders, Enemies of the Internet
lists the
and GCHQ among such notables as
, and a
cabal of western firms
that sell surveillance technology to the
sort of governments that make decent people squeamish. Most of the
names on the list are no surprise. Cuba’s communist dictatorship
“denies most of its population free access to the Internet”? You
don’t say. Syria’s thuggish rulers “monitor the Web and trace
activists and dissidents”? Few of us thought otherwise.

But that’s exactly what makes the appearance of U.S. and U.K.
government agencies so…unpleasant. Those governments are supposed
to be better than that, though the realists among us know that
government officials tend to aspire downward when it comes to
respect for individual liberty. The NSA, the report notes, “has
come to symbolize the abuses by the world’s intelligence

But, if the NSA gets slammed both by the specifics of its entry
in the report and by the company it keeps, the U.K.’s government is
in for even worse treatment.

“The U.S. edition of The Guardian is still able to
publish information from Edward Snowden, while the British edition
is not,” the report asserts. That doesn’t seem to be quite
true, yet, though the British government is reportedly considering

reinstating censorship
of such matters after
raking the the newspaper over coals
over the Snowden

More bluntly, the report quotes Snowden commenting about the
GCHQ, “They are worse than the U.S.”

Which might soften some of the sting for Americans. Or just make
it worse for Britons.

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