Franke: DST: Dumb and Double-Dumb

March 15, 2023

by Mark Franke

Here we go again. Indiana and most other states in our More Perfect Union have doubled down on dumb once more in pursuit of ever-elusive increased interstate commerce revenues, reduced energy consumption, improved driving safety and higher SAT scores. Why ending world hunger and achieving lasting Middle East peace aren’t on this utopian dream list must be due to simple oversight.

Every spring we suffer through mankind’s annual quest to put both Mother Nature and our Creator God in their rightful places. Yes, I am talking about Daylight Saving Time (DST), which so far as I know has failed spectacularly in meeting the above lofty goals.

Think about this rationally. Why is 12 p.m. called “midnight”? Could it be that it marks the middle of the night? Which means, one assumes, that half the dark precedes midnight and half follows it. Our ancient and medieval forebears understood this, marking daily time by sunrise and sunset. The Anglo-Saxon farmers lived by this logical sorting of time as did Benedictine monks and Roman magistrates. A quick read of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion — this being Lent — reveals a simple timekeeping method of counting hours beginning with sunrise.

I normally would not appeal to science to support an argument, but consider this. In my corner of God’s country here in northeast Indiana, the sun rose on March 12, the DST day of invocation to the calendar gods, at approximately 8 a.m. and set around 7:30 p.m. That’s four hours of sunlight in the forenoon and seven and one-half in the afternoon. Prior to DST, the imbalance wasn’t quite so bad — five against six and one-half. So not only is DST unnatural, we are already in the wrong time zone. We should be Central, as we were briefly when I was growing up.

Not convinced? There is something called “solar noon” when the sun is at its apex. On March 12 that was 1:51 p.m., nearly two hours off from reality. That’s one hour for the wrong time zone and a second hour for DST.

“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature,” as the Chiffon margarine commercial claimed back in the 1970’s. It gave actress Dena Dietrich her nanosecond of TV fame. I entered adulthood during that crazed and bizarre decade but this commercial provided a singular piece of common sense to escape the psychedelic haze.

So what does this do to the body’s internal clock? I won’t use my body’s physiology as the standard but it sure hits me hard. It took me a month in the fall to stop waking up at 4 a.m.

With kids it is even worse. I volunteer at an elementary school and the second Monday in March is no sunny spring day if you are a teacher or a student. I watch them straggle in, the littlest ones requiring forced ejection from their protective car seats.

As children age, their diurnal clock shifts backwards as they begin to mimic night owls rather than early birds getting the worm. My hunch is that first period in most high schools is group nap time year-round but exacerbated by DST. My career was at a university and I can attest to how much effort college students exert to avoid scheduling 8 a.m. classes.

I keep hearing about the psychological and physiological benefits of natural sunlight but does that matter anymore? We have become a nation of video games, big screen TV’s and handheld computing devices masquerading as telephones. All those things happen indoors under nasty artificial lighting if the experts are to be believed.

Even the name of this insanity is blatant propaganda. We aren’t “saving” any daylight. The sun doesn’t stop in the sky, Joshua like, so we can get an extra hour of sunlight. It just keeps moving as it always has and the Indiana General Assembly be damned.

Apparently there is a national movement to make DST permanent all year long. That will take an act of Congress and we all know how much damage most of its laws inflict on an unsuspecting citizenry.

But if there is any good to come out of the science deniers’ advocating this, it would be saving us householders with traditional clocks from marching around the manse changing time twice each year. Is it “spring forward, fall back” or the other way around? My aged and over exercised memory cells have too many important things to remember, like if this is the week for recycling pickup.

Misguided legislative fiat aside, spring is in the offing and I detect the faint sound of young children playing in the evenings on the cul-de-sac at the end of my street. Good luck to their parents when trying to get them inside for bedtime . . . and even more luck in getting them up for school tomorrow.

Mark Franke, M.B.A., an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review and its book reviewer, is formerly an associate vice-chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.


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