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“Daylight Savings Time” Should be Standard Time


People in the U.S. and Canada outside of enlightened jurisdictions like Arizona and Saskatchewan are right to criticize the stupidity of changing times twice a year, but remember that it’s “Standard Time,” not “Daylight Savings Time,” that’s the problem:

Our collective failure to grasp this basic terminology has led to a lot of confusion. Every November, countless Americans condemn DST because they conflate it with Standard Time. They think that the dreaded winter months of early sunsets and seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, are the fault of DST. I understand why: It is not obvious why daylight is “saved” when it is backloaded toward the end of the day. The terms are ambiguous, which leads would-be critics of Standard Time to unleash their anguish on their true ally, DST.

To see how widespread this misapprehension is, look at coverage of California’s Proposition 7, which easily passed in 2018. The Los Angeles Times described the measure as “ending daylight saving time”; CBS called it “the first step of abolishing” DST. That is incorrect, as these outlets would’ve known if they’d read the proposition, which is titled the Permanent Daylight Saving Time Measure. As that name indicates, the measure permits the state Legislature to implement year-round DST by a two-thirds vote after obtaining federal approval. The media’s inability to articulate the proposition’s purpose may have led to voter bewilderment, as illustrated in the CBS article, which features a California resident who asserts: “I don’t like Daylight Saving Time. It disrupts me every fall.” Given that DST begins in the spring, this Californian probably meant to assail Standard Time but inadvertently contributed to anti-DST fervor.

I have no doubt that some Americans legitimately dislike DST—not just the change of clocks, but the redistribution of sunlight from morning to afternoon. The best defense of this position is that DST may require children to go to school in the dark. That is true, but the issue here isn’t DST: It’s America’s outrageous school schedule. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared that most schools start too early, contributing to poor health in adolescents. Earlier school start times are linked to depression and anxiety in teenagers, as well as chronic sleep deprivation. Early start times also disadvantage young students, lowering their academic performance. It is absurd to blame DST on a problem created by the American school system. If more schools took the American Academy of Pediatrics’ advice and refused to start class before 8:30 a.m., DST would pose no impediment to schoolchildren.

For the record, I am not a defender of our current system. It is irritating to reset clocks—especially those embedded in household appliances, whose cryptic instructions seem designed to thwart our puny human desire to know what time it is. And it may be perilous to lose an hour of sleep: Deadly car crashes, heart attacks, and workplace injuries all appear to increase after we “spring forward.” But the solution is not to end DST; it is to extend DST year-round. (There may be other benefits, including reduced crime, though it doesn’t seem to reduce energy usage.) California had the right idea by passing Proposition 7. So did many of the 73,781 people who signed this petition to end DST—but wrote comments demonstrating that they really want to abolish Standard Time. (“I own a child care, every year we have children crying because, ‘it’s getting dark and mommy or daddy have not picked me up yet.’ ” Blame Standard Time, kids!)

“But if we don’t have Standard Time, we can’t send kids to school at 7:30 in the morning!” Uh, good?

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