Dan Walters

It’s high time to legislate about times of our lives

Do we still need Daylight Saving Time?

Learn why we change clocks twice a year in this brief history of Daylight Saving Time.
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Learn why we change clocks twice a year in this brief history of Daylight Saving Time.

Precisely defining “time” has always been elusive – lying, as it does, at the nexus of science and philosophy.

Whatever it is, it dominates our lives, so we talk about it incessantly.

“Have a good time,” we advise others upon parting. “Timeout,” says the referee – or the parent of a misbehaving child.

John Bartlett’s book of quotations contains hundreds of references to time, but for some reason omitted Geoffrey Chaucer’s aphorism, “Time and tide wait for no man.”

And now time is an issue in the California Legislature.

For the second time – there’s that word again – San Jose Assemblyman Kansen Chu has introduced a bill aimed at getting rid of the twice-yearly ritual of adjusting our clocks during the shifts between standard time and daylight saving time.

If enacted, Assembly Bill 807 would ask voters to repeal the 1949 ballot measure that adopted DST and thus allow the Legislature to decide whether to keep it for part of each year, get rid of it or make it year-round.

Democrat Chu argues, with perfect logic, that the biannual shifts do more harm than good because they disrupt human circadian rhythms. While the Senate rejected Chu’s previous bill, one hopes that time will be on his side this year.

Speaking of circadian rhythms, Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, has introduced a measure to prohibit California’s middle and high schools from beginning classes before 8:30 a.m.

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have raised alarms about sleep deprivation in adolescents, which adversely affects their health and academic achievement.

They lay the blame on school systems for beginning classes too early, out of sync with the circadian rhythms of older children.

“The quest to reduce the high cost of sleep loss in adolescents is not only an important public health issue but one of paramount importance to educators, pediatric health care providers, and advocates for adolescent health. Although many changes over the course of adolescence can affect the quality and quantity of sleep, one of the most salient and, arguably, most malleable is that of school start times,” the pediatricians say.

“Schools that have a start time of 8:30 a.m. or later allow adolescent students the opportunity to get the recommended amount of sleep on school nights: about 8.5 to 9.5 hours,” the CDC adds. “Insufficient sleep is common among high school students and is associated with several health risks such as being overweight, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, and using drugs – as well as poor academic performance.”

Their warnings have spawned efforts to persuade their local schools to adopt the health officials’ recommendations, but very little progress has been made.

The adults who run schools seemingly are more interested in their convenience than the well-being of their young charges. So will the state intervene with Portantino’s Senate Bill 328?

It’s high time that it did, but only time will tell.