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BRIAN JONES: Kafka must have written 1.6-km school bus rule

Parents in the province have been complaining for years about the 1.6-km school busing policy, with many citing safety as their reason. — File photo
Parents in N.L. have been complaining for years about the 1.6-kilometre school busing policy, with many citing safety as their reason. — SaltWire Network file photo

Bureaucrats are wreaking havoc on society. Their decisions and actions are often nonsensical and imbecilic, forcing inconvenience upon an irritated citizenry.

Ponder the commonly seen roadside sign: “Caution: potholes ahead.”

Even an eight-year-old will intelligently observe, “Why don’t they just fix the potholes?”

Why don’t they, indeed.

Another pothole reported? Send a crew … to put up a sign.

No wonder so many people despair for civilization in the 21st century. Today’s bureaucrats would drive even Kafka mad: “It was satire, you fools!”

Parents are still arguing with educrats about the 1.6-kilometre school-busing rule, which is a fine example of a Kafkaesque regulation.

Much of the opposition to the rule is that it is arbitrary. The 1.6-kilometre limit makes no sense, because it has no rationale.

If you live 1.6 kilometres or more away from a school, your kid(s) can ride the school bus.

If you live less than 1.6 kilometres away from a school, your kid(s) are not allowed to ride the school bus.

You might want to know the rationale for this rule. You might also want to find the nearest wall and bang your head against it.

Let’s approach this controversy logically, since the educrats at the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District refuse to do so, as does the Liberal government, and as did the Progressive Conservative government before it. (Yes, this has been an issue for about two decades. And you thought the reference to Kafka was a joke.)

Two basic questions must be addressed: what is the reason for the rule, and why is the distance set at 1.6 kilometres?

Perhaps the reason for the rule is because parents within the 1.6-kilometre limit can drive their kids to school and still get to work on time, whereas people living 1.6 kilometres or more away cannot.

This does not hold up to mathematical analysis. Someone who lives slightly less than 1.6 kilometres away from a school can, driving the speed limit, get their kids to school in about two minutes. Someone who lives twice as far away — 3.2 kilometres, say — can drive the same speed limit and get their kids to school in a mere four minutes. Parental necessity cannot be the foundation of the rule.

It comes down to the kids. They are able to walk a distance of 1.5999 kilometres or less, according to the N.L. English School District.

Which brings us to the second basic question: why 1.6 kilometres? Why not 1.5 or 1.7? Did a study on human kinesiology determine that the optimum distance for five-year-olds to walk and still be able to concentrate on ABCs is slightly less than 1.6 kilometres? Or did some educrat just scrawl “1.6” one day because he was in a hurry to go to lunch?

Much of the opposition to the rule is that it is arbitrary. The 1.6-kilometre limit makes no sense, because it has no rationale.

But the lack of logic in the rule leads to serious implications. Consider its essential assumption: kids are capable of walking a distance of slightly less than 1.6 kilometres.

If this assumption is accepted as valid, then to be consistent and logical the busing rule should be: kids who live farther than 1.6 kilometres from a school will be driven to within 1.6 kilometres of the school, at which point they will be dropped off, and they can walk the rest of the way.

Preposterous? Not at all. It is exactly in keeping with the logic — or illogic, if you prefer — of the current rule.

To quickly solve the problem, the 1.6-kilometre rule could be applied to all employees of the English School District and to members of the House of Assembly: henceforth and until further notice, they must park their cars 1.6 kilometres away from their office/school, or the Confederation Building, and walk the remaining 1.6 kilometres.

If five-year-olds can do it, surely adults can.

Brian Jones is a desk editor who lives 18 kilometres away from The Telegram. He can be reached at brian.jones@thetelegram.com.

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