Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (with apologies to Mo Willems)

a hand holding a hardback copy of the book Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, by Mo Willems
photo of my copy of Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive the Bus, which I read to my kids when they were young (photo by Donna Lanclos)


My children are now in their 20s so it’s been a long time since I had the pleasure of reading aloud to them.

Back when I did so, one of their favorites was Mo Willems’ (now) classic Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.

If you’ve never read it, I’m sorry for you, go find it and read it, it’s a hoot (it’s also apparently been made into a musical??  Wild).  The setup is that a bus driver is taking a break, and asks you to stick around while he is away, to make sure that the pigeon doesn’t drive his bus.

And then the book is one long attempt by the pigeon to do just that.  The pigeon wheedles.  The pigeon tries tricks. The pigeon pouts.  The pigeon throws a tantrum.

Eventually, the pigeon gives up.  And the bus driver comes back, and drives off, his bus safely not having been driven by a pigeon.

And the pigeon, with hope in its heart, starts making eyes at a big ol’ truck coming its way.

This is a blast to read to kids, it’s interactive and goofy and you can really get into the pigeon going through all the drama.

And the moral of the story is:  you really shouldn’t let pigeons drive buses, no matter how much they want to.  Bus driving is too important to let a pigeon try, no matter how much they insist that they can.

It seems to me that too many people either never read that book, or maybe missed that moral.

Because they seem really anxious, some of them, to let generative AI drive a bus or two.

I think, maybe, we should have a pigeon rule.  Slightly different from the pigeon aphorism coined in 2016 by Audrey Watters (“be less pigeon.”)

I propose:

“Don’t let AI do anything you wouldn’t want a pigeon to do.”


Would you want a pigeon grading exams?

Would you want a pigeon sifting through grant applications?

Would you want a pigeon designing your courses for you?

Would you want a pigeon deciding what kind of health care you get?

Would you want a pigeon offering counseling?

And I’ll echo Audrey in noting that pigeons in and of themselves are fine.  I quite like the birds.  I don’t have anything against pigeons.


But, and this is important:  they should not be allowed to drive the bus.