Letter to the Editor: Kendra Hilton

Kendra Hilton, Senior

“How late did you go to bed last night?”

For a Lamorinda teen, the answer is likely to be some ridiculous hour deep into the night or even worse early in the morning.

The heavy lidded student might then list off the numerous homework assignments and various tests they have for their load of advanced courses as well as the hours eaten up by his or her after-school sports practice, dance class, drama rehearsal, church group, and/or SAT tutoring sessions.

This staggering from one obligation to the next, like a confused, but strangely unsatisfied zombie, is no way to live, or perhaps to be more accurate, really isn’t living at all.  These are Lamorinda’s undead.

Already saddled with the cliché of trying to find themselves in their formative years, adolescents in our community today have to accomplish this while sleep deprived and under ever increasing pressure to achieve academic perfection. The privilege of attending a top ranked school comes at a steep price (especially when student emotional health is excluded from the tally of a school’s achievements).  Is such academic “success” worth the physical and emotional damage incurred by the long days and extremely short nights?

According to doctors, teens need roughly 9.25 hours of sleep to function properly and experience normal growth, but most Campolindo students experience an average of 7 hours per night, and a startling 25% get 6 hours or less. Such sleeping patterns have been shown to increase chances of depression, difficulty in school, obesity, and suicide.

What we seem to have in our community is a combination of enormous pressure placed upon teens and the simultaneous degradation of their ability to deal with that constant weight.  It’s easy to see how this has become a vicious circle.

One of the major factors in this time crunch is homework. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Of course, teens are likely to be biased against homework.  But there is plenty of data which suggests that excessive homework load can actually be a detriment to academic growth.

An international evaluation done by 2 Penn State professors determined that junior high students who scored highest in math tests tended to come from countries where teachers assign relatively little homework – including Denmark, the Czech Republic and Japan. Conversely, the lowest-scoring students came from countries where teachers assign large amounts of homework – including Iran, Thailand and Greece.

Unfortunately, most Campolindo teachers seem to respond to the content standards for their respective subjects by assigning large amounts of homework. They feel overwhelmed with the load of material that is expected to be taught so they depend on assigning work that students must do beyond the confines of the 50 minute period. In reality though, this decreases the quality of instruction and reduces student retention of the material.

The solution is simple, although I didn’t say it was easy. By lessening the amount of homework and allowing students their crucial sleeping hours, student focus in the classroom will sharpen; mental, physical, and spiritual health will improve; and lastly, students will finally be able to flourish as complete people, not just scholarly zombies.