Letter to Representative Written with Port Leyden Elementary Students

This is a "letter to the representative"--in this case, written to the Honorable John McHugh--that I wrote with students of Port Leyden Elementary through videoconferencing. They came up with the idea for a four-day school week, by the way.


Dear Honorable John McHugh,

We are writing today to bring to your attention an issue which we believe is very important.
Do you want the kids of Port Leyden getting good grades while at the same time helping out with chores around the house, participating in extracurricular activities, and getting a good night’s sleep? If you do, please consider our proposal. We believe that schools should run on a four-day week, rather than the traditional five. This would allow students to have more time for sports and recreation; to sleep; and to help out with domestic chores around the house.
America is facing a health problem; so many people these days are not getting enough exercise and physical activity. By enforcing a four-day school week, you would give the children you represent a chance to participate in sports and other healthy recreational activities.
Many different studies have shown that sleep deprivation is bad for adults and especially growing children like us. Sometimes, we stay up until 11:00 PM to 1:00 the next morning—and then get up early for school, sometimes as early as 5:30 in the morning.
If you’re a parent, you know how annoying it is for kids not to do household chores. The truth is, kids are just too busy. 27 out of 30 students in our classroom believe that they are too busy for chores. A four-day school week would give them more time to help out around the house—giving their parents time for more serious things.
You are in a position of unique power at this moment. Why don’t you give us the chance to regain our sleep, become more active citizens, and assist our beloved parents or guardians in their natural employment? Make a decision; we will be watching.


  1. Hi, Adora,

    I've just seen you on the TV here in UK, and checked out your website - where I came across this blog. I definitely agree with you about sleep deprivation - and I'm 50! Adults tend to think it's only them that suffer from this (I have to leave home at 05.30 tomorrow to see a client) but it's fascinating to find younger people suffering the same thing. You are right - we need to re-think our approach to life. work and play. I must sleep now, but I'm looking forward to reading more of your blogs and website. The other young people that take part in your distance classes are fortunate indeed, and I wish you every success! My wife is telling me to go sleep, so I guess I'd better do as I'm asked. Ciao! Michael & Vivienne.

  2. Anonymous3:01 PM

    You are assuming that with free time, school kids will choose to do sports and healthy activities. Actually, it's not time that is the real problem. What school children are choosing to do with their free time now is blogging, online games, playstation games and other immobile activities. These are likely the leading reasons, other than one's diet, that are leading to obesity in America.

  3. Hello Adora,

    (incidentally, you're on TV in the UK at the moment, which is how I found your website and through it, this blog)

    I'm not sure if a four-day week would be manageable without a possible thirteenth grade appended to high school (which has been implemented, though without shortening of the school week, in the German state of Bavaria). It sounds like it would put a lot of stress on teachers, to say the least, as they have to make sure to get through textbooks at a suitable pace. Would you propose rewriting the textbooks and shortening syllabi as well, in order to not quicken the pace of classes excessively? This would then entail American students falling behind their peers in other countries, who are learning more per week thanks to higher numbers of classes.

    While allowing students more time for healthy recreational activities is a great idea, I also question the number of people who would make good use of this opportunity. I have a problem with lack of exercise myself, and I must confess that during my free time I much prefer sitting in front of a computer or TV to going to the gym for an hour or so of intensive work-outs. I'm sure I am not alone in this.

    Still, I don't mean to discourage you and the students who came up with the proposal. Though there are many issues that would need working out, it is definitely not impossible. I hope you will get a response from the representative without too much boilerplate text, explaining what he thinks about the suggestion. I would be delighted to read it if you decide to post it here as well.

  4. Hi everyone. This is Adora Svitak. I read all the comments here, and I would like to point out that the (apparently controversial) topic of this piece was chosen by the students I was working with and was not in any way supported or opposed by me.

    Thus, it would make more sense to direct comments at the actual issue, rather than at me or the students.

    Best regards! I enjoy reading your comments.


    Adora Svitak

  5. Anonymous2:11 AM

    Sleep is very important. I feel that it is the responsiblity of *parents* to make sure that their children are getting enough sleep. Throughout my elementary school days, my bedtime was 8 pm as a kindergartener/first grader. Then it was extended to 9 pm (probably around third grade.) And finally by middle school I could stay up until 10 pm! But I never stayed up til 11 pm - even in high school! My parents set a very high standard for me. (I have heard Adora say she believes in higher standards! ;-) My parents set high standards for me not only in school work, but also in chores at home (setting the table, washing dishes, cleaning my own room, doing my own laundry, dusting and vaccuming the entire house every Saturday and doing yardwork outside on the weekends - cutting the grass, raking leaves or shoveling the sidewalk depending upon the season.) I was also involved with extra curriculars like music and public speaking. (I wasn't too good at sports, but I tried my hand at them a bit and also supported my school's teams by attending many of their games.) And yet, I always went to bed at a normal hour. I was valedictorian of both my grade school and high school classes - so I was working hard all evening on homework (at *least* three to four hours every day) - but never had to stay up that late. Perhaps it was because I wasn't watching hours and hours of television, mindlessly surfing the 'net (because it wasn't invented yet - I'm 42), or playing video games (because "pong" was pretty boring! ;-)


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