We all heard the song as toddlers or in elementary school and could probably recite the lyrics by heart:
“The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round…”
The repetitive, catchy children’s song seems innocuous enough, but some have ascribed a darker meaning to these verses about the various sights and sounds one experiences while riding a bus.
While the origins of the song (which first appeared in 1939) are somewhat unclear, some rumors and theories about its hidden meaning have circulated.
Hans Hyttel, an associate professor at Aalborg University in Denmark, believes the song is about the futility of existence and the inner workings of the Freudian model of the human psyche: the ego, superego, and id.
“Notice how the bus is a metaphor for life itself – a vehicle carrying us from birth to death. The wheel (Sanskrit: Samsara) represents the never-ending Karmic circle of life: we are born and re-born,” Hyttel says.
Composer and musician Jim Davis said the song has religious connotations and speaks to the idea of intellectualism trying to wash out the spiritual truth of existence.
“All around God, the wheel turns. But God is still. Unwavering. Stable. As the world moves. ‘Round and ’round. All through the town,” Davis says.
Since the song’s origin and the creator can not be proven, these theories are pure speculation and many believe the song has no hidden meaning at all but was just a folk song written to entertain children as they rode on the bus.
The release of the song coincides with the rising popularity of the school bus and the creation of national standards for school buses in 1939 — including standards about color and seating configuration. The song addressed a very novel concept for children at that time — the thought of riding a bus alone, without their parents, on the way to school.
Today, riding a school bus is second nature for many children. During their K-12 education, the average student will ride a school bus more than 4,000 times and spend more than 2,000 hours on the bus.
That’s a lot of time going “round and round,” which is why Bus Kids Safe is committed to promoting the safety and well-being of children who ride the school bus.
Check out our “5 School Bus Safety Tips Every Parent Should Know” for tips on how students can stay safe while entering, exiting and riding the bus.