David Rodeback's Blog

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Silly Symbols (and Good Stuff to Read)

This morning my son handed me a green sheet he was given at school, in honor of walk-to-school week or some such phenomenon. He had already signed his half, apparently agreeing to be an especially safe and conscientious pedestrian this week. I'm for that. For my part, I was supposed to promise to be an especially safe and conscientious driver this week, with respect to pedestrians. For example, I'm to stop for a light or stop sign before I reach the crosswalk, not in the crosswalk. That's fine; I try to do that anyway.

But there was one item that rubbed me the wrong way. I was supposed to agree to drive 5 mph below the posted limit in school zones. In other words, 20 mph isn't slow enough for don't-run-over-juvenile-pedestrians week. They want me to drive 15 mph?

I almost didn't sign. Either the same 20 mph speed that is adequate the other 51 weeks of the year is inexplicably reckless this week, or we have here yet another case of empty symbolism masquerading as substance. (I strongly suspect the latter.) I didn't want to be confrontational (with family members or . . . whoever . . . at school), so I took out my Uni-Ball Vision Micro (black) and added a decimal point in front of the "5," then signed my half of the contract. So this week I'll be irritating, frustrating, and angering my fellow drivers only one-tenth as much as Barratt Elementary wants me to, by driving (approximately) 19.5 mph in school zones, instead of 15 mph. My kinder, gentler approach will contribute at least as much to pedestrian safety as theirs, thank you very much. Oh, and my wife can put the little green (oh, so symbolic!) ribbon on her van. I'm not putting it on my car.

I'll be just as careful about pedestrians this week as I always am.

By the way, Dr. Ken Higgins, Barratt Elementary's principal, is walking to school Friday from his home in South Jordan. I believe he leaves home at 2 a.m. The general principle seems to be, if he can walk to school, so can a lot of kids. This is not empty symbolism; this looks more like leadership, not to mention approximately the right loony quality for an elementary school principal.

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On two of my favorite subjects, good math and bad statistics, see, respectively, Jonathan Rauch and Thomas Sowell.

In case you're not using my link to "The Ornery American" as often as you, check out Orson Scott Card on facts, statistics, and causes and effects and on Katrina, looters, and related topics.

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