Perhaps someday, in a more enlightened era, we will look back with revulsion and shame at the horror we inflicted on our children by packing them onto school buses.
In the meantime, the provincial government is looking for submissions “to review and evaluate provincial school transportation policies and guidelines.”
Mind you, this doesn’t mean Education Minister Clyde Jackman cares a whit about your opinion. Rather, the department is seeking input from “an independent consultant.”
Consultants apparently have more input than parents into the education system. Cynics might suggest “education consultants” are merely teachers who no longer teach, but let’s ignore them for the moment and deal with Jackman’s desire for a transportation review, albeit not necessarily from us.
The consultant will be asked to consider, among other things, “school busing eligibility zones.”
That is a topic — like religion or politics — guaranteed to spark an argument, especially in rural areas where reliance on busing is prevalent.
By the book
The current rule seems to be that anyone who lives less than 1.6 kilometres away from a school is not eligible to ride a school bus. (There is no mention of this distance — or any distance — in the Eastern School District’s student transportation policy, although it does refer to “eligible students.”)
Occasionally, some parent or other will make the news, complaining that their child can’t ride the bus because they live less than 1.6 kilometres from the school and are thus ineligible for district-
Such stories must prompt other, sympathetic parents to wonder whether the school-busing policy was penned by Franz Kafka. Surely, Kafkaesque describes the 1.6-kilometres rule.
Consider its rationale. The board — or department, if that is where it originates — is saying that a child who lives less than 1.6 kilometres from a school is capable of getting to school on his or her own, either on foot, bike, skateboard, Ski-Doo, horse, etc.
(Arguments based on the safety, or lack thereof, along a 1.59-kilometre stretch of roadway sometimes arise, but let’s set aside that issue for the moment.)
To see how illogical the rule is, let’s turn it inside out, flip it and look at it from the other side of the 1.6-kilometre demarcation point.
So, instead of merely telling students who live less than 1.6 kilometres from school that they’re on their own, the board/department would tell all students — whether they live 1.7, two or four kilometres away — that, since children are capable of reaching school on their own from a distance of 1.59 kilometres, buses will henceforth drop all students off 1.59 kilometres away from the school.
Preposterous? Ridiculous? No more so than the current policy. Such a change would at least be logically consistent and defensible, which the current policy is not.
Arguments about the distance policy almost always get sidetracked to whether the limit should be lowered, or whether 1.6 kilometres is too high a benchmark, especially for primary and elementary children.
But the actual distance is irrelevant.
As soon as a distance is set —
1.6 kilometres, one kilometre, half a kilometre — the rule becomes illogical.
By setting a distance, you’re saying that any child who lives within that limit is capable of getting to school on his or her own.
To be logically consistent, you must conclude that every other student is also capable of getting to school on his or her own from that distance. Therefore, as odd as it sounds and would in fact be, it is entirely logical that the rule should entail dropping all students off at the 1.6-kilometre limit, or whatever the limit is set at.
Bus-riding eligibility usually raises objections based on safety or fairness. Add logic to the list.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.