School/Car Culture

This WSJ piece by Lenore Skenazy examines the the absurdity of the new normal: kids can’t walk to school. In addition to wasting gas and parents’ time, it encourages sedentary behavior. But there’s another side effect that she doesn’t mention: it makes all the teenagers sleep deprived.

It’s the first day of school in my burg, and the streets are lined with sleepy teenagers waiting for the bus. School starts at 7:20 for them, a schedule dictated in part by the need to run buses in shifts so the high, middle and elementary schools can use the same set of buses.

Early start times are bad for teenagers, and school districts that start later report good results, but it’s hard to change a culture that believes that a child walking to school is a kid in grave danger. (via)






85 replies
  1. 1
    Stu says:

    School start times are also partially determined by sanctity of high school athletics. Many school athletic facilities do not include outdoor lights, so games must be completed in the daylight, which pushes forward the school start time.

  2. 2
    stuckinred says:

    Wonder what time the teenagers in Helmut province get up?

  3. 3
    satby says:

    This has been a pet peeve of mine for 25 years, people acted like I was trying to get my sons kidnapped because I had them walk the mile though our perfectly safe neighborhood to school. I blame the “all scary, all the time” Faux News culture. The disconnect between reality and what people think is true is almost 100% in this country.

  4. 4
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    There was a lot to hate about my high school years but when I read stuff like this I’m extremely happy that I’m not a student (or responsible for a student) today.

  5. 5
    gnomedad says:

    Later, they are advised by peers that it’s “social suicide” to ride the bus, and must drive. And must get up earlier than when they took the bus to find parking. At least that’s how it rolls around here.

  6. 6
    GeorgeSalt says:

    Once, I brought up this subject and a friend said that he feared that if he let his kids walk to school, be might be hit with criminal charges of child neglect.

  7. 7

    In my school district we’ve been trying to develop walking school buses for the kids who are within actual walking distance of the schools. It works for the elementary school kids, but not for the middle and high schoolers — most of whom don’t live within reasonable walking distance of the school, anyway.

  8. 8
    p.a. says:

    a few years ago i was moving an antique mirror. part of the wood backing fell off, revealing a lining made of several Canadian newspapers from 1908. one from Ontario has an article about an attempted child abduction which was unsuccessful; the assailant failed to knock the child off her pony and she rode away.

    now i know the plural of anecdote is not data, but just a one-off news report from then shows that this stuff isn’t new, but the paranoia is. the 24/7 news culture causes a qualitative change in perceptions of crime and risk, when every statistic shows overall crime is down from a generation ago.

    oh, and considering how much preventable havoc she has caused, why is Nancy Grace still on tv and not in jail herself?

  9. 9
    TomG says:

    I’ll just mention that in the late 70s and (very) early 80s when I took the bus, all the kids got to the bus stop and had 10-15 minutes to socialize before the bus arrived. It isn’t normal for kids to expect door-to-door service.

  10. 10
    cathyx says:

    In my daughter’s school district, it’s the middle school that has a late start to accommodate the bus schedules.
    But don’t even get me started on all the parents who have to drive their kids when I know that a bus could take them. I don’t get that.

  11. 11
    JGabriel says:

    In NYC, we tell kids to take the subway and avoid the perverted, scary looking tourists. Which they do: Middle Americans are creepy.

    Notice how kidnapping child molesters are always people in the “heartland”, somewhere in the Montana woods, the Nebraska prairie, the Illinois suburbs, or Utah? No wonder they drive their kids to school.

    (/snark)

    .

  12. 12
    Emma says:

    I think it’s so that their backpacks don’t break their spines. Have you noticed the size of the backpacks these kids carry? I used to go by two different elementary and middle schools on my way to work and I saw these kids getting out of their parents’ car carrying these monstrosities that were longer than their backs! I went to high school with less crap than these kids carry! (Yes, it was a long time ago… nevertheless…)

    Snark aside, there are some places here where the students consider it some sort of social faux pas to ride a bus to school. So between the noveau riche and the terrified, I don’t see this changing any time soon.

  13. 13
    EIGRP says:

    My kids go to bed early so they get the amount of sleep they need. My 13 year old is in bed by 8:30 every night. He knows he needs the sleep – it isn’t even a battle.

    Eric

  14. 14

    Yesterday was the first day of school (2nd grade) for my daughter in our new school district. We live in a village typical of many small towns: a small compact “downtown” no more than a mile or two across, with many surrounding subdivisions. All of the schools are situated at the edge of town in a single campus. There is no reason whatsoever that all kids within the village shouldn’t be able to walk to school. The subdivision kids who are cut off in their self-contained sidewalk-lined neighborhoods by major 50 mph roads with no sidewalks DO require a bus system.

    This town has instead offered door to door bus service for everyone.

    We opted out of the bus, since the reason we chose this house was the walkability of the town. School starts at 8:10. The bus stopped at the house next door at 7:30—meaning my daughter would lose a half hour of sleep and spend that thirty-plus minutes on a bus instead of taking a ten minute walk.

  15. 15
    Captain Haddock says:

    This has been a pet peeve of mine for 25 years, people acted like I was trying to get my sons kidnapped because I had them walk the mile though our perfectly safe neighborhood to school. I blame the “all scary, all the time” Faux News culture. The disconnect between reality and what people think is true is almost 100% in this country.

    Its not Faux News – the Today Show is the absolute worst when it comes to the “lets scare all the moms that are watching” stories.

  16. 16
    Cat Lady says:

    There are no walkers in my town, since the side streets are narrow and winding with no sidewalks. I enjoyed the day here a few years ago in my school district when there were 11 car accidents (all but 2 of them were kids on the way to school) due to an overnight ice storm. We’re in one of the towns that picks up kids at their house because there aren’t many sidewalks, and being seen with the loser cruiser stopping at your house in high school is worse than being seen with your parents. Same as it ever was.

  17. 17
    Ash Can says:

    As the parent of a Chicago Public School grade-school pupil, I found that WSJ article to be one of the weirdest damned things ever. The writer uses instances from numerous parts of the country, but I’m still left wondering how prevalent these bizarre practices are. There are parents who drive their kids to my son’s school, sure, but they live out of the district and/or on the other side of very busy streets, are running late, or are on their way to work. I drive my son when we’re late (which is rare), or if it’s raining too hard or the wind chill is in single digits or below. The rest of the time, we walk. And we meet up with neighbors on the way, and the kids have time to run around in the school yard before the bell rings, and we parents who don’t have to run off to jobs stand around shooting the breeze well after the bell has rung. It would never have occurred to me that parents would automatically drive their kids to school (or to the end of the driveway) unless there were obvious reasons for it, such as distance, weather, or a demonstrable lack of safety.

  18. 18
    LindaH says:

    In Akron the kids still walk to school and many of them take public transportation if they don’t I didn’t read the whole article, but to be fair many local school buildings have been closed and districts consolidated. The walk to school even in an urban are can be up to 30 minutes each way.

    As to the early starting time, you’re right it sucks, but otherwise you have to get your kid to school around that time anyway if you want to get to work on time. For some parents they can’t go out of their way to get their kids to school then make it to work. The issue is a little more complex than it looks.

  19. 19

    @p.a.: I just recently read/heard a report on NPR that all measurable crime statistics are a fraction of what they were when most of us were growing up (and walking to school). But you’d never know it to listen to the parents freaking out at the threat of reduced busing.

  20. 20
    Comrade Javamanphil says:

    Not to mention the beneficial effect of a walk on general brain activity and wakefulness. In my town in VT there is actually no bus service for the schools. Most kids get driven but there are definitely a bunch that ride bikes or walk. I’m sure my neighbors gossip about us because we make ours unless the weather is too god awful.

  21. 21

    Is this going to be one of those threads that claim that all threats of danger to kids is a myth? And if I disagree, I run the risk of having sticks and stones thrown at me?

    Probably.

    So I won’t disagree and will just slip away unnoticed.

    I will wonder, though, why you adults don’t have enough real problems to deal with and have to spend time and energy bitching about what some people do to keep their children safe. Your lives must be a lot easier than mine.

    Anyway, I am gone. Have a nice day.

  22. 22

    To add to the stupidity—the schools have like a thousand volunteers (“parapros”) at the school’s driveway to open the car doors for kids who must be seated on the driver’s side of a parent’s car—yet there are NO crossing guards anywhere to facilitate and kids who want to walk.

  23. 23
    NobodySpecial says:

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I live in what was one of the crappiest school districts in the country, a place that made national headlines for discrimination. Seeing as how there’s exactly ONE high school west of the river, and it’s the smallest of the five in the city proper, busing isn’t going away and I don’t mind it’s not going away.

  24. 24
    Nick says:

    @satby:

    This has been a pet peeve of mine for 25 years, people acted like I was trying to get my sons kidnapped because I had them walk the mile though our perfectly safe neighborhood to school. I blame the “all scary, all the time” Faux News culture. The disconnect between reality and what people think is true is almost 100% in this country.

    my elementary school was literally 1500 feet away and cops once picked me up off the street, brought me home and scolded my mother for making me walk to school…when I was 12 years old. They said “what happens if I stranger lured him away?” She said “my son would never do that” and the cops said “you don’t know that.” and I thought “WTF? you don’t know me!”

  25. 25
    geg6 says:

    I didn’t have a choice when I was in high school. I lived less than 2 miles from the school, so no bus service. I usually walked, but if the weather was bad, my mom would drop me off before going to work. And that sucked mightily because it meant I had to get up at least an hour earlier than usual. She had to be at work by 7:30 (the newspaper hit the presses at 1pm, so early deadlines!) and I wandered around the empty school for at least 45 minutes before the buses rolled in, other students arrived, and teachers left their coffee and lounge.

  26. 26
    WereBear says:

    Door to door?

    In Florida, where getting your mail can be a heat stroke risk, I had to ride my bike for 20 minutes to get to a stop. In high school, when I was supposed to be there by 7 AM to accommodate the athletes and the after school workers.

    I wanted to take the GED at 14 and be done with the torment. But my mother wouldn’t hear of it. Then I wouldn’t be “normal.”

    She had a fetish then. She’s better now. And I never did become “normal.”

  27. 27
    Marc says:

    Linda: parents like me got a ton of grief for letting our kids walk to school. It’s a fact that we have transitioned from a nation where 85% of kids walked to school to one where 15% of kids do.

    You’re not keeping your kids safe by preventing exercise and driving them everywhere in a car; you’re likely to be making them fat, instilling lousy habits, and instilling needless paranoia about child abduction events which are less common than lightning strikes.

  28. 28
    Breezeblock says:

    What’s all this focus on schools anyway? Damn kids should just get off my lawn and get a job in the factory. What use is an education when the Repubes are going to wreck the country anyway?

  29. 29
    p.a. says:

    my pet peeve: school buses on side streets dropping off junior and senior high school age kids at their door rather than at a communal drop spot. On a main road or highway, ok. but on side streets! stops at every other house!

    i live in the snow belt, and and a communal drop spot could help the economy: i see kids in the winter who get door-to-door bus service getting off wearing t-shirts and sandals. if they had to walk a ways we could get some $$$ into the economy by the purchase of winter clothes. (this is close to GET OFF MY LAWN territory, but i’m posting it anyway.

  30. 30
    John S. says:

    I can’t speak for any other parents, but I drive my 3 year old son who has ASD to his school 15 miles away, because he’s just not ready to take the bus yet.

    Any of you got a problem with that can bite me.

  31. 31
    Hiram Taine says:

    A great many communities these days have nowhere for anyone to walk in any degree of safety, there are no sidewalks and no crosswalks.

    I grew up in a community with both and yet when I was twelve and my brother was eight he was hit by a car and very nearly killed while we were crossing a busy road on the way home from school. That was nearly fifty years ago and to this day I’m paranoid about crossing streets or walking in parking lots.

    I wouldn’t particularly be afraid of crime if my grandchildren were to walk the mile and a half or so to their school but I’d worry myself sick that some moron talking on a cell phone or texting would simply run them over while they were walking on the shoulder of the road (I know of only one stretch of about a half mile of sidewalk in our entire county outside the one smallish town).

  32. 32
    shaun says:

    Yes, let’s rearrange the entirety of fricking American society so our beleaguered yutes get enough sleep.

  33. 33
    satby says:

    @Marc:
    What you said, and thank you!
    And I didn’t mention it, but my kids walked to school in Chicago, and kids in that neighborhood still do, so I’m not 20 years out of date. And my dad was a homicide cop, so it’s not like I wasn’t aware of possible danger.
    But I was also aware of the actual risk vs the overinflated perception of risk. Huge difference.

  34. 34
    Jay in Oregon says:

    @Doctor Science:

    Given that my first response to this story was something along the lines of a “walking school bus”, I think it’s a great idea.

    For my part, I grew up in rural Alaska and the high school was actually a couple of miles outside of town. You took the bus or if you had your license you could drive; bicycling or walking was out of the question.

  35. 35
    Steaming Pile says:

    @Stu: Really? How do they play football on Friday nights, then? On Saturday morning?

  36. 36
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Linda Featheringill: I don’t think anyone here denies that there are real dangers to children (and adults, and pets, and property). It’s called Life. Nobody here thinks kids should just be let loose, totally unprepared. I suspect most of us would agree that part of parental responsibility is to make sure their children are physically, mentally and emotionally able to cope with Life’s dangers. So I’m not sure where your pre-emptive rant is coming from or to whom it’s directed.

  37. 37
    Steaming Pile says:

    @gnomedad: Around here, only seniors get parking passes.

  38. 38
    magurakurin says:

    @John S.:

    Mmm, I don’t imagine anyone would have a problem with that. Clearly, your case is not the norm and is not the subject of this post.

  39. 39
    WereBear says:

    Typical media.

    Whip up parental anxiety, blame obesity on the fact that kids don’t get exercise, support Republicans and the car culture, resulting in less sidewalks, traffic lights, and crosswalks; then complain that kids don’t walk to school.

    Who says there is no perpetual motion?

  40. 40
    gnomedad says:

    @Steaming Pile:

    Around here, only seniors get parking passes.

    Same here. To clarify, driving non-seniors arrive early to search for street parking.

  41. 41
    Jim C says:

    @Steaming Pile:

    Saturday afternoon, yes.

    I grew up in a small town that didn’t have lights on its football field – the varsity played on Saturday, around 1pm. Later, we moved to another state and everyone – amazingly – had lights and all played on Friday night. I always found it weird.

    That was 25+ years ago. Surely everyone plays on Friday now? Well, I live in a large Chicago suburb that only in the last 3 years has had lights installed in its stadium. Until that time, they always played on Saturday afternoon – when at home, at least. I don’t have any raw numbers to support, but suffice to say “plenty” in Chicagoland still play on Saturday afternoon.

  42. 42
    Mike in NC says:

    When public schools are shut down after all the teachers are laid off, won’t this problem automatically go away?

  43. 43
    mr. whipple says:

    Make the kids walk and go to bed earlier. Problem solved.

  44. 44
    jibeaux says:

    Mine started walking this year, well one of us walks them halfway and then they finish the job. I got my 9 year old a prepaid cell phone and I KNOW, paranoid mom, but guys, it was literally $20 for the tracfone and $18 more for 4 months worth of minutes. Worth the peace of mind for me. I am not worried about abduction, I’m worried about cars. The reason I walk the halfway is because the halfway point is crossing a fairly wide street that is at the top of a hill (cars coming up the hill too fast that the kids can’t see before they set out across the street) with no crossing guard.

  45. 45
    WereBear says:

    @jibeaux: It’s not paranoid Mom. If there were cell phones when I was raising kids, they’d have had one.

  46. 46
    Punchy says:

    @Linda Featheringill: Just too many strawmen in that rant to deal with this early in the morning.

    This kids-cant-walk shit is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. If he may be abducted at any time anywhere, why ever let him/her leave the house? Does no one ever give a modicum of credit to a 8 year old for knowing how to walk to school? Ridiculous.

  47. 47
    Scott de B. says:

    When I started first grade we moved to a house near my elementary school. Google Maps indicates it is 0.7 miles on foot, and it crossed the two busiest streets in town. My mom walked me to school on the first day, and every day thereafter I walked to school, by myself.

  48. 48
    anon says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    Is this going to be one of those threads that claim that all threats of danger to kids is a myth?

    No, it’s a thread which will claim that threats (or risks) have to be rationally evaluated.

    IIRC stranger abduction is actually pretty rare. OTOH, I would assume getting hit by a car isn’t, as jibeaux implied.

    I’m a new parent, and I’ve always worried that I’ll give in to my impulses (worrywart) and overly protect my kids. Why the meta-worry? Because overprotection is often, if not always, damaging to mental health. It certainly was for me.

  49. 49
    Emma says:

    Jibeaux: That’s not paranoid, that’s risk management.

  50. 50
    Rosalita says:

    In my town, it’s not practical for most of the kids to walk, the schools are located in a large campus and we have lots of country roads. So, many do take the bus and what chaps me is that the little darlings can’t be allowed to walk to the end of their streets to catch it–bus stops every other freaking driveway…

  51. 51
    Phoebe says:

    @anon: not to mention that raising your kids like veal is not good for their development. Some risks are worth the rewards.

  52. 52
    BenA says:

    Here’s the rub… the very same people that complain about kids not walking to school, will in the very next moment explain why they drive their kids to school.

  53. 53
    RalfW says:

    I’m now ancient, 44 years old, but I walked to school K-6 and 10-12th grades. 7-9 we lived way too far for walking.

    K-4, we even walked back home for lunch! I think the farther kids walked up to 6/10ths of a mile, 4X per day. And none of them got abducted or anything! Now, this was in a tony town in Westchester county, NY, where countless moms were looking out windows watching neighbor kids (mostly to yell at them if they cut through the hedge).

    In Tulsa, grades 5-6, I walked 8/10ths each way. It was a decent neighborhood, but far from tony. Compared to the 1/4 mile walk of my early grades, this was long…and several moms carpooled on rainy days or very cold mornings. But I’d say we walked to school at least 50%, and home, like 90%.

    Anyhoo. Dottery old reminisces aside, whattheheck? As obesity surges, we now require bus ridership? Stupid, carbon-intensive, expensive, and )(to wander back in the memory zone), my bus years were the worst. As an introvert, walking was much preferred to the yelling, spitting, teasing and abuse of the morning bus ride in 7th ad 8th grades.

  54. 54
    Hugin & Munin says:

    Phoebe@51: Children picatta . . . yummm! Paging JeffreyW!

  55. 55
    cjdavis says:

    The Cincinnati public school system cut back on busing this year to save money – students less than 1 mile from their school will not be bussed, up from 3/4 mile. Sadly, an 8-year-old kid was killed walking home from school a couple of days ago, and he lived in that 1/4 mile band. And now CPS is looking for volunteers for walking school buses.

    So there is money to be saved, and kids getting more exercise. But there will probably be a small rise in accidents such as this one. That’s a difficult trade off to measure.

  56. 56
    Steaming Pile says:

    You’ll love this story. On my way to work, the school bus makes two or three stops inside a (maybe) 500 yard radius of the school, the only potential hazard between the houses and the school being a traffic light equipped intersection inside the school zone where the speed limit has already been reduced to 20 MPH. You would think the thing to do if one was a concerned parent would be to escort the kids across the intersection, then wave bye-bye to them as they made that arduous hike for the remaining 200 yards or so (a Tiger Woods five-iron shot) to the elementary school. That’s what I would have done.

    Alternately, the various parents could get together over coffee and agree on a schedule where each of them would act as volunteer crossing guards. You know, for the children.

    But no. The bus picks all of them up, then runs out to the outskirts of the school district to pick up the farm kids who really do need bus service before returning to the school some 30-40 minutes later. I think my preference would be to spend those 30 minutes in bed, and I think the kids would agree.

  57. 57
    Steaming Pile says:

    @gnomedad: Around here, any student caught parking anywhere but the designated parking area gets ticketed. Yellow bus stigma is thereby eradicated for the most part.

  58. 58
    AnnaN says:

    We live in a large development where the city made it a requirement that the developer build schools within the boundaries of the PUD, the result being is that I see hundreds of kids of all ages and their parents walking to and from the schools each morning and afternoon. It’s actually nice to see.

  59. 59
    Steaming Pile says:

    @p.a.: Well, my concern is that diesel isn’t exactly free, and communal bus stops would save taxpayer money, not to mention time (I assume they pay bus drivers by the hour). But the spoiled adult children who live in my district (Clinton CSD – yes, I’m naming names) wouldn’t tolerate having their progeny walking a couple hundred feet to the bus stop.

  60. 60
    BR says:

    I’m a bit late to this thread, but here’s some hard data:

    http://www.schneier.com/blog/a.....fears.html

    Based on surveys Barnes collected, the top five worries of parents are, in order:
    __
    1. Kidnapping
    2. School snipers
    3. Terrorists
    4. Dangerous strangers
    5. Drugs
    __
    But how do children really get hurt or killed?
    __
    1. Car accidents
    2. Homicide (usually committed by a person who knows the child, not a stranger)
    3. Abuse
    4. Suicide
    5. Drowning
    __
    Why such a big discrepancy between worries and reality? Barnes says parents fixate on rare events because they internalize horrific stories they hear on the news or from a friend without stopping to think about the odds the same thing could happen to their children.

  61. 61
    Marc says:

    @cjdavis:

    There is no such thing as complete safety; at the same time, a lot of the problems can be traced to conscious choices which are hostile to walking/biking. You see very similar things about adults riding bikes – unquestionably healthy, but actively dangerous in many of the places where we live.

    That’s why you also need to tie together things like required sidewalks, traffic lights, and over/underpasses near dangerous roads. Kids die in car crashes too.

  62. 62
    bago says:

    Pansies. When I was in school in Alaska I’d wade through 3 feet of snow on my way to second grade. (Yay snowblowers!). In the more temperate climes of my high school days, a mile long hike was not unheard of.

  63. 63
    Martin says:

    Meh. Almost everyone here in our SoCal city walks to school. There’s some driving in HS, but not as much as you’d think. The only buses are for the disabled kids in most parts of the city. The schools were laid out in such a way that in elementary school, nobody needs to walk more than about .2 miles, and there are plenty of crossing guards. For middle school, it’s about .5 miles – short enough to walk and way short enough to ride a bike (my son took off on his bike at 6:45 this morning for school). High school can be further – a few miles depending on which part of the city and those kids can catch a bus, but for the HS my son will go to nobody is more than a mile. Still close enough to walk to.

    Stupid school rules often derive from shitty planning, and shitty planning almost always derives from weak government.

  64. 64
    drunken hausfrau says:

    In London here… both my kids walk and/or take public bus to school — even in the rain! But, I’d have to admit, most of my kids’ friends get driven to school — in Central London, with an £8 a day congestion charge! — because their parents have adopted the American model — fear of kidnap/terrorist/traffic. Reality is that London is very walkable; walking to school is good exercise and gets the brain and heart going with fresh oxygen; and it is a good time to talk with our kids, as we walk together.

  65. 65
    Jager says:

    In the fifties, in my little Midwestern home town of 40,000 people the only school buses were for rural kids. The grade schools each served about a square mile, The grade school I attended was 6 blocks from another grade school and 10 blocks from another. I walked three blocks to my grade school and 9 to Jr High, If I had walked to high school (I drove) it would have been a 18 block walk! In the 80’s they consolidated the grade schools and now all the kids ride the bus. The only time in grade school I got a ride is when my Dad would take me to Red’s Cafe for pancakes before school and then drop me off after breakfast.

  66. 66
    Sentient Puddle says:

    What the fuck? School starts at 7:20 a.m. now? That’s pretty fucked up…

  67. 67
    Daulnay says:

    We live in a ‘safe’ town, on the edge of a large urban area. Many kids routinely walk to school – the town has a good system of moderate-sized neighborhood schools, rather than giant centralized ones. There are (mostly) good sidewalks, and lots of crossing guards.

    In the last week or so, there have been 3 reports of attempted abduction (guys trying to lure kids into their cars) in the town next door, and now one in our town. From the descriptions, more than one molester is active (different races and cars).

    What’s more, this is not the first time. Every year or so, there’s something like this on the police blotter in the local paper. The school sends out a warning to parents, and lots of kids get driven to school for a while. In spite of all the statistics showing that my kids are not in much danger, I think we parents really do have something to worry about. My kids, however, still walk to school together; they are very sensible, and have cell phones with cameras.

    The concerned parents are not (won’t you concede?) needlessly worried about the kidnapper types, although they probably are under-worried about the molester/kidnapper who knows the child. Sure, this stuff isn’t new. But before the automobile, the perp was nearly always someone in the local community, someone known. For most people, that’s somehow less terrifying than an unknown.

  68. 68
    Tancrudo says:

    Today was the first day of school. Our bus stop was moved closer to our house this year (a short block away). I assumed it was because more children were going to get on the bus close to us. My son was excited. We figured that at least one girl would get on the bus with my son, because she is in my son’s class, and the new bus stop is right in front of her house.

    This morning we watched as her mom bundled her and her brother into the SUV five minutes before the bus arrived. We all waved.

    No, I don’t get it.

  69. 69
    Murali says:

    School starting at 7.20 is unconscionably early? I get that it requires a certain amount of discipline to wake up to get there on time, but this cannot be even a primary determining factor when it comes to student performance in school. I live in Singapore and school basically started at 7.20 for everyone. Yet, it is not like Singapore is behind america in terms of maths and science education, is it?

    That said, kids not walking to school, or even walking to the front porch to get to school seems shameful. I dont have access to the WSJ article, so I hope that it is merely an isolated case.

    The link below provides data about singapore’s maths performance in the TIMSS study

    http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2009/2009001_suptables.pdf

  70. 70
    Scott de B. says:

    What the fuck? School starts at 7:20 a.m. now?

    When I was in high school first period started at 7:30 am. And since I had a 30 minute (city) bus ride, I got up at 6 am.

    As a night owl, I agree that that’s unconscionably early.

    I live in Singapore and school basically started at 7.20 for everyone. Yet, it is not like Singapore is behind america in terms of maths and science education, is it?

    This doesn’t make any sense. If school starts at 7:20 in the U.S., and at the same time in Singapore, how could we conclude anything about its effect on performance from those two examples?

  71. 71
    Shinobi says:

    @Murali: It’s not that students don’t GET to school. It is that they are still so tired in class they don’t know what is going on. It could be that by starting class later teenagers in both the US AND Singapore could improve students learning and retention. Teenagers have natural rhythms that encourage them to stay up late and sleep in. And by making them start class so early we are forcing them to fight their own bodies in order to learn.

    We had no bus at my high school but we still started at 7:30 so that the athletes wouldn’t miss any class or be late for games. (We got done at 2:45.) I am pretty sure if it weren’t for first period gym 3 out of 4 years I would have had much worse grades.

  72. 72
    ThresherK says:

    @BR: I clicked the link, and the link after that. Any numbers about “abuse” w.r.t. strangers v. someone the child or family already knows?

  73. 73
    evinfuilt says:

    @Doctor Science:
    Sounds like an elegant solution to a made-up problem, but still, I prefer that to forcing people to use cars/buses.

  74. 74
    Dave says:

    Can’t really stay and chat (or read the comments, so if someone’s already addressed this, thanks!), but part of the problem is that walking to school oftentimes would take longer. In middle school, it took me almost 40 minutes to walk home with my backpack (it was about a mile and a half away), and I lived in a somewhat urban area. It’s probably worse in the suburbs and rural areas.
    Of course, they could step away from the massive school complexes that busing has enabled (at least for middle school, where it doesn’t really help in terms of more classes offered) and switch back to a more neighborhood-focused approach (and I’m using neighborhood loosely, maybe having all the kids within one mile of the school). But that’s not likely to happen

    Also, Murali, what time do you have to be at work in the morning? And it’s highly unlikely the average teenager is more of a morning person than you are (oh, 7:10 start of school, how I do not miss you).

  75. 75
    Mary Arrrr says:

    @Thresherk

    I did a paper on some of this a few years back. Can’t seem to find the report I based it on, but what is actually behind some of the numbers isn’t what you expect. When parents worry about child abductions, they are thinking about young children. Stranger abductions lasting more than 24 hours are vanishingly rare. The comparison number I found was deaths from non-traffic accidents on private property (actually slightly lower). Basically, you are more likely to back over and kill your child in your own driveway than to have them be abducted.

    The other thing to realize is that when you see statistics about the dangers children face from violence, they are including teenagers. Children under 12 are a small proportion of that. Over 12, it is more complicated, as non-family includes people in dating relationships. So, a daughter running off with a guy without her parent’s permission, if her dad calls the cops, it counts as a child abduction. To the best of my recollection, in most categories over half of the child victims were 16 or 17.

    Domestic violence sucks. Teen domestic violence especially sucks. But using those numbers to terrify the parents of toddlers and elementary school kids is ghoulish.

  76. 76
    cjdavis says:

    @Marc: I totally agree, I just didn’t say it clearly. Kids are better off sleeping in and walking to school rather than riding the bus, and it costs less money too. But for a parent fearful of the bogeymen out there, it’s no surprise if they have difficulty seeing that — and this freak accident makes it all that much more worse. Even if it really is a freak accident.

  77. 77
    evinfuilt says:

    @WereBear:

    Whip up parental anxiety, blame obesity on the fact that kids don’t get exercise, support Republicans and the car culture, resulting in less sidewalks, traffic lights, and crosswalks; then complain that kids don’t walk to school.

    Perfect explanation, but you missed the bit about the media scaring everyone about crime and then cutting the police force so that the rich can get richer.

    I’m actually amazed how bad not-walking has gotten. Only 20 years out of middle school, and back then we had 1 bus stop per 4 blocks. BUT most of the time we walked or rode our bikes to school (which was *GASP* a whole mile away.) Mind you by high school, i saw the whole effect, it was nowhere near walk distance, and there was a social stigma to taking the bus. I got around the 6:30am bus (for 8am class) by being a bicyclist (and using a car when it was too snowy otherwise.) Then again, i was a freak who wore a bike helmet in the early 90s, before it was “popular” (how the hell did we make bike helmets fashionable, its amazing.)

    Now, in the suburb I live in, the school in the same suburb but maybe only a half dozen families allow their kids to walk (and only with parental supervision.) So we get 3 block long backups of cars dropping off their kids (some cars get stuck in a line half way to their house or closer.) This is Texas, the weather is fine for walking… oh yeah, the HOA doesn’t like continuous sidewalks, they ruin the look :(

  78. 78
    drkrick says:

    The door to door pick up thing amazes me. I’m in Fairfax County, VA, which probably rates pretty high on the pampered and well funded scale and we haven’t gone there. We live inside the “no bus service” circle for my high schooler (a reasonable walk, 10-15 minutes) and even though it involves crossing a four lane road on foot he does fine.

    I swear, it’s going to end up like Wall-E soon. Our legs will get absorbed back inside our bodies like the whales.

  79. 79
    Tim says:

    @Mary Arrrr:

    Stranger abductions lasting more than 24 hours are vanishingly rare.

    That’s a relief. So people are cool with the stranger abductions lasting less than 24 hours? “Well, he sodomized Bobby, but at least the perp got him home for dinner and Bobby still had time for a good nights’ rest after we got home from the ER…”

    (Not to suggest that there isn’t a general misperception about the relative risks facing kids, just thought the 24-hour limit on abductions was weird)

  80. 80
    frosty says:

    @cathyx: Some of us drive our kids because we know they get to school that way. It’s one less degree of freedom.

  81. 81
    Murali says:

    @ Soctt de B

    This doesn’t make any sense. If school starts at 7:20 in the U.S., and at the same time in Singapore, how could we conclude anything about its effect on performance from those two examples

    I was under the impression that school starting early was a relatively recent development in the US. i.e. I assumed that schoool started for most quite a bit later. Therefore, a comparison between the two countries would still have made sense.

    @Shinobi

    It’s not that students don’t GET to school. It is that they are still so tired in class they don’t know what is going on. It could be that by starting class later teenagers in both the US AND Singapore could improve students learning and retention. Teenagers have natural rhythms that encourage them to stay up late and sleep in. And by making them start class so early we are forcing them to fight their own bodies in order to learn.

    We had no bus at my high school but we still started at 7:30 so that the athletes wouldn’t miss any class or be late for games. (We got done at 2:45.) I am pretty sure if it weren’t for first period gym 3 out of 4 years I would have had much worse grades.
    A few things
    1. Having school start later might improve concentration and grades. I’m open to evidence about this.
    2. That school students have to wake up early to reach school on time cannot be a mjor contributor to poor results. The experiences of education systems in Asian countries like Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong etc seem to show that satisfactory (or even fantastic) results can be obtained even though school starts so early or class sizes average around 40. (I assume that travelling time does not exceed an hour for most people)
    3. Basically, I’m asking for some perspective. There are far deeper problems with the American education system than class size or how early students are required to be there. One of the biggest problems I see is a pervasive jock culture. Schools seem to be paying an inordinate amount of attention to the sportsmen, and not enough to academics. Ridiculing those who study hard as swots or nerds seems perverse, and school officials validate such behavior by according jocks status and respect. Only in America is cheerleading considered a respectable activity fit to be pursued all year round while being in the maths club or chess club is a mark of shame.
    @Dave
    Also, Murali, what time do you have to be at work in the morning? And it’s highly unlikely the average teenager is more of a morning person than you are (oh, 7:10 start of school, how I do not miss you).
    I don’t miss it either, and I’m not saying that it’s not difficult or unpleasant. All I’m saying is that it’s not a thing that should be high on the list of how to reform the American education system. Moreover, being a morning person is often a matter of habit and discipline. I remember getting up at 5.30 in the morning was horrible, but it was something I managed to do 5 days a week. Even though I don’t have to do so now, as I’m in between jobs, it would not be anything even close to a deal breaker if my job did require it.

    Now, one thing that I’m worried about is that walking to school can be tiring, especially if one is carrying a heavy load in his bag. (But I suppose that American schools have lockers assigned to students and so they don’t have to carry all the books they will require for the day to and from school) A good 40 minute walk may be decent exercise, and certainly go towards curbing america’s obesity problem, but students who are sweating and tired are less likely to concentrate than students who are fresh off the bus. From personal experience, lessons that took place immediately after PE may have been more subdued, but everyone’s concentration was shot to shit.

  82. 82
    alix says:

    In many inner city districts, even kindergarteners have to walk to school if they’re within a certain distance (sometimes a mile). Okay, maybe it’s better for their health to walk… except they might have to cross major streets (I know a six-year-old who is expected to cross a 7-lane street to get to school, and again to get home), they might have to walk through high-crime areas, and they might have to walk through snow and rain.

    Life for children in the lower 30% income range really is quite different than in the upper 50%. The dangers in their lives aren’t “helicopter parenting” and “too much pampering” and “getting a trophy just for showing up.” They’re walking to school through neighborhoods none of us would walk through. I really can’t imagine the stress they’re living with– and their parents too, who are probably having to work while worrying about them.

  83. 83

    Hey… Things look a little screwy with the way your site is displaying. For some reason the text block overlaps the edge. I don’t know if it’s just me or have other people mentioned this? Just wanted to let you know in case you’ve been making changes. Thanks! Luis Drappo

  84. 84
    Mary Arrrr says:

    Tim – I was using the FBI’s classifications. I think that 24 hours is what turns something into primarily a kidnapping/abduction case, rather than a rape/assault case.

    It is really strange dealing with these sorts of numbers. There is an urge to make everything about the experience of individuals, but real safety improvements come with looking at the data and finding patterns and systemic weaknesses. Trying to completely protect yourself against rare and random events is the way to madness.

  85. 85
    Eva Onward says:

    @Linda Featheringill: because those people shove weird rules and restrictions on NORMAL parents. “Think of the children!” should be considered obscene language. Here, look at the fallout from some poor kids being allowed to ride their bikes 1 mile to school: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/com.....chool.html

Comments are closed.