Are schools part of government, or are they a business?

According to the C&P Telephone Co., there's no single answer when it comes to a directory listing. It apparently depends upon how each local government wants to list them in its new, utterly confusing tripartite telephone directories, which have separate sections for residential, governmental and business listings.

In the new District of Columbia book, schools are listed in the blue governmental pages under "D.C. Government--Schools, Public."

In the suburban Maryland book, Anne Arundel County and Howard County schools are listed in the blue pages under "Schools" while in Charles County, they're in the blue pages under "Education, Board of." In Montgomery and Prince George's counties, blue-page listings under county "Schools" say cryptically, "See Montgomery or Prince George's County Public Schools" with no clue as to which section. Turns out they're both in the business white pages.

But wait'll you see how messed up the school listings are in the Northern Virginia directory. In Fairfax City, they're listed alphabetically within the blue-pages city agency listings under "F", as "Fairfax City School Board", which follows "Data Processing" and "Fairfax City Express Bus Information" and precedes "Fire and Rescue Services."

In Falls Church, schools are carried straightforward in the city listing under "Schools." Fairfax County schools are accurately, if illogically, cross-listed from the governmental blue pages to the business white pages.

Which brings us to the utterly mishandled "Arlington County--Schools" and "Alexandria City--Schools" listings. The directory says "See Arlington County or Alexandria City Public Schools--in Blue Pages." There's no such blue page listings. Both sets, it turns out, are in the business white pages.

Oh, well, we all make mistakes, but we don't try as hard as C&P to institutionalize them.