"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Shall we privatize school bus service?

So, the school is considering contracting out bus services to a private company? Reminds me of when the county board decided to "sell" the ambulance service. A local citizen spoke up and said "huh?" He wondered if he could make a bid for the sheriff's department.
I have wondered about snow plowing services. I see all these dudes driving around in their 4-wheel drive pickups with plow attachments on the front. They could become like an army if they were put to work expeditiously clearing roads. No waiting for the city or county plows.
Have you noticed how those dudes with the plow attachments drive slower than the main stream of traffic on the open highway? Makes you have to look for clearance to pass. Are they all really on their way to go plow some snow? Or, are they just showing off?
Remember the old days when you'd alert someone about "your lights are on?" You might shout that while crossing a parking lot. I remember the first time I realized such situations weren't cut and dried anymore. Dudes would shut their cars off and have their lights stay on a while. I did the usual favor of shouting "your lights are on." I was told "no biggie," in effect. The lights would go off in due time. I think the year was 1989. I was parked near the Metrodome in Minneapolis. I remember the Timberwolves were a new team. They played only one year in the Dome.
I fully realized this new phenomenon with headlights shortly thereafter, with a friend. The friend theorized that some people with these new super-powered batteries were "showing off."
Sometimes you'll see a car parked with its lights on and it really is a problem. Sometimes it's just hard to know.
School buses are an issue. I remember when the school proposed eliminating in-town bus service. On the face of it, it seemed preposterous. The school backed off. But, think of how many kids don't avail themselves of bus service. Think of all the kids in school activities. Of course, some kids aren't.
I remember talking to a former Morris mayor who wondered if the buses coming in from the country could just stop at certain places in town on their way to the school. Could kids be required to walk a few blocks to get to a "bus stop?"
Some people in our hyper-sensitive world of today wonder if young children should even walk unattended, even for a short distance. When I was a kid, we played on our own all over the place.
The school says it has a hard time finding bus drivers. Seems like a good job to me, until you look closely. Apparently these drivers are required to call in stop arm violations. My rule of thumb as a motorist is to just take "evasive action" when seeing an orange school bus. Don't go near it. Change your route. Those drivers apparently have a pipeline right to law enforcement. Those law enforcement people are salivating over those citations that bring in hundreds of dollars.
Of course, those same citations can be a crippling financial blow to people who have the misfortune of a lapse of attentiveness when near a school bus. If I'm a bus driver, it would break my heart to have to call in a friend or neighbor.
How many people who get these citations are really driving recklessly? I would guess the vast majority of these unfortunate souls actually proceed slowly and cautiously. They just don't realize the absolute necessity of stopping. A mistake? Yes. However, I think the punishment is too harsh and humiliating. I'm sure it affects their insurance rates.
Maybe there should be some judgment applied. Was the driver showing wanton neglect of safety? Isn't there a former Morris mayor/schoolteacher who got two of these citations? Were those violations really reckless? I would assert "no." As I have written before, in the "old days" the kids themselves bore some of the responsibility for their safety. We were encouraged to "look both ways" etc. Today the kids have no responsibility, rather the onus is entirely on the motorists. That's not right.
We all need to lighten up a little. The parents of a previous generation - the "greatest generation" - assumed the world had risks. We were really just supposed to do the best we could. Our fathers might have been in foxholes in World War II. They knew what real peril was.
Today there's an effort to eliminate bullying. The best way to accomplish this? Get kids involved in activities and classes that truly engage them and don't get them lost in boredom. Boredom is the breeding ground for regressive behavior. Give kids a greater sense of fulfillment.
After about the seventh grade, I found the vast majority of my school classes irrelevant or counterproductive. I had no trouble mastering basic "arithmetic" and I memorized multiplication tables. Once algebra came along, I was stunned and became bitter. I couldn't do it. Did it matter?
It was because of the Cold War, right? We had to out-do the "Russkies," right? And so we got algebra with its "problem solving" challenges. Look, I have no interest in butting heads with the "commies." We lost about 60,000 young men and women in Southeast Asia because of this misplaced fear. I saw a documentary that showed footage of two or three young soldiers lying face down in a swamp, dead and with blood on the water around them. Do you think their parents raised them to end up like this? Imagine those men as sweet young 4-Hers.
What kind of nation would do this? Why should the nation foist algebra on its youth? Part of the problem is that the education establishment, following human nature, wants power. It gets power by making knowledge seem elusive. If it were not elusive, we wouldn't be dependent on its members dispensing it. Make students chase the carrot on the stick. Make information elusive, and society might decide it really needs you.
This whole model has been assailed, of course, by the Internet. At its root, the Internet makes information accessible - the way it should be.
Algebra and other boring, irrelevant or preachy curricula were pushed by the non-local establishment, i.e. bureaucrats. It's in the teachers' self-interest to make knowledge seem restricted or ethereal. "Let's make students scratch and claw to get through these ungodly classes. Heaven help us if students found information easy and convenient to gain, and immediately useful."
We wouldn't need all these highly-paid faculty. Well, maybe we don't need them. I think the home school movement is simply a desperate effort by parents to get away from this model I'm describing.
School buses were hazardous in my youth. That's not because of any entering or exiting dangers. Heck, kids can just use common sense and "look both ways." No sweat. The hazard I dealt with was bullying. There was a cluster of ruffians on my bus route. I remember when they started punching the ceiling just to aggravate the bus driver. Finally the superintendent himself, Oscar Miller, entered the bus one morning, recited some names, and had them come off to receive some disciplinary action.
A common bullying practice was to "flick" the ears of the kid in front of you, with your finger. That hurt unbelievably. If I did take the bus, which wasn't often, I might have to sit slumped forward and with my arms protecting my head and ears. Talk to the bus driver? If I were to be a "snitch" and do this, heaven help me. I could get beat up.
Up until age five I lived in St. Paul and was a naive and trusting kid. I never experienced bullying. Everything changed when we came to Morris. I could have been killed, even. And, the kids who killed me wouldn't have cared. They would have made up some story about how it was an accident, and to this day it wouldn't bother their conscience.
School buses were totally hazardous. As far as contracting this out to the private sector, it might be better. The private sector tends to do everything better.
Could we do this with teachers too?
If school buses were "privatized," as it were, would the drivers still be required to be like an extension of the police, calling in stuff? This is controversial. Do bus drivers really have the training to be an extension of law enforcement? If not, maybe they should knock it off. Let's just encourage kids to be careful. If we're going to take action to ensure their safety, let's protect their safety while they're on the bus. No finger flicking, taunting etc.
Why are kids so mean? Or, why were they so mean? Boredom and despair, I'd say. Trying to complete algebra assignments. Dissecting crayfish in biology class. Is it any surprise that so many highly successful people were school dropouts? They didn't have their ears "flicked." So, let's privatize bus service, and let's not stop there. Let's get rid of the teachers union.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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