Rules of the road: Crookston instructor puts the drive in driver's ed
CROOKSTON -- Dave Barnum's summer school students are considerably better than his students during the regular school year. They're the same kids. The difference is that the class is driver's education, not life science. "They do better because t...
CROOKSTON -- Dave Barnum's summer school students are considerably better than his students during the regular school year.
They're the same kids.
The difference is that the class is driver's education, not life science. "They do better because they're motivated," he said.
They're motivated because a driver's license -- to say nothing of independence and coolness -- is the golden pot at the end of the rainbow. Driver's ed allows you to test for a permit, which allows you to take behind-the-wheel training, which allows you to try for your license.
So, learning about the driving rules is a higher priority than learning about cells and tissues. It shows. The average score on his summer tests is 88 to 90, he said. In life science, the average score is 75 to 80.
But his students aren't the only ones to score highly. Barnum recently was named the driver educator of the year by the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association.
"It was well-deserved," said Rodd Olson, who now handles all of Crookston's behind-the wheel instruction and has the gray hair to prove it.
The award isn't awarded through a lottery, nor is it a lifetime achievement award, although Barnum has 35 years on the job. There are ways to measure success, Olson said. One is that 95 percent of Crookston's students pass the permit test on the first try, a very high number. Another is that the state's driver's test examiners speak highly of the students' prowess.
"Dave has a reputation where parents from other cities send their kids here," Olson said. "He does not take this lightly."
That becomes obvious from sitting in on the three-hour class. One of the instructional videos was so old that it was on film and the teenage girls had Farrah Fawcett hairstyles. But there was no snickering, nor was there snoozing, talking and wavering attention spans.
Another video has gory footage of car accident victims, intended to scare drivers straight. But it's not the deterrent it once was.
"Kids are so used to blood and maiming on television and video games that they don't react much to it now," he said. "If they crash on their video game, they just start over. There's no realism."
Barnum and Olson have their share of amusing stories, such as one student who flunked his behind-the-wheel test eight times before passing. One young man earned his license in the morning and had an accident in the afternoon. One first-day driver negotiated less than two blocks before hitting a parked car. And there are the newbies who look at the floor when it's time to brake.
Then, there's their favorite response, from a girl who was reprimanded for coasting through a stop sign. "Oh, do you have to stop at all of them?" she wondered.
Although many stories are chuckle-worthy, it is a serious subject, probably more serious than life science.
"This is not a relaxing class. I'm intense," Barnum said. "I've had former students of mine killed in car accidents. I want a clear conscience that they didn't die because of something I did not teach them."
Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .