Funding trips for classes of school children is a complicated business in Sweden. This is due to two commonly held conventional ideas. One is that it would be unfair to ask each family to simply pay for their kid, since not all families may be able to afford the trip. The other is that the kids should somehow prove themselves worthy of the trip through work. Typically, this will lead to a great number of schemes and events to collect funds for each trip. And these fund-raising activities have a few things in common: they pay poorly, most of the labour is put in by a few parents (not the kids), and most of the collected funds actually originate with the kids’ families, as parents either donate goods or buy donated goods from the kids.
I think this whole business is ridiculous. I challenge the two basic assumptions and I think the fund-raising activities are insanely inefficient.
To begin with, I am in all likelihood the least affluent dad in both my kids’ classes, and it still would be no problem for me to front the bill of their participation in school trips. We live in a cheap part of one of Sweden’s richest communities: these people have the means. Secondly, their kids travel all the time with their folks and sibs without having to work for it, so why should a school trip be any different?
My solution to the problem, which I have aired at a number of school-parent meetings to responses ranging from high praise to shocked disapproval, is this. Dear affluent parent of a school-mate of one of my children: instead of working for five hours on the traditional poorly paid and inefficient resource reallocation schemes, arranging a bake sale or overseeing the kids’ busking at a subway station, just stay one extra hour at work and make twice the money. Nothing you do with the kids on communal fund-raisers will ever approach the wage you see at work every day.
In some cases, school rules forbid the direct payment of a trip fee. This is easy to circumvent. You just buy one cheap item for each kid, say, a pack of candles, and tell the parents that to send their kids on the school trip they have to buy a pack – and it costs $300.
Of course it’s fun for the kids to engage in communal activities with parents, working towards a common goal. But why bring money into it? Just take the kids hiking or fishing.