Although the following was written in 2010, it's just as pithy and appropriate for Back to School 2012 as it was way back then***
Back To School is a wonderful, magical time, which is obvious because each word in the phrase is capitalized. My memory of BTS wasn't going shopping for new supplies for the school year. No, it was my (former elementary school teacher) mom crying at the kitchen table the night before she inherited a classroom full of pre-pubescents with a snootful of who-knows-what. Magical indeed.
We didn't have school supply drives when I was a kid. You got the stuff you needed and went to class. Pretty simple, really. Ah, but in this age where anything simple has to be made unnecessarily complicated, we now have endless so-called "Stuff The Bus" drives (again, every word is capitalized to stress the importance of this monumental event). Usually pushed by media outlets, the Stuff The Bus drives are done to gather supplies for students for the upcoming school year. I saw an anchor last week saying that most families are having trouble (in these tough economic times, naturally) coming up with the money to buy even the most basic of school supplies. I audibly scoffed when I heard that, but then got to thinking that perhaps he was right. From last Sunday's paper, I picked up a flyer for Walgreens that focused on BTS supplies and started adding things up. Certainly, if "most" families can't even afford the basics, the prices for these items must be much more expensive than I remembered back in 1975.
So let's shop. I'm only listing the most basic supplies for elementary school kids, so that rules out calculators and certain geometric tools which- in this atmosphere of zero tolerance- are probably considered deadly weapons punishable by a lifetime expulsion should poor Caleb or Kellan get pinched (so to speak) with one.
Pencils: 10 for $1
Pens 10 for .79
Folders .09 each. Let's buy five. .45 total
Crayons .39 (for a box of 12. Do you really need Burnt Sienna?)
Notebooks .50-$1.50, depending on number of pages. Let's buy two at .50 apiece
Backpack $4.00 (that's the big one, but if you have a desk that can store your supplies, it might be unnecessary. Since you probably don't know if you do before the school year starts, pick one up
Did I miss any of the basics? I don't think so. Scissors? Yeah, right. Start your academic year in Mr. Weatherbee's office by bringing a dangerous weapon. Still, the girls might think you're a badass, so at $1, it'd be worth the risk.
Total for basic supplies? $8.31. ($9.31 with those bad-ass scissors)
Or, in other words, lunch. One lunch. Brown bag lunch for a week, and the kid is covered through most of his elementary school years. Yes, I realize that most parents have more than one kid. Tops, you're spending $30 on supplies. If you're buying Kaela and Tristin their own pen and pencil sets, just think of it as one McDouble you could've spoiled yourself with and split the items.
So, my exhaustive research reaffirms to me that Stuff The Bus is a crock. Put down the frappe and get your own damn stuff for once. Handouts now lead to dropouts later.
(Oh, I don't want teachers to feel left out. That same Walgreens flyer has a bottle of generic aspirin (500 ct) on sale for $7.99. That ought to last you until Thanksgiving)