GHS 2017 Grad: My success thus far in college has been because of the time high school started, not in spite of it

Open letter to the Board of Education from Jake Beinstein, submitted April 28, 2018

Good Morning Board of Education Members,

My name is Jake Beinstein, and I am a Midshipman at the United States Merchant Marine Academy, one of the five federal service academies in the United States, as well as a Greenwich High School Class of 2017 graduate. I’m writing to you all this morning concerning the change in the public school start time in Greenwich. The goal of high school is to prepare students for the outside world, whether that be a continuing higher education, entering the labor force, or any combination of the two. Greenwich High School has had an outstanding reputation for accomplishing this goal. However, the recent change in school start time seems to be a step in the wrong direction. I want to use my schedule as an example. Each trimester so far, I have taken an average of 20 credits. Each weekday morning, my day would start at around 5:30 AM, followed by a 7:45 first class. Classes would run until 4:00 PM thereafter. After classes are over, midshipmen would have about an hour of downtime before dinner, and typically start homework around 6. Homework coupled with other regimental functions would typically last until 10 or 11 PM, where we would go to bed and start the cycle over again. Despite taking 1.5 times the average amount of college credits in about 60% the time, I’ve been recognized for my grades on the equivalent of a “Dean’s List” at other institutions. Furthermore, I was 17 years old at the time, no older than the average junior or senior student at Greenwich High School. I’m well aware that my situation is the exception, not the standard, but the point is still the same. If I can wake up at 5:30 AM every morning since July 17th and handle an overloaded schedule on top of regimental obligations, any high school-aged student should be able to handle a history test at 7:30 AM.

The point of this letter is not to highlight my achievements, but rather to recognize that my success thus far in college has been because of the time high school started, not in spite of it. The recent cry for a change in the school start time seems to be a symptom of a culture of a lack of self-accountability that we have developed in the last few years. Moreover, changing the start time due to a loud minority despite obvious cost, reduced class time for athletes, and a complete and utter logistical nightmare is nothing short of coddling the next generation of adults. As stated before, some graduating seniors will enter the labor force upon graduation. Most will be no older than 18. What happens if/when their job requires them to begin work at 7:00 AM? What happens in their first college 8 AM lecture? Biologically, they are no different than they were 3 months prior; their “Circadian rhythms” are still intact if the proposed research is correct. Will they quit? Will they complain to their bosses about how it is biologically impossible for an 18-year-old to begin work at such a profane hour? No, of course not. Because that’s not what functioning and contributing members of society do. That’s not what adults do.

We need to start treating students as what they are: and that is young adults. With that, we need to treat being a student for what it is: a job. And as one of my aforementioned regimental obligations allows my 18-year-old self to finish this letter at 4:15 AM with a full day of classes ahead of me, I wish you would all reconsider the drastic, costly, and downright unproductive change you have made.

Very Respectfully,
Midshipman Jake Beinstein 4/C
Class of 2021
United States Merchant Marine Academy