Kids aren't getting enough sleep, and it's a big problem. But there's a simple solution.

Last year, the American Association of Pediatrics issued new guidelines for school start times.

Sleep is the only activity you do by pretending you're already doing it.

Think about it. Weird, right? Anyway, sleep is also really important. Without sleep, you'd be, well, uh, not living. So, for the sake of your mental and physical health, emotional well-being, and existence, it's important to make sure you're getting enough of it.


Plus, sleep is awesome. GIF from USA TODAY.

Most of us aspire to get enough sleep (but don't). And if we're lucky, we can control our schedules, avoid nicotine, and avoid caffeine. Sleep-related problems and habits, however, can be a learned condition over time. For this and other reasons, it's time we had a little chat about how to break those habits early in life.

Kids aren't getting enough sleep. This is actually a big problem.

The National Sleep Foundation (yes, this is a thing that exists; no, I hadn't heard of it, either) found that 87% of U.S. high schoolers were getting less than the recommended 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep on weeknights. The numbers weren't much better for junior high students.

What's the big deal? Well, chronic sleep loss has some nasty effects, especially on adolescents. For example, it's been know to lead to lower test scores, decreased ability to concentrate, shorter attention spans, and less ability to retain information. And, given that succeeding at school requires pretty much the polar opposite of those symptoms, we should probably try to figure out how to make sure kids get the sleep they need.

Your average American high schooler, basically. GIF from "Arrested Development."

Some schools have a really simple, obvious solution: Start classes later.

A few school districts here and there have bumped back start times in recent years for the sake of students' zzz's, but the Seattle School Board just became one of the largest districts in the country to push start times later than 8:30 a.m.

"The proposal to change bell times is the result of a research-based community initiative," the district's teachers union told the Seattle Times. "It will improve learning, health and equity for thousands of Seattle students."

And hopefully create an environment where they don't dread school as much as Bart Simpson. GIF from "The Simpsons."

But wait, won't students just stay up later at night? Actually, no!

That was another fascinating aspect of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation — simply trying to get kids to go to bed earlier so they can wake up for earlier classes doesn't actually solve the sleep problem.

What they found was that in schools that bumped start times back, students didn't tend to stay up any later. This is because part of the reason teenagers stay up later than pre-adolescents is their changing biology, not simply some rebellious choice to stay up.

Kids don't want to go to school like this. Help them get the sleep they need so they don't have to. GIF from "Monsters, Inc."

This all sounds great, right? So why aren't more schools doing it?

While the American Association of Pediatrics has put out its recommendation, it's up to individual states and individual school districts to actually implement it.

Earlier this year, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced the "ZZZ's to A's Act" in Congress. The bill would direct the Department of Education to study the effects of later start times in schools and issue findings and recommendations to Congress for potential action.

"Students across the United States are not getting enough sleep at night — this affects not just their academic performance, but their health, safety, and well-being," said Rep. Lofgren in a press release. "We know that as kids become teens their biology keeps them from getting to sleep early, makes it harder for them to wake up early in the morning, and necessitates additional sleep at night."

Unfortunately, the bill — the first variation of which was introduced way back in 1998 — is stuck in Congress. Still, it's good to know there are legislators looking to improve the school experience for students across the country.

Take it from these well-rested stock photo models! Photo from iStock.

While it doesn't look like a national solution is coming anytime soon, there are things you can do.

Try going to your local school board meetings and ask that they consider the American Association of Pediatrics recommendations. Who knows? Maybe your district will follow Seattle's lead!

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Whenever someone's words or behavior are called out as racist, a few predictable responses always follow. One is to see the word "racist" as a vicious personal attack. Two is to vehemently deny that whatever was said or done was racist. And three is to pull out the dictionary definition of racism to prove that the words or behavior weren't racist.

Honestly, as soon as someone refers to the dictionary when discussing racism, it's clear that person has never delved deeply into trying to understand racism. It's a big old red flag, every time.

I'm not an expert on race relations, but I've spent many years learning from people who are. And I've learned that the reality of racism is nuanced and complex, and resorting to a short dictionary definition completely ignores that fact. The dictionary can't include all of the ways racism manifests in individuals and society, and the limitations of dictionary definitions make it a poor tool for discussing the topic.

Since "racism" is such a loaded term for many people, let's look at such limitations through a different complex word. Let's take "anxiety." According to Merriam-Webster, "anxiety" is defined as "apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness, usually over an impending or anticipated ill."

Now imagine thinking that you understand everything that encompasses anxiety from reading that dictionary definition. Imagine thinking you could recognize the signs of anxiety in someone based on that definition alone. Ridiculous, right? The dictionary doesn't explain that some people's anxiety manifests as anger, even though it does. It doesn't say that anxiety sometimes manifests as withdrawal or aloofness. It doesn't say that you often won't see obvious signs of fear or nervousness in someone experiencing anxiety.

The dictionary doesn't offer anything close to the reality of what anxiety is or looks like. It would be silly to say that someone isn't experiencing anxiety because they're not clearly showing signs of nervousness like the dictionary definition implies. Just as the dictionary definition of anxiety is not comprehensive, neither is the dictionary definition of racism. Yet people keep using it to "prove" that something or someone isn't racist.

Fox News analyst Brit Hume just pulled that trick on Twitter to try to back up his claim that Donald Trump's "go back to" statements to four Congresswomen of color weren't technically racist.


The first Merriam-Webster entry for "racism" reads "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race."

Merriam-Webster

First of all, I'm not sure how this definition actually makes Trump's statements not racist. A belief is not always conscious, so even assuming that his racism is unconscious, a white man telling four women of color to "go back to" their countries of origin—despite three of them being born in the U.S. and the fourth being a naturalized citizen of the U.S.—is pretty objectively racist. No one knows exactly what is going on in the President's head, but such statements only being made to women of color would certainly be consistent with the behavior of someone with a belief in white people's inherent superiority.

But that simple definition isn't truly definitive, either. Shortly after Hume's tweet, Merriam-Webster pointed out a usage note for the word "racism," which clarifies that dictionaries do not provide the be-all-end-all definition of words.

Anti-racism advocates have tried time and time again to explain that racism is not as straightforward as someone saying, "I think I'm superior to people who don't share my skin color." Racism is almost never that blatant, and yet oodles of Americans refuse to call anything less than that kind of bold statement "racism." We have a long history showing exactly how white supremacy—the origin of racism in the U.S.—exerts itself in both strong and subtle ways, and thousands of hours and pages of education from experts describing how racism works on an individual and societal level. But people still insist on the simplistic narrative of "Racism=hating people of a different race."

I've seen many people, including Brit Hume, argue that the word racism has lost all meaning. Frankly, that's a copout. Racism—as both a conscious or unconscious belief of racial superiority and as a system of racial prejudice blended with power dynamics—has a broader meaning than one person hating another person for the color of their skin. But that doesn't make it meaningless.

I've also seen people complain that "everything is racist these days," but no, it's really not. We simply understand more about racism now, thanks to the field of race studies and to people of color offering their time and energy to explain it, so it's easier to identify in its various forms. In my experience, when someone's understanding of racism reaches a certain stage, they start recognizing it in places where ignorance or unconscious bias may have caused them to miss it in the past. That's not imagining racism where it doesn't exist or "calling everything racist these days"; that's simply seeing reality more clearly.

When you really dive deep into the historical, psychological, and sociological reality of racism in America, it becomes painfully obvious that racism is far more prevalent and enmeshed in our society than most people think. Until defensive, mostly-white folks stop automatically denying racism every time the word is used and stop throwing around dictionaries to avoid having to do that deep dive work, we're not going to make real headway on this issue.

Let's stop pretending that the definition and supposed overuse of the word "racism" is the problem, when the problem is racism, period.

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The "New CEO Report" for 2018, which looks at new CEOS for the 250 largest S&P 500 companies, found that 23 people were appointed to the position of CEO. Only one of those 23 people was a woman. Michelle Gass, the new CEO of Kohl's, was the lone female on the list.

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