I was driving to work a couple of days ago and got caught behind a school bus doing it’s morning pickups on a neighborhood street. Not something I’m usually too concerned about but this time I ended up reflexively yelling expletives at its pure absurdity.
In the span of, I kid you not, seven houses on one street (I counted), the bus stopped three times. No typos in that previous sentence. It stopped every 150 feet, with kids only being expected to wait directly in front of their houses. I guess there’s three families on that street with school-aged children, then.
Allow me my “Get Off My Porch!” Old Man Moment here, but really? Kids can’t walk two houses down and consolidate into one location on the street anymore?
That’s what I did, circa 1987 to 1995, and my parents never worried about any of it. Children on my street often walked from upwards of half a mile away. We had exhilarating, spontaneous hide-and-go-seek games each morning as we waited for the bus. I still remember the moments when one of us would notice the bus rumble around the corner up the hill and make the frantic call to come out of hiding and find our backpacks in the haphazard pile we had created on the sidewalk.
These days? I guess kids get off the hook for being required to get along with others (and walk more than 30 feet). Instead they pass their time craning their necks downward at their phones for 15 minutes in isolation.
I feel bad for a lot of people in this little story. For one, the freakin’ bus driver. How maddening must it be to have to stop and open the bus door every 50 yards, knowing full well that the only reason that you have to do that is because families are too lazy and/or entitled to make their children walk down the street? Second, the kids, who will now believe that this lack of extremely minor struggle (read: walking two minutes down the street) is to be expected in their lives from now on. This is completely out of sync with reality, as we know.
I guess I’m more angered by, rather than sorry for, the parents here. Just try harder maybe? Be willing to face the inevitable resistance your pre-teen or teen will show you when you announce that he’ll have to walk 50 yards down the street, yes, even in February. I don’t have kids yet, but man, this does not seem that hard. Someone enlighten me if I’m being unreasonable here.
With all this said, who knows, maybe it’s not the parents who drove this depressing emergent phenomenon. It might have been the school district that pulled another move so common to any public institution these days: settling for the “please don’t sue us” approach. Perhaps one persistent, pathologically anxious parent kept showing up to school committee meetings to push for unnecessary change.
My response to this possibility is to ask: When will schools feel like they’re ready to just stand up to the outlier parents with entitlement complexes who pick up a torch of their own making and burden everyone with their psychological projection and unresolved personal demons? I think it would be awesome to stop thinking of parents as our “customers” and instead act as if the kids are. It’s their futures we’re trying to shape for the better, so how is this so hard for us to believe? I don’t see why we can’t just largely ignore parents who are angry at the world and tell them “hey, when these kids are at school, they’re ours, and we’re going to do the best thing for them based on our experience.”
This, of course, pre-supposes that all the people at the school are competent, deeply caring, mentally and emotionally sound, and exceedingly professional, which I recognize is not something we can yet expect across the board in schools. I’m hopeful we can get there, though. Once we do (it’ll take radical shifts in hiring policies toward corporate practices), I see no problem in being way more courageous toward parents, especially in charter schools where the families have to actively apply to go there.
But, as I said above, if anyone sees glaring holes in my argument or issues I’m not seeing or acknowledging, please reach out. I’d love to hear your perspective.