The bureaucratization and politicization of learning sucks the joy from its victims. A quick lesson follows.

Riding a bicycle is one of the most joyous and cherished memories of childhood.

We spend years of childhood enjoyment on a bicycle. Ones’ sense of freedom and wonder watching the world whiz by when slicing through the wind on a bike is unmatched. Bike riding is a sensory explosion of joyful, adventurous learning.

The sights, sounds, and smells of freedom are marvelous from the seat of a bike! The open road, open fields, cut grass, smell of wild flowers, brackish canal water, parking garages, car dealerships, ocean breezes, food vendors, and even exhaust fumes bring back a rush of joyful childhood memories.  New places to see, explore, and ponder await the kid and a bike. A trip for ice cream. A quick spin to buy a comic book. A long journey to a friend’s house. A quick jaunt to the local toy store. A ride to a great fishing spot. Jumping homemade ramps on the gravel. Cutting through fields and backyards. Falling. Crashing. Wound dressing and healing.

Got the picture? Feel it? Remember?

Funny thing, never, ever, not once, did we spend one second studying or learning about bicycle riding in school. Thank, god.

Perhaps  we read a story about a kid riding a bike in one of  the monotonous English classes we experienced year after year. Did we diagram a sentence about someone riding a bike? Or perhaps on one of the many multiple-choice exams or workbooks a question arose that had a bicycle picture or story as part of a math problem or science quiz.

Never once did we get to ride our bike during class time, or even in  physical education (P.E.). No one ever invited us to bring our bike into a lab to study its function and design, take it a part, or reassemble it. What a missed opportunity to learn engineering standards. Never did we bring a bike into a science class to use it as an applied learning tool for biological, mechanical, or structural concepts. No math teachers used it to demonstrate applied math such as acceleration, general measurement, or speed.

Imagine putting kids on their own bikes and demonstrating simple machines, leverage, pulleys, gear ratio, tensile strength. What a missed opportunity for introductory calculus, geometry, and physics. Even biology could be well served by using the bike to demonstrate the Kreb cycle, ATP, lactic acid build-up, respiration, or anatomy of the rider.

Pee Wee Bike

Now THAT’s a bike!!

For the price of just one of those pathetic committee-written, politically-corrected, state-approved, mega-corporate manufactured textbooks, a kid could have a tricked out bike. Used ones are available for a few bucks. Better yet, have the kids build their own from scratch! Let them customize their own bike and keep it. Imagine the applied learning opportunity for kids building, customizing, and servicing their own bikes while learning applied math, science, and English. Subjects don’t exist separately in the “real” world, only in the education factory. The opportunities are limitless.

Many of us did our own learning and experimentation in our early learning years on bikes. We used our bikes to test gravity, force, acceleration, balance, speed, ratio analysis, distance measure, fractions, air pressure, mechanics, engineering standards, muscle fatigue, respiration, sensory functions, anatomy, physiology, estimating, and economics. Now, take all of the adjectives and nouns just listed and use some creative thinking to back into applied teaching of all theses concepts with a personal bicycle at the center of the learning experience. The missed applied learning opportunities in the K-12 setting are mind-boggling, and this is just one example.

The banned or ignored bicycle is just one example of the narrow-minded, one-size-fits-all, totalitarian controlled, franchise mentality in the K-12 system, public or private. Any further explanation of why education is a failure should not be necessary.

Oh, but many of the readers here, like the author, are mind altered by the education factories of our youth. We are all still recovering from the experience, slowly freeing our minds from the habitual thinking patterns placed within us. Make no mistake, the thinking patterns are not natural, quite the contrary. We all continue to  struggle to break the bonds of the meticulously engineered framework of standardized learning seared into our minds for a decade plus. The impressions last a lifetime, and so does the recovery.

The blue print of the K-12 education system is the problem. It will not allow bicycle riders in and among its daily, structured paradigm. If bike riding were taught in our K-12 schools, here is how it would work.

All children spend three years studying pictures and reading stories about bicycles from grades 1 – 3. It is determined by federal and state committees of “experts” to be too dangerous to place children on a moving vehicle before age 9.

Grade school children perform memorization and regurgitation of bicycle terminology and bicycle parts. Children color bicycle pictures, build bicycle puzzles, cut and paste bicycle pictures into collages. They even get to watch movies of older children and adults riding bicycles in controlled environments, under expert supervision of course. And for the lucky children, perhaps they get a field trip to see grown-ups riding bicycles off campus! Wow.

All fourth graders get assigned a state-licensed, committee-selected, politically-approved bike issued to them early in the fall. It is a 4-wheel monster that won’t tip over, built by a large corporation (with lobbyists). The multinational bike manufacturer lobbies for contracts in D.C., and the state capitols, and have regulations introduced to protect their exclusive markets. Corporate lobbyists draft school bike regulations, pass them to law makers along with generous contributions, and soon all students in most states are riding the same bikes and following the same curriculum.

One bike model and curricular approach is found across most states, with a few regional exceptions. The bike is manufactured with bumpers, flags, brake lights, turn-signal blinkers, speed governors, and every piece of safety equipment known to mankind (perhaps airbags too.)

Helmets, pads, safety pants, safety goggles, steel-toed shoes, etc., are all required to be worn during the one class session per week devoted to bike riding fundamentals. Personally owned bicycles are not allowed on the campus, discouraged at home, and even outlawed in most states for children under the age of 16. One model fits all.

The majority of school time spent learning about bicycles is spent in the classroom studying the history of bicycles, the theory of bicycle riding, memorizing each component of a bicycle one piece at a time, writing papers about famous bike riders, and watching bicycle documentaries. Only one 45 minute session per week is allocated for actually riding, on a safety course, with street cones, in a grass field, or a gym with a soft floor, under supervision, with voluminous safety rules & procedures, no horseplay allowed, stay within painted lines, and no wheelies or ramp jumping allowed. Slow down kids, only speeds up to 5mph are allowed. Put on all the safety gear first.

By the 6th grade most children are no longer interested in pursuing bike riding as a career or for pleasure. Nor do they care to see a bicycle at home. They do not care to own the boring standardized vehicles. They find no joy in bikes at all. They are sick to death of learning the theory of bike riding. They despise performing time and distance calculations prior to riding on school courses. They hate the ugly state issued, standardized school bikes. They have little passion for their weekly “education rides” from the locked storage room to the safety tracks.

The kids also don’t care about the history of the bike, or the year it was first invented, or the name of the German scientist who invented the spoke, or the plant where the first bike tire is manufactured, or the importance of the national safety laws regulating bike riding in all 50 states, or the Secretary of Bicycle Utilization of the United States who’s face adorns posters on walls everywhere, or how to signal turns properly when riding on the streets, or how to properly walk their bikes across the roadway, etc., ad nausea.

The kids hate wearing all the hot, itchy, sweaty, safety gear in the warm months – helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, safety pants, long-sleeve safety shirts, GPS gear, state issued I.D. badges and licenses, emergency bags (spare tire / water / first aid kit / flares / street cone) – it is too damned hot. And the kids hate, just despise the national standardized, bike riding safety tests they must prepare to pass every year in preparation for becoming a fully licensed rider at age 16. At 16 the kids take the mandatory standard national test required for their HS diploma, full bicycle ownership, and a federal riding license.

Large numbers of kids drop out of school in order to escape the bicycle monotony and bureaucracy. A few enterprising youth acquire bikes and parts on the black market. The kids meet clandestinely in parking garages to race, jump, trade, and customize their bikes, thus evading the authorities on constant lookout for the kids contraband and meetups.

Lesson over, ride on.

“Copyright © 15MAR17 by Steven A. Schwab”