A goal of leading the nation in candy-pants teenagers

One state legislator thinks the stateís teenagers arenít getting enough sleep and wants high schools to open no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Our young people are tired. Awwww. Why not mandate nap time and perhaps milk and cookies as well?

    As if Connecticut didnít have enough embarrassment, as in being first in per capita income but near the bottom in charitable giving. We might soon lead the nation in coddled, candy-pants teenagers.

    Itís hard to believe there was a time still in collective memory where 16-year-olds lied about their age in order to sleep in foxholes, endure heat and cold, eat lousy food and sometimes, even die for their country.

    And now we have to protect their little selves from too much to do and not enough sack time.

    Kevin B. Sullivan, a West Hartford Democrat and president pro tem of the Senate, cites studies that show teenagers would learn better if they had more sleep than they're getting.

    "Having somebody somnolent in the classroom and trying to learn third-year French is not my idea of a wise education strategy," Sullivan said. "I was motivated by my observation of kids dragging themselves to the bus well before the start of my day and other people's workdays."

    Sullivan ought to find out why teens are so sleepy before he blames it on early school hours. He could start by talking to the scores of honor students who play sports, cut the family lawns, volunteer as EMTís, edit the yearbook and play in the school band.

    Then he could interview a few who chat on the internet, play video games, watch MTV and hang out at the mall. Hmmm, now thereís something. Instead of making schools open later, why not make malls close earlier?

    Could it be, perhaps, that some teens are even smoking pot? Nahhh.

    As a public service, here is a test to determine whether teenagers need a later post time for their studies. You start with score of five.

    Subtract one if you play on a sports team, since this means you are more likely to be fit and disciplined and donít need the extra sleep time. Subtract another one if this sport is soccer (just on principle), unless you are a girl.

    Subtract one if you are enrolled in a SAT prep course. No reason you should have an advantage over those kids who canít afford it.

    Add one if you are in the top one-third of your class (grade averages canít apply here, since in some high schools students with a B average arenít even in the top one-half).

    Add one if you are a student in Hartford, Bridgeport, Waterbury, New Britain or New Haven. Add two if you are in one of these schools and have a B average or higher. You are up against more than other kids in the state.

    Add one if you have a part-time job. Add two if any of the money you earn paid for your car, your clothes or went into a college fund.

    Add one if your car costs more than $6000 and your parents paid for it. You probably have bad parents.

    Subtract one if you own Nintendo, Sega or Playstation.

    Add one if itís your job to do any of the following: cut the grass, shovel the driveway, do the grocery shopping, wash the car or tutor your younger sibling in algebra.

    Subtract two if you own a bong.

    Add one for any regular extracurricular activity such as glee club, drama club, band, or debate society.

    Subtract one if you use America Online for anything other than e-mail or bona fide internet research. Subtract another one if you have ICQ, Instant Messenger or any other chat program.

    Subtract one if youíve seen MTVís "Jackass" more than twice.

    Add one if you do any volunteer work to help the less fortunate.

    Add one if you regularly attend church or synagogue.

    Add one if you baby sit younger siblings more than three hours a week and donít get paid for it.

    If your score was ten or above, you are probably a pretty smart, responsible kid whose parents and teachers have taught you well. You probably donít need a state-sponsored snooze button. If you scored less than that, nothing the state legislature can do is going to help you stay awake.

    The Senator should be told that the reason for kids heading off before many workdays start is that working people want their children off to school before they go off to their jobs. As a state legislator, he might be unfamiliar with the lives of people who work.

    It may or may not be that some high school students are too tired to learn properly, but if that is the case it would make more sense to look elsewhere for adjustments to their schedules. Anyone who thinks otherwise is probably not getting enough sleep.


January 30, 2001