Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The wheels on the bus...

The wheels on the big yellow busses began toting snot-nosed little brats to and from Minnesota's public schools today. That means that parents everywhere have recently filed bankruptcy so their spoiled kids can compete with the Joneses (who are in turn competing with the Smiths who are competing with another family of an all-too-common surname) by buying $100 jeans, $100 shoes, $60 shirts and fancy school supplies which they will never use. Not to mention the fact that the $100 jeans will be ripped in the knees after two days of recess and if they escape that fate, the kids will inevitably grow to a point which they require new $100 jeans by January.

The school supplies, though, are what have me perplexed and a tad irate (I know, I know, IRATE -- it's a first time for that...). One local elementary school has what can only be seen as the dumbest list ever (PDF).

When I was in school (and contrary to what some believe, this was after dinosaurs were extinct) kids rode the bus. Today it is eerily common for Mom to load little Shiloh into the Chrysler Pacifica and tote the kid to the school so as to avoid the contact with the underbelly of society known as time on the playground and a ride on the big yellow bus. Dammit, riding that bus builds character, it is a right of passage to be verbally and physically harassed by the older kids. The playground experience, too, leads to a strong and well-rounded adult. It honed my ice-ball tossing skills as well as circumventing punishment by finding a scapegoat for my wrongdoings.

The school supplies that I brought that first day seemed miniscule, though, in comparison to the truckload of crap that kids in 2006 must lug to the school before that first bell rings. In my time, it consisted of a pack of pencils, a few pocket folders and a notebook for each subject. As the years of elementary school progressed, there may have been a tradition from crayons to colored pencils and the addition of some markers. There was also, of course, the paste vs. glue debate. Little kids ate paste, older kids sniffed the glue. But neither had any adverse effects -- school was so simple.

Nowadays, as the school supply list shows, kids need an endless supply of pencils, sponges, highlighters, accordion folders, glue sticks, freezer bags, Clorox wipes, specifically colored folders and notebooks, ink pens, paper towels as well as a multitude of other items from which MacGyver could fashion a pretty handy explosive device. When did things get so complicated?

How is this never-ending list of items used to prepare our children for the future? They are endlessly coddled in our schools. It used to end (for me anyhow) with sixth grade as the final year you were surrounded my (mainly) the same cast of characters throughout the day. You changed classes (minimally) throughout the day and were eased into the middle school experience. Today, many schools have postponed that transitional year until the freshman year of high school. It is unreal to think that these children will adjust well to college and eventually the workforce. Open lunches in high school (as I experienced for a full four years) are a thing of the past. Students are kept inside the high school building for the entire day where they are subjected to a limited menu of questionable food instead of the wealth of choices such as pizza and hamburgers which exist outside of the school grounds.

This leads to another question. Why do high schools require such large tracts of land for campuses if the students never see the outside of the building during the course of the day? At least allow them outside if weather permits to eat their crappy sack lunch or a granola bar and an Oscar Mayer Lunchables. My high school was fenced in on all sides by streets until they, too, condemned houses to build a lush, green campus which is now off limits to students during the school day -- including lunch.

Ease the restrictions of supplies students in elementary school are required to bring to class. Allow older students at least SOME freedoms or face one fucked up batch of employees in a few short years.


SlimAdam said...

to know the lack of monetary responsibility when it comes to education you need only look to the lists my friends. it's not that the money isn't there it's that it isn't getting used properly.

Beth said...

I bought my son $5 clothes at Wal-Mart for his first day of school. Isn't that just as bad?