PostScript has decided to join the 3800 other people discussing Eugene Robinson’s column today about Mitt Romney and the bus driver.
In a recent public appearance, Romney once again derided President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment about how success in private enterprise can be partially attributed to contributions from government. Romney pooh-poohed this observation, saying: “When a young person makes the honor roll, I know he took a school bus to get to the school, but I don’t give the bus driver credit for the honor roll.”
Robinson said the bus driver should get some credit for that, arguing that Romney’s discounting of the bus driver’s contribution is characteristically elitist and disdainful of the little people who are a part of the community in which some people succeed with hard work. We have entrusted that bus driver, Robinson said, with a precious cargo; his or her work is hardly immaterial to the child’s safety, let alone success.
Mostly, commenters agree with Robinson, although many argue it depends on the listener’s reading of Romney’s ambiguous use of the word “credit.”
This is a good point. Robinson says it means respect and acknolwedgement of a difficult and important job well done (if it is well done). Was Romney suggesting it is absurd to append an official credit to the honor-roll achievement, a thank-you to the people and their infrastructure involved in transportation and feeding of said child? Should the honor roll come with a list of thank-yous to the community?
Hazmat77 summarizes the point he or she thinks Romney was trying to make — that the specific achievement of honor roll had nothing to do with the bus driver:
Romney wasn’t disounting or dismissing the bus driver’s work or contribution to the operation of the school system. He was talking about the lack of correlation between every worker and the performance of the individual. Because of our inane busing system, school bus drivers are important cogs in the system, but they don’t make scholars out of the students. If they did, they could just teach ‘em on the bus!
sedwards2 agrees. No disrespect to bus drivers, but they don’t take the tests:
Romney wasn’t saying anything negative about bus drivers or “the little people”. His comments were about apportionment of merit for one’s achievements. This is not to say the bus driver doesn’t have his own achievements that can be recognized. But the bus driver is no more responsible for the honor student’s success than the honor student is for any successes the bus driver has had. There are people who empty the trash from our offices each night. They are good, hard working and decent people. They may have their own successes and achievements, however they may define them, but they are not responsible for the growth or success of my business.
Peterroach, on the contrary, thinks there’s no reason at all to single out bus drivers as cogs in their giant systems:
As a Republican I don’t like the bus driver remark either. That individual is responsible for the safety for up to 40 kids, often unruly, boisterous children. Romney better think a little more before he talks about such things.
That driver gets that child to school on time. It is one of the most thankless jobs in America. It ranks up there with Traffic Cop
Anniea2 thinks there’s an important point to be made here, and it’s about . . . buses. The problem, she says, is that bus drivers in the public sector have no incentive to keep order or efficiency:
Eugene makes a great point about the bus driver’s importance - but anyone who has a kid riding the bus knows that “order” and “discipline” are not being maintained.
A better solution would be to privatize the bus system, have private sectors maintain order and discipline - anyone going to a US post office can tell the difference in efficiency and service that you get from a UPS, a Fed Ex, or a mom and pop mail service in the neighborhood.
Vavoter45, another bus policy wonk, responds that the casual disrespect shown rhetorically for bus drivers — like what Romney might have meant — makes their jobs that much harder:
Anniea2: You want to blame the bus driver for not being able to keep order on the bus? Why not start with the parents who have no respect for the bus driver and pass that on to their children.
cdierd1944 says Robinson is right but didn’t go far enough:
In the illustration he gave he ignores the fact that community worked to finance the school, workers built the school, community educated the teachers, paved the roads that the buses drive on, hired and trained the bus driver, and provided a safe place for education to occur. Yes the individual had to attend, study, and apply what was learned to be an honor student. Community and individual effort is ying and yang.
PostScript, an inveterate further-arguer, would argue further that a bus driver who contributes more than what’s necessary — maybe the only kindness a child receives all day, maybe merely the influence of a person working a job he loves and loves doing well, maybe just the example of an adult with dignity and self-respect and quiet competence — is probably aware that some of the kids he transports during his career might be the doctors he’ll need at the end of his life. That might be the only reward of working hard, but it’s hard to beat.
And because she’s all misty now, PostScript would like to close with a sweet posting in gratitude to good bus drivers (and awareness of the importance of bad ones):
Mr. DeJulio, who drove a school bus for the Philadelphia Public Schools, was beloved among the kids of Wynnefield when I was a kid.
I still remember kind, cheerful Dolores, who drove for Montgomery County, with her trace of Irish brogue: “Don’t be shovin’ now.”
And Mr. Tolliver of Metro, who took extraordinary measures to reunited me with my briefcase.
And the Metrobus driver who, unable to disuade a drunk guy from boarding the (last) bus to Rockville even though he insisted he was going to Federal Triangle. The driver stopped trying to persuade him, slammed the door shut, gunned the engine for about 45 seconds, then said, “OK, buddy, this is your stop,” and the guy got off. A problem-solving genius!
Or the Metrobus driver who slammed the door on my right arm as it extended toward the handrail and began driving away, oblivious to the passengers who were screaming for him to stop. No apology, and he told an elderly woman who protested his carelessness to go to hell.
In summary, we ALL matter. Public, private, quasipublic - we all influence and contribute to the lives of those around us. We all need to acknowledge other people’s efforts, and remember our own impact on others as we conduct ourselves in our daily lives.
And if it weren’t for loyal, hardworking employees, my business would be nonexistent.