Bimbo Banter

Back to School and Anecdotes Still Win

  • Crisis
  • September 3, 2014
  • by Merrie Spaeth

School bus

The Dallas Independent School District (DISD) just started the new school year. Out of the district’s 157,000 students, some 30,000 were transported to school in buses run by Dallas County, which serves 11 school districts within the county and over 71,000 students.

The Dallas County operation is one of the nation’s largest and, by any measure, one of the best run. However, it is not perfect.

On the first day of school, one special needs child was left without a bus pick-up. The driver had been hospitalized and informed the county, but the remedial measure wasn’t taken. The parents had to drive their daughter to school and pick her up. They then did what so many other aggrieved parents do these days: complained to the media, generating a column in the local paper headlined, “DISD buses must make sure no kids are left behind,” and on the page jump, “Good, DISD, but you can do better.”

This story isn’t really about the student; it’s about how one emotional anecdote trumps all the numbers that back up a significant track record and how headlines can get it all wrong. The columnist devoted approximately 750 words to this unfortunate story and included two lines about how Dallas County Schools provides bus service for DISD and 10 other school districts and consistently blurred the two entities. Of course, they both have “Dallas” in their name so perhaps that’s where the confusion occurred.

The column concluded with a snide slap, “If the DISD wants to keep the middle-class parents it has and attract more into its folds, the buses simply must run on time.” It’s useless to suggest that the columnist might help public education by noting the County’s safety track record, its 1,900 buses (including specialty buses for field trips and events) or its track record of financial integrity.

Remember, when anecdotes compete with facts and statistics, the anecdote wins. The lesson? Get your own anecdotes; spread them far and wide and make sure they’ve got plenty of human interest.

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