Sunday, August 17, 2008

Pencil Me Out

Let me just qualify this little nugget by saying that I don't have children, and it's looking less and less likely that I will. I can't identify with much that goes along with raising children, except to say that I once was a child (and still behave like one sometimes, according to Pumpkin) and I remember how my parents used to deal with things. Ok, now onto the subject at hand. Back to school

Back in my days of going through the Milwaukee Public School system (1971-1984), going back to school was no big deal. You went out and shopped for some new clothes, got a haircut, and you were ready for day one. Now it's a full blown Event. No doubt the local TV stations will have "team coverage" of the first day, which will include interviews with nervous parents, tired kids, and already exasperated teachers. Drivers will be reminded to observe school zone speed limits. This coverage will be repeated in the 4, 4:30, 5, 6, 6:30, 9, 10, 10:30, and 11pm newscasts, just in case we missed it the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh time around. Back to School is big business.

Another part of the whole BTS (back to school) thing are the increasing numbers of "school supply" drives. They go by clever monikers like Stuff the Bus, and involve television and radio stations begging their viewers/listeners to bring "badly needed" school supplies so that students won't go without this year. Of course, the Bad Economy is being cited as to why supplies are in need now more than ever. It's our duty to stuff the bus, or our kids will be dumber than ever (and judging from the most recent batch of standardized test scores, that would be some feat). Though their hearts may be in the right place, a drive for school supplies has to rate amongst the dumbest ideas ever, right up their with the decision to make beach volleyball an Olympic sport. Let me list the prices on certain BTS items that families can buy at Office Max today, courtesy of the Sunday advertising flyer...

Pencils (12pack)- .10
Spiral notebooks (70pg)- .10
Crayons (24 ct)- .20
Folders- .25
Glue- .01 (not a typo)
Rulers- .10 each
Scissors- .25 each

I can't find a price for Bic pens, but I imagine them to be under $2.

So, let's say I have three kids, all elementary school age. This means they'll need the works, even glue. I might even toss in a compass or protractor, just for fun....even though in today's climate, a metal compass might be seen as a dangerous weapon. Let's tally how much I'm out of pocket buying all these supplies for my three kids.

It's anywhere between $8-$10, depending on how many pens I think they need. $10 tops.

For three kids....for the entire school year. Am I missing something? Why is there a drive for things that cost the average family no more than $10 a year? Please, if I'm missing the bigger picture, clue me in. This doesn't seem like a crisis to me. If anything, BTS is one of the more affordable times of the year. I'm badly in need of more notebooks, and what other time of the year are they going to be .10?

Meanwhile, let's go down to the Salvation Army food bank, where by mid-August you're down to families fighting over the last cans of creamed corn and strained carrots. Spend (and give) wisely, my friends

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