Sunday, March 21, 2004

LA Times on naps

    Good for school administrators near Washington, D.C. With all other educational challenges now solved, they're finally cracking down on naps by preschoolers. You may not realize that, for generations, 4-year-old laggards have been nodding off after the afternoon snack when the teacher unfurls the mats, turns down the lights and maybe plays soft music so little eyes close and young minds drift away somewhere peaceful and quiet for half an hour. Squandering time like this is a scandal on a par with the tooth fairy myth. These kids just lie there sound asleep like logs, only softer. What an obvious waste of childhood time rest is!

    How are these fresh-faced innocents going to learn to be driven, to get their personal priorities out of whack, to drink and eat too much, to get their stress and cholesterol levels up, to misdirect their impatience and to miss important family moments because of office tasks they can't recall a week later? There'll be plenty of time for naps later in life during unnecessary meetings and long business flights among sneezing strangers.

    Who gave toddlers the right to loaf like this while we're out slaving away after an extended lunch that nobody seemed to notice? Who earns the money to pay the property taxes to underwrite useless naps? With all there is to do and learn in life, these wasted 30-minute nap times can add up.

    And who isn't tired anyway? Twenty-first century life is supposed to be exhausting, what with learning how to program new time-saving things that do the same old things, only with baffling instructions written by Japanese engineers who fell asleep in English class. By allowing snoozes, what are American preschools teaching these 48-month-old toddlers about the other 888 months in the average American life? That when grown up they can sleep in on Saturday? Nod off on the couch during Larry King's weekly interview with Carol Burnett? If these youngsters get away with naps in preschool, what will they do someday in an overheated college lecture hall when a tenured monotone in a bow tie goes on about the Weimar Republic?

    "Nap time needs to go away," Andre Hornsby, a Maryland county school chief, told wide-awake state legislators recently, "We need to get rid of all the baby stuff they used to do." You'll never guess what this Prince George's County educator wants: More money for full-day preschools with no nap time lollygagging. Everyone who's ever been within whining distance of tired 4-year-olds knows how cooperative and attentive they would be by 2 p.m. of a full business day, especially when told to sit still.

    Here's another idea: Give Hornsby and his pals a timeout in the corner to rethink this idiocy. Childhood naps are neat. Without them, little people grow up to become airhead administrators.
Who is the person who writes the editorials on education? The LA Times has been much better than the other major media outlets on education. And so much snarkier, too.