My human geography homework was to write a story explaining central place theory. I'm a nut, so this is what I came up with.
Central Place Theory – A Batman and Robin Story
"Gah! I can't do this!" shouted thirteen-year old Dick Grayson, otherwise known as Robin the Boy Wonder.
"What is it?" Bruce Wayne asked warily as he stepped into the boy's bedroom. During the day, the world knew Bruce as a world-famous billionaire playboy and CEO of Wayne Industries. By night however, he hunted the myriad criminals of Gotham city as Batman, the Dark Knight.
"My human geography teacher wants me to write a story about central place theory!" Dick exclaimed, looking like he was ready to cry.
"Uh…right. So, why is this such a problem?" Bruce asked, attempting to keep his composure and not laugh at the teenager's pointless distress, "You're a pretty incisive person, Dick. Writing a story about central place theory shouldn't be such a challenge for you."
Bruce was right of course. Dick had skipped a grade and was now taking a freshman AP human geography course at Gotham Academy.
"Heh heh, well...The thing is," Dick said, "that I don't really understand the concept."
"Oh really?" Bruce came over to sit on Dick's bed and look at the textbook with him. "Oh, I remember this from when I was in high school. It's very simple, really. In 1933, a man named Walter Christaller published The Central Places in Southern Germany. It was a study explaining where central places in the urban hierarchy would be functionally and spatially distributed."
At Dick's uncomprehending stare, Bruce attempted to see just how much Dick knew already.
"Do you know what the central places would be?"
"Um…Oh, yeah! I remember that! They're cities, towns, villages, and hamlets!"
Bruce gave a relieved sigh. It seemed that Dick wasn't completely oblivious about the subject matter.
"Okay, good. Do you know what five conditions are required for the central place theory to work?"
"Is this an ambiguous concept by any chance?" Dick asked tentatively.
"No, there are five specific answers."
"In that case, I have no clue."
Bruce sighed and ran a hand through his hair. Then, the proverbial light bulb turned on.
"I have a better way to explain this," Bruce said, getting up to leave.
Dick, who had lived with Bruce for five years now, already knew where they were going.
"But, Bruce, it's educational!"
"You never let me say it!"
"Richard John Grayson."
"At least let me say it this once!"
Bruce rubbed his temples. "Fine."
"To the Batcave!"
Later, in the Batcave…
"Okay, Robin, Remind me what the point of the central place theory was."
"Christaller was trying to make a model that would predict how and where central places in the urban hierarchy would be functionally and spatially located," Robin said matter-of-factly.
"Correct. However, the model couldn't just work anywhere. It only applied to places that followed five conditions."
"I know, Batman. My teacher explained this already, but I didn't quite get it."
"Alright. Let me explain it like this…Why do I avoid major roads when I'm driving the Batmobile?"
"To avoid attention…Also, I guess there's a lot more obstruction on major roads due to traffic."
"Correct. So, out of those two reasons, which one would be a condition in central place theory?"
"I doubt that Walter Christaller needed to avoid attracting attention while he was driving."
"Oh, so for central place theory to work," Dick said slowly, "There has to be no obstruction to transportation."
"Exactly. More specifically, the land has to be flat."
"Ah…so what's the next condition?"
"Do you remember the last time we faced Poison Ivy?"
Dick grimaced. "How could I forget? She took over the whole city with those freaky mind control plants!"
"Yes, but the plants only took over our city. Why didn't they spread beyond Gotham's limits?"
"Um…I think I remember you saying something about how the soil fertility starts to change at the city limits."
"Yes…" Batman prompted.
"So, another condition for central place theory is that the soil fertility has to be the same throughout the area."
"Right," said Batman, wondering how to explain the third condition. "Robin, why does Crime Alley exist?"
Robin was a bit thrown by the query. "Um…because criminals kind of run rampant over there?"
"Think about it in depth. What would have to happen for Crime Alley not to exist?"
"Uh…Well, I guess that the poor people would have to obtain financial stability so that they wouldn't feel like they have to steal anymore…And I guess that having so many people in that area and so few in the richer parts of Gotham has something to do with it too."
"Yes. For central place theory to work, population and purchasing power need to be evenly distributed," stated Batman, "Now, how do most of Gotham's citizens get to work on time?"
"The subways," Robin promptly responded, "That way, everyone can travel and transport items even if the destination is on the other side of town."
"That's the fourth condition. The theory requires a uniform transportation network."
"All right! I think I'm getting this now!"
"Good. There's only one more condition."
"Bring it on!"
"How did Scarecrow manage to deliver his latest fear toxin to even the remotest areas of Gotham last week?"
"Well…Okay, I don't know," said Robin, his jovial attitude quelled.
"I'll give you this one. There was nothing keeping the toxin from being distributed in all directions. It could end up anywhere in the city."
Robin nodded, but then pointed an accusing finger at Batman, "Hey, that's the same as the first one!"
"No, it's not. It's considered a different concept."
"But they mean the same thing!"
"For the purpose of getting an A on your next test, they're different."
Robin grumbled in defeat.
"All you have to do with these five conditions is adjust them to a larger scale than Gotham City. Visualize a region containing other cities as well, such as Blüdhaven, Metropolis, or Star City. Then, consider how central place theory affects the distance between them," Batman explained.
However, at Robin's mundane expression, he decided to get back to a topic that the Boy Wonder would be interested in. "Now that you understand central place theory, what are you going to write your story about?"
"Oh, I think I'll write something about the Dynamic Duo!" Robin exclaimed.
"I know, I can't write anything indicating the truth about our secret identities. Sheesh, you worry too much."
Now, it was Batman's turn to grumble, until he heard a groan from Robin.
"What is it?"
"I forgot! My friend from school, The Official Girl Wonder, said that she was going to write something about us! I can't copy her! Curse you, Girl Wonder! Curse you and your totally awesome and original ideas!"
Yes, I actually submitted this. 10 out of 10! In fact, my teacher said that it was the best story in the class!
You know I'm obsessed when I start using Batman and Robin to help me understand my schoolwork.
Liked it? Hated it? Still thinking, "What the heck is central place theory?" Don't worry. You're not the one who has to take a test on it in less than a week.