PASSAGE 1 暂缺
IT’S Monday morning, and you’re having trouble waking your teenagers. You’re not alone. Indeed, each morning, few of the country’s 17 million high school students are awake enough to get much out of their first class, particularly if it starts before 8 a.m. Sure, many of them stayed up too late the night before, but not because they wanted to.
Research shows that teenagers’ body clocks are set to a schedule that is different from that of younger children or adults. This prevents adolescents from dropping off until around 11 p.m., when they produce the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and waking up much before 8 a.m. when their bodies stop producing melatonin.
The result is that the first class of the morning is often a waste, with as many as 28 percent of students falling asleep, according to a National Sleep Foundation poll. Some are so sleepy they don’t even show up, contributing to failure and dropout rates.
Here’s an idea: stop focusing on testing and instead support changing the hours of the school day, starting it later for teenagers and ending it later for all children. Indeed, no one does well when they’re sleep-deprived, but insufficient sleep among children has been linked to obesity and to learning issues like attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. You’d think this would spur educators to take action, and a few have.
In 2002, high schools in Jessamine County in Kentucky pushed back the first bell to 8:40 a.m., from 7:30 a.m. Attendance immediately went up, as did scores on standardized tests, which have continued to rise each year. Districts in Virginia and Connecticut have achieved similar success. In Minneapolis and Edina,
Minn., which instituted high school start times of 8:40 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. respectively in 1997, students’ grades rose slightly and lateness, behavioral problems and dropout rates decreased. Later is also safer. When high schools in Fayette County in Kentucky delayed their start times to 8:30 a.m., the number of teenagers involved in car crashes dropped, even as they rose in the state.
So why hasn’t every school board moved back that first bell? Well, it seems that improving teenagers’ performance takes a back seat to more pressing concerns: the cost of additional bus service, the difficulty of adjusting after-school activity schedules and the inconvenience to teachers and parents.
But few of these problems actually come to pass, according to the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota. In Kentucky and Minnesota, simply flipping the starting times for the elementary and high schools meant no extra cost for buses.
There are other reasons to start and end school at a later time. According to Paul Reville, a professor of education policy at Harvard and chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Education, “Trying to cram everything our 21st-century students need into a 19th-century six-and-a-half-hour day just isn’t working.” He says that children learn more at a less frantic pace, and that lengthening the school day would help “close the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their better-off peers.”
It's estimated that every year 100,000 children aged 16 and under run away from home. The London Refuge, an unremarkable house on an unremarkable street, is the only place in Britain that will give them a bed. Last year it gave sanctuary to 238 children, of whom the youngest was 11. What happened to the other 99,762? Nobody knows, although it's a fair bet that some of them ended up on the streets, that some fell into inappropriate and dangerous company, that some didn't survive. “The mere fact that they're running away puts them at risk,” says Lorna Simpson, the refuge's deputy manager. “On the streets they'll mix with other young people. They're so naive; they don't understand that people who are nice to them will want payback. Our job is to make them safe.”
Simpson, a former social worker, is a calm woman of great warmth. The refuge has six beds and has been open since 1993, often with the threat of closure hanging over it. The problem has nothing to do with the quality of its service – Ofsted ranks it as outstanding - and everything to do with funding. A week's placement costs ?2,278 and three successive governments have argued that the annual running costs of ?720,000 should be locally funded. But because it is used by children from many parts of London, and beyond, local authorities are reluctant to contribute.
The Government has now agreed to work on a strategy to support runaway children in England and Wales, which is rich after its withdrawal of funding from the refuge in December. Since then the NSPCC, which runs the refuge in conjunction with St Christopher's Fellowship, has financed it through a donation from an individual, but that money will last only until late next year. “Without this facility there's nothing; children who run away are on the street,” says Nasima Patel, the assistant director of the NSPCC. “One of the strengths of the refuge is that children who have left home can ring up directly and will get a bed and supportive staff without having to go through a process of assessment. That's hard to re-create in statutory arrangements and if you're on the run you need somewhere to go and someone to talk to. We're convinced that direct access will always be needed.”
The refuge accommodates six children plus staff. Many of the admissions are at night and children can stay up to 21 days in three months, although most stay for three to five days. They find it through social services, through Child Line (although the number is given only to children who have already left home) and through word of mouth; only when they arrive do staff discover their circumstances. Simpson recalls the injured young boy who ran four miles without shoes after his dad had beaten him.
“They're running away from everything you can think of,” she says. “Arguments with step-parents, sexual abuse, alcoholic parents, being left to bring up their younger siblings, neglected children who have been failed by social services, girls who have been trafficked. We get doctors' and lawyers' children who run away because they want more pocket money, or want to stay out later than their parents allow. They've been given everything, they get to 15 and no one thinks to pull the reins in. By that time it's too late; they rebel.”
Most of the children are from families known to social services, and for them the refuge's ordered regimen is a welcome contrast to the chaos they know. Staff listens without judging and without encouraging dependency, trying to establish why the children have run away. The aim is to get them home or into the care of social services and, after discharge from the refuge, a family support worker is available.
It is already common knowledge, on the beaches and in the cafes of mainland Europe, that Americans work too hard - just as it is well known on the other side of the Atlantic that Europeans, above all the French and the Germans, are slackers who could do with a bit of America's vigorous work ethic.
But a new survey suggests that even those vacations American employees do take are rapidly vanishing, to the extent that 40% of workers questioned at the start of the summer said they had no plans to take any holiday at all for the next six months, more than at any time since the late 1970s.
It is probably mere coincidence that George Bush, one of the few Americans who has been known to enjoy a French-style month off during August, cut back his holiday in Texas this year to a fortnight. But the survey by the Conference Board research group, along with other recent statistics, suggests an epidemic泛滥 of overwork among ordinary Americans.
A quarter of people employed in the private sector in the US get no paid vacation at all, according to government figures. Unlike almost all other industrialized nations, including Britain, American employers do not have to give paid holidays.
The average American gets a little less than four weeks of paid time off, including public holidays, compared with 6.6 weeks in the UK - where the law requires a minimum of four weeks off for full-time workers - and 7.9 weeks for Italy. One study showed that people employed by the US subsidiary of a London-based bank would have to work there for 10 years just to be entitled to the same vacation time as colleagues in Britain who had just started their jobs.
Even when they do take vacations, overworked Americans find it hard to switch off. One in three finds not checking their email and voicemail more stressful than working, according to a study by the Travelocity website, while the traumas of travel take their own toll. "We commonly complain we need a vacation from our vacations," the author Po Bronson wrote recently. "We leave home tired; we come back exhausted."
Christian Schneider, a German-born scholar at the Wharton business school in Philadelphia, argues that there is "a tendency to really relax in Europe, to disengage from work. When an American finally does take those few days of vacation per year they are most likely to be in constant contact with the office."
Mindful that well-rested workers are more productive than burnt-out ones, the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has started closing all its US offices completely twice a year, for 10 days over Christmas and about five around Independence Day. "We wanted to create an environment where people could walk away and not worry about missing a meeting, a conference call or 300 emails," Barbara Kraft, a partner at the company, told the New York Times.
Left to themselves, Americans fail to take an average of four days of their vacation entitlement - an annual national total of 574m unclaimed days.