Backpack Rant

Back in the day (and oh, how my kids mock me when I start off that way), I was so proud of the new book satchel I got at the beginning of every year to carry my things to and from school.  As I recall, a lot of children didn’t even have satchels–they just carried armloads of books (small armloads at that!).
By high school I had abandoned the satchel.  My purse held my pens and I carried home a stack of books.  Between each class I visited my locker to trade one class’s book and folder for the next.  My, how things have changed.
My boys have simply gargantuan backpacks.  The things cost a fortune (or they would, if I could afford a fortune.  I spent $30 on Teddy’s and I am fairly certain it will tear up mid-year.)  They are stuffed.  I’ll bet they weigh thirty pounds.  The textbooks are enormous, and apparently there is not enough time to make it to lockers between every class, so the poor kids have to carry backpacks around all day long.  In fact, Jake, afraid of forgetting something important due to ADHD, has in fact carried every single book around all day every day.
If I’m going to have time to blog every day, I am not going to have time to link to citations, but I know I’ve read studies about the damage this is all doing to our children’s backs.  I’ve already expressed my thoughts on what the amount of homework they have does to their family and social lives.  Needless to say, along with the increasing demand for expensive school supplies, it’s damaging my pocketbook.
And it’s not just extra-large textbooks crowding my sons’ backpacks.  They are also overflowing with three ring binders, required for every class.  Why?  So that the teachers can take them up and make sure that these teenagers are taking notes the way the teachers want them to.  Helicopter teaching, anyone?  When I was in high school (which I remember in ridiculous detail, by the way, to my children’s eternal chagrin I’m quite sure), it was entirely up to us what sort of folder or binder we used–or didn’t use–for each class.  I recall my freshman year Trapper Keeper particularly fondly!  In succeeding years I purchased a different colored folder for each class, making it easy to tell them apart.  These folders, of course, cost about ten cents each, unlike the $2.50 per binder we spent at Wal-Mart (and this was, again, for the cheap binders, which will no doubt fall apart from being shoved into those overfull backpacks and have to be replaced mid-year).
Anyway, I don’t remember anyone checking to make sure I was taking notes right when I was a junior in high school.  Isn’t it a little late by then?  Shouldn’t one’s test scores be the proof of one’s note-taking skills or lack thereof?
Oh, for the good old days.  And don’t even get me started on the subject of calculators that cost as much as a week’s worth of groceries.
[Update:  Teddy once has his grade docked for having a less-than-perfect binder of notes even though he had an A in the class.  I could rant about that for hours.]

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  1. Leah says:

    That’s all so true! Only my experience was exactly like that of your children. The teachers did helicopter over us to make sure we had the appropriate notebook and color pens (two black, two blue, and one red when I was in school), but they never actually gave us any advice on how to take notes. I think that teaches a very bad lesson. Expensive basketball shoes don’t make you a star basketball player–hard work does. Why aren’t we spending time instead teaching kids how to take good notes? Maybe they are doing that at the school your children attend. I hope so. They certainly didn’t do that at mine.

    • lesliesholly says:

      You know, Leah, I don’t remember ever being taught how to take good notes. I remember writing whole sentences because I didn’t know how to do it right and would end up with pages and pages. So maybe it is a skill that should be taught, but if so I would have thought they would have done it by now! And yes, on the grade school level my kids had the “school supplies” police–telling them what color folder to have for every class, exactly what brand of crayons to buy and which package . . . sigh. Thanks for sticking around after I neglected things for so long here! Leslie Sholly “Take time just to be. Remember, you are a human being, not a human doing.” http://www.lesliesholly.wordpress.com

  2. Julie says:

    So true. And how can they not have time to go to their lockers between classes? When do they socialize? That’s when all the fun stuff happened at KCHS. And checking to make sure they are taking notes correctly . . . I thought that was the purpose of grades. It’s a different school world these days, no matter how hard I try to resist.
    Julie
    PS – “satchel” has always been one of my favorite words. Not really sure why, it just has been.

    • lesliesholly says:

      I think they have four minutes between classes, but the school is so much larger now. Have you seen it? Their lockers might be in a totally different building from where their classes are. Also, they are not allowed to go inside the “B” building during lunch because classes are in session so if that’s where their lockers are, too bad for them. They do still have break to socialize; even lunch isn’t what it used to be because they rotate among the three lunch periods and sometimes their friends are not at the same lunch. Leslie Sholly “Take time just to be. Remember, you are a human being, not a human doing.” http://www.lesliesholly.wordpress.com

  3. Tara Halstead says:

    I would love kids to not have textbooks and be able to access them online or on an electronic book device like Kindle. The cost of textbooks are enormous. Colleges rent textbooks now unlike the “old days” of buying books (hopefully you could buy a used book) and selling them and the end of the semester for what seemed like pennies. I would think the copyright/licensing fee for access to electronic books would be cheaper. Actually for what we pay for tuition at Catholic, all students should get a Kindle with the textbooks already uploaded for the year on the device including all novels/plays for English class. I would love to see a cost analysis on hard copy vs. electronic copy textbooks for students!!
    As for the note taking police actions by teachers, that should have been done in middle school to prepare them for high school. I hate 3 ring binders. Personnally, I love composition books and spiral notebooks. I did have one nutty teacher in high school who hated spiral notebooks and banned them from her class – even if the notebook was not for her class, she did not want to see it and would confiscate any spiral notebook she saw. We joked that she probably had some weird spiral notebook trauma in her past that manifested itself into a strange spiral notebook phobia — “Spiralis Bibliophobia”.

    • lesliesholly says:

      The Kindle idea is a great one! Surely that’s how things will go in the not-too-distant future. Emily still buys books at college–her first semester textbooks were about $600! And that was including buying used where possible. At Georgetown we had a student run book co-op where the books were much, much cheaper. Since most of my books were novels, I got away very cheaply. Some of Emily’s enormous textbooks are around $100 each! As for spiral notebooks, I remember being so thrilled when I hit college and was finally allowed to have them! In grade school they said they damaged the books. In high school I think they didn’t like the mess they made when you tore the papers out. Leslie Sholly “Take time just to be. Remember, you are a human being, not a human doing.” http://www.lesliesholly.wordpress.com

  4. Kristi Birchfield says:

    Oh, Leslie, how much do I agree with EVERY SINGLE word you wrote here? I have literally said the exact same thing almost every day since the girls started their new *traditional* school this year. Kelsey’s backpack was so packed this morning, she had 4 books she had to carry in addition. She is so afraid of forgetting one of her books that she, too, carries everything with her throughout the day. She has a binder for almost every subject — Why not one binder and a folder for every subject? Is it really that hard a concept? Kelsey actually has a class where they come and grade how organized her locker is. Thank goodness I NEVER had that class. I had my own special organizational system — If it didn’t hit me in the head when I opened the door, then I was all set! 🙂
    My youngest is changing classes in 4th grade this year and she was given all the warnings of horrible repercussions if she were to *gasp* accidently forget a book in her locker. So she also carries most of her books. When I visited her after school one day this week, she had one lone book left in her locker — a book she only uses on Mondays.
    I also agree about the school supplies. Why should I have to buy ONLY Ticonderoga pencils? Are Pink Pearl erasers the only kind that are functional? In the push to make sure no kid in these institutions shows any individuality whatsoever, the act of actually buying school supplies based on personal preference has become taboo.
    Thanks for writing about this subject. I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling the frustration!

  5. Kelly says:

    One thing, I wish I had a backpack way back when… it would have made a lot of things easier!

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