Backgrounder: Daylight Saving Time
by Mark Franke
Every English school child knows the story about King Canute sitting on the seashore and commanding the tide to stop before wetting his feet. Needless to say, it didn’t, which was the point old Canute wanted to make. He may have been king, but the laws of nature answer only to God. Apocryphal or not, there is something to be learned from this.
But not by the political and business leaders who have imposed Daylight Saving Time (DST) on us long-suffering Hoosiers. Forget the movement of the sun; we’ll make time jump to and fro however we want it to.
Keep this mind: The rotation of the Earth and progress of the sun places Indiana squarely in the Central Time Zone. That’s where we were assigned in the nineteenth century when the railroads and interstate commerce forced standardization of local time and again in 1918 when Congress stepped in to regulate time across the continent. That means we are already one hour off nature’s clock. With Daylight Saving Time, it is now two hours.
Oh, there is a bounty of reasons why this is a Good Thing. Unfortunately for the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce and its allies in the Statehouse, all these reasons have been more or less debunked.
John Gaski, a professor in the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame, analyzed the claims made by proponents back in 2011 when the Indiana General Assembly condemned us to daylight savings hell. Improve school safety and test scores? Nope. Other DST states experienced SAT scores continuing to fall, more school day cancellations and delays, and no noticeable improvement in student safety.
How about the great benefit to accrue to Indiana businesses? The state chamber’s own data showed that central time was slightly better for our local employers. And don’t forget the global economy, the Internet and the 24-7 business day which wait for no artificial clock scheme.
So think for a moment about the mundane effects of this on the average citizen. Who didn’t wake up grumpy last Sunday due to a missing hour of sleep? Did you feel any better going to work Monday morning?
The human body has an internal clock, called the circadian rhythm, that processes the body through a 24 hour cycle with or without light. That just doesn’t conveniently reset itself in March and November in spite of the dictate of the Indiana General Assembly. It’s difficult for senior citizens like me, and even worse for school-age children who don’t start functioning well until their bodies say it is 9:00. My wife, a retired elementary school teacher and principal, can attest to that. This week they effectively start school with an internal clock that screams, “It’s only 7:00!”
There must be a conspiracy in this somewhere, and I think I have rooted it out. A group of environmental do-gooders have convinced our legislators to take this action in order to protect the lightning bug. (Yes, lightning bug. No self-respecting Hoosier would ever call it a firefly in spite of another law recently passed by the Indiana General Assembly demanding just that.)
Now when it finally gets dark about 10:00 p.m in that first week after schools let out, the lightning bugs are safe from capture and imprisonment because all our young children have long since fallen asleep. That is, if we can fight them into bed while the sun is still shining through their bedroom windows.
But there is a blessing in this human nonsense. We Hoosier Christians can hold our Easter sunrise service at 7:00 a.m. rather than at 6:00. God, and the faithful, get the last laugh.
Mark Franke, an adjunct scholar of the foundation, is formerly an associate vice chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.