Thursday, June 03, 2004

Erin O'Connor is discussing the problem of long commutes for schoolchildren. As parts of the West and the High Plains empty out, governments are compelled to close more and more schools, resulting in longer trips for the remaining children. The example used is a district in Utah where the kids face two-hour commutes every goddamn day, two hours in the morning and two in the evening. Since O'Connor's audience tends pretty heavily conservative and libertarian, the comments are full of arguments in favor of one-room schoolhouses and home schooling. Me, I'm not as enthusiastic about home schooling and tiny schools as those folks. Oh, I suppose it's something that works for some, but I've never been able to convince myself that there isn't some economies of scale to actual classroom instruction. My aunt on the evangelical end of the extended family retired to home-school her two daughters in the Eighties. Somehow, that initial, pure-intent goal led her down unexpected paths until she ended up the principal of a private school for her church. The economies of scale and communities of interest led inexorably from a home-school class of two, to a group, then a class, then people were scraping together funds for a building and a true school. I can't help but think that home schooling is as much a strategy of "product substitution" as the worst excesses of the Nasser regime's "import substitution" economic policies, only practiced for libertarian rather than collective-nationalist ends.

I was talking about school boarding with our secretary. Her family has a house up on Sand Mountain in the Seven Mountains area. Her son, who's just getting ready to go to junior high, has a full hour commute down into Penn's Valley via bus. She generally drives him down to school in the morning, which cuts that by a third to a half. She's thinking about Milton Hershey, a boarding school down in Dauphin, but was worried that it would be too much for him to be so far away. I don't know, it's all new to me. I grew up in township-sized school districts, where the school was never more than a short bus ride, or a long walk away.

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