Monday, March 16, 2009

A systemic preference for treating symptoms only

The most frustrating thing about this article that warns parents that their kids are likely getting gassed with dangerous diesel exhaust every schoolday is that the only solution contemplated is a technological retrofit to the buses, rather than the elimination of the need to ferry kids about in buses every day.

Not only is school busing a direct health hazard, but it's also an indirect health hazard as the obesity epidemic balloons among school-age kids. And that's leaving aside the diminished future that kids are going to suffer because we spend so much money on motor transport rather than on education. Even as the public transit system starves and is withering away, contracting and becoming less useful, we maintain a huge fleet of buses that only serve to provide trips that the kids should be making on foot and on bikes.

Worse, when you get into the situation further, you find that district administrators organize the entire district around this bus fleet. Try suggesting a sensible idea like opening high schools much later in the morning (consistent with all research on teens and sleep) and you'll quickly find that "you can't get there from here" because all ideas are evaluated not for their educational effect but for their effect on the scheduling of the buses.

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