Has the Yellow School Bus Replaced the Red Apple as a Symbol of American Education? Yes, Says this Expert

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It has become increasingly evident that the yellow school bus has found its place, beyond the pavement of the road, as a commanding symbol of American education.

Whether a billboard advertising milk in Syracuse, N.Y.; a popular Christmas catalog cover; a belated birthday greeting card depicting children running after the bus; large or small metal and plastic yellow buses in our most popular toy stores; and clothing and food advertisements on television. Or whether it is a packed booth at a transportation trade show selling denim shirts, ties, T-shirts, golf shirts, sweatshirts, women’s bags, coasters, mouse pads, magnets, mugs, belt buckles, clocks, plates, women’s and men’s jewelry all with yellow school bus symbols; or boxes of food on local market shelves. Regardless, it is my opinion that the yellow school bus has replaced the red apple as one of the foremost symbols associated with American education.

Those of us involved with the yellow school bus in any way frequently find ourselves the recipients of gifts that follow our passion. Each winter holiday season, I find myself the receiver of a variety of school bus gift items.

This year was no exception.

I received a copy of the book “The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System” by Joanna Cole. I must admit it was a bit non-traditional to see illustrations of a school bus with rockets tilting back taking off into the solar system. It took a bit of settling down on my part to enjoy the lessons to be taught and relinquish my prejudices of how a school bus must be depicted.

After all, I was ready to give the students aboard an immediate lesson about staying in their seats while the bus was in motion. However, the author has another lesson in mind. Reality quickly settled in that this was a time to lighten up and enjoy a story about the solar system and quickly forgot that the school bus had bold rockets at the rear, blasting it off into space.

In addition to my new book, I received the usual assortment of yellow bus pins in different shapes. It was interesting to note that I was not disturbed by the variety of bus shapes, but I looked twice at three children standing up looking out the back window, another adjustment moment.

Among my favorite gifts this holiday season was a school bus ornament from my boss. I thought it great that she took the time to remember my joy and fascination for school buses. After all, it is her continued support for my transportation activities that allows me to venture across the country. A staff member in my branch thoughtfully added to my school bus memorabilia with yet another new yellow bus. My work office, at times, becomes a play station for both children and adults who cannot resist my school bus collection. At home, my Christmas tree decorations were complemented by a variety of bus ornaments in different shapes, all delightfully yellow.

On a more serious note, I have a wish list for yellow school bus transportation in 1999. Among my wishes: administrators and educators supporting the daily challenges faced by transportation departments across the nation, increased quality training opportunities for drivers and monitors, and parents accepting their role and responsibility for the safe transportation of their children. Also, students learning more about the importance of safe travel on the school bus and increased integration opportunities on the school bus for students with and without disabilities. Above all, a safe travel year for our school children to and form school.

In conclusion, what does all this advertising and commercialization of the time-honored traditional yellow school bus mean for the transportation industry and safety advocates?

In my opinion, it means a more active and progressive role in shaping the yellow school bus image as we enter into the new millenium. It is undeniable that there will be a number of changes in how the yellow school bus, as we know it today, will be regarded in the future. Tradition is sure to be challenged; however, new opportunities are ahead and should not be passed up. As reality has it for now, the yellow school bus is a dominant symbol of American education with a marvelous opportunity to shape the image and relationship of the yellow bus with the future for our nation’s children.

Dr. Linda F. Bluth is the branch chief of Community Interagency Services with the Maryland Department of Education’s Division of Special Education. She is a nationally recognized expert in special needs transportation. can be reached at Lbluth@aol.com.