Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

September 6, 2013

EDITORIALS: Later class times; Anti-Assad bandwagon is empty


CNHI News Service

Would later class times improve student performance?

(New Castle News / New Castle, Pa.)

A student who falls asleep in class may have problems with his or her grades. That’s hardly an earth-shattering concept.

For years now, many in the education community have said students are having trouble staying alert in class because they are not getting enough sleep. As a result, their grades suffer.

The solution? One that has been bandied about in the past and is now being advocated by the United States secretary of education involves starting classes later in the day.

In a broadcast interview this week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke in favor of later class times — while declining to call for a federal standard. He cited studies that discovered that students who lack sufficient sleep see their grades suffer. The problem is especially evident for students in their teen years.

We have no doubt that all of this is true. But we wonder if starting school later in the day will solve the problem, or merely delay the inevitable.

Presumably, teens today aren’t getting enough sleep because they are staying up too late. The reasons may vary, but this is not a particularly difficult concept.

Holding classes later in the day might help, but only if teens go to bed at the same times as now and get up later in the morning. Would that happen, or would they simply stay up later, knowing they don’t have to get up as early?

Some researchers claim schools that started later hours saw improved student performance almost immediately. But is that trend maintained over time, as students opt to adjust their sleep schedules?

Altering school hours comes with consequences. For instance, it might impact after-school extracurricular activities or jobs many students have. And if teens are up later at night, that might be an enticement to engage in activities that could get them into trouble.

We suppose all the research on student sleep patterns will prompt some school districts to alter their schedules. Over time, this should produce measurable results to determine if it indeed makes sense to start classes later in the day.

But we wouldn’t be surprised if the best answer here is for parents to step in and make sure their children are in bed earlier. School officials ought to encourage that, too.

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World fails to jump on anti-Assad bandwagon

(New Castle News / New Castle, Pa.)

President Obama has scored a victory of sorts with a Senate panel accepting military action in Syria.

But that’s a far cry from the broad-based international support such a mission demands. We note the rationale for striking Syria is to deter the future use of chemical weapons by that country and others. If the rest of the world lacks the incentive to join the Obama administration’s call, what’s the point?

It has been disheartening to watch the president and top members of his administration try to make the case in Washington and around the globe for action against the Syrian government. The Assad regime’s employment of sarin gas against its own people should have sparked widespread outrage.

Yet the response was muted, marked with hesitancy, uncertainty and doubts about claims the Syrian government was responsible.

The failure to build international consensus against the Assad government ultimately rests with the president. After all, he had previously put his own — and the nation’s — prestige at stake by warning of dire consequences if chemical weapons were used in Syria’s civil war.

With such a declaration, the administration should have been pressing its case globally, in preparation for the possibility Syria would wage chemical warfare. That effort alone would have served as a deterrent, and if an attack came anyway, a quick response would have been possible.

It is important to ask why the international community is so reticent about taking a strong stand against Syria. The reasons vary.

One factor is the skepticism regarding evidence of chemical weapons use. The invasion of Iraq on the grounds Saddam Hussein was hiding his chemical arsenal is still fresh in the world’s memory.

But it’s likely the main consideration is the lack of meaningful reforms in other Arab nations where long-time dictatorships have been overthrown in recent years. In countries such as Libya and Egypt, the so-called Arab Spring hasn’t exactly led to peace and democracy.

And while Obama is dealing with critics who think he’s being too aggressive, others say he should have intervened in Syria much earlier. The rebels in Syria’s civil war, who seem to have a mix of motives, range from moderate reformers to Islamic radicals. Interventionists argue that had the United States actively supported the right rebels earlier, it would have thwarted radical interests in Syria.

Now, the Syrian regime has had time to prepare for any attack, including the movement of its chemical weapons supplies in order to hide them. Giving Syria an extended warning means that any attack is likely to have a diminished impact.