Missed Saturday because the editorial staff at the paper was on vacation. :^)
I'm pretty sure I won't have a column this weekend (conference paper and preparing for the semester eating up spare time) or next weekend... unless I go berserk about Glenn Beck. It could happen.
In any event, Saturday's column.
Back-breaking back to school lists
A friend of mine who is sending her sixth-grader back to school in Hartford this month was so exasperated by the long list of school supplies that she posted it to Facebook followed by 17 exclamation points. A lot of parents must be experiencing the same shock – not just at the cost but at the sheer weight kids are nowadays required to carry around.
I stopped at a local Giant Box Store to price it out.
I did hit the sale aisle, but I have no doubt that an intrepid parent with several children would do better. My total came out to $56, rounded off to the nearest dollar.
Here’s the list: 2 packs, lined 3x5 index cards (100 pk). Big eraser. 6 prong pocket folders. 10 Elmer’s glue sticks. 4 highlighters (different colors). 10 spiral, wide-ruled notebooks (70 pg) 4 red, 3 yellow, 1 green, 2 blue. 3 packs of wide-ruled loose leaf paper (200 ct.). Black or blue pens (at least 2) and a Red correcting pen. 24 #2 pencils (can be mechanical). 2 sets colored pencils (12 ct.). 12-inch metric/standard ruler. 1 pack graph paper (1/4 inch). 1 small pencil sharpener. 1 roll Scotch tape. Pencil box or pouch. 6” protractor, to be kept at home for Math. 1 – 1 1/2-inch 3-ring binder (Science). 1 – 1 1/2-inch 3-ring binder (Math). Scissors. 2 boxes Kleenex (Homeroom). 2 bottles (8 oz. each) of instant hand sanitizer with at least 62 percent ethyl alcohol content. Composition notebook or bring $1 (Reading). Crayola Markers (fine/broad).
I’ll restrict myself to two observations. 1.) I managed to get all the way through graduate school without once using a highlighter. Highlighters are the book-equivalent of spray-paint graffiti tagging: rarely intellectually or even aesthetically useful. I know, I’m turning into a curmudgeon. 2.) I’m also trying to imagine sixth-graders using 600 pages of notebook paper in one year – especially with the advent of computer instruction.
OK. 3.) 10 glue sticks?
But this is just me wondering. I was taught in classrooms that used one piece of rock to scratch letters on another piece of rock (chalk on slate). Times change, but I do miss that chalk.
But something else seems to have changed, and not for the better. Have you noticed that each year the kids seem to be carrying bigger and bigger backpacks? Some kids are carrying backpacks as big as they are. They look like little sherpas heading up Everest.
I didn’t weigh a backpack full of school supplies, but other people have. The most telling thing I can pass along is this: there is now a medical literature about backpack caused back pain in school kids.
Here are the grisly details: a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission study found that more than 75 percent of students ages 8-12 now suffer from increasing back pain caused by schlepping around their school backpacks. In 2001 alone, 7,000 children went to U.S. emergency rooms for backpackrelated injuries. A Consumer Reports study found that sixthgraders were carrying backpacks that weighed, on average, 18.4 pounds – but it wasn’t surprising to find kids carrying as much as 30 pounds. How could this happen? Here’s one part of the answer: a 2003 report by Texas A&M University System Health Science Center College of Medicine found that 96 percent of parents had never checked the weight of their child’s backpack; 34 percent had never even checked the contents.
So, take it to heart and, while you’re packing their lunches, remember that your kids are already carrying the future. Help them out. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends school backpacks should never weigh more than 20 percent of your child’s total body weight.
I did ask one of my teacher/neighbors, who doesn’t teach in Hartford, about the list. She wasn’t sure about all of the details, but the suggested supply that made the most sense to her was the one for 24 pencils. “They’ll lose most of those in the first month,” she sighed. “Of course,” I said. Even at the university we run into a student or two on the first day who earnestly raises a hand and asks “do you have an extra pencil?”
Note to this year’s college freshmen: Don’t carry more than 20 percent of your body weight in school supplies and, please, don’t ask for a pencil the first day.