Did this article show up a bunch of times in your Facebook feed too? It has a clickbaity title: Why I won't buy one extra box of tissues for my kid's school supplies; signed, a frustrated parent. Spoiler: she's not declining to buy any tissues; she's declining to stop at a single box. All the tissues! She can afford it and it's the right thing to do.
Is it really, though?
I think we should send a better message to kids. The author says that when you tell kids to clean up at the end of the day, they will throw half-used pencils and crayons into the garbage. She says this as if it is inevitable: the sun rises, the sun sets, the kids throw away usable materials because that's what kids do.
There's a continuum of possible responses to kid destructiveness, right? On one end, a hypothetical parent is completely mellow about broken stuff ("Go ahead, Geranium, toss my extra pair of prescription sunglasses in the trash compactor too!"); on the other, s/he is super-strict about taking care of belongings ("What do you mean, you lost a paper clip, Wilfred? You are not leaving this desk until ALL 100 paper clips are back in the box! IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER!!"). We can all agree that there's a sweet spot somewhere in the middle: it varies with kids' ages, it varies by family, it varies with the value of the stuff being destroyed or preserved. I hope we can all agree that there's a range of normal here within and across parents and teachers-- adults may be more focused on personal responsibility on some days or on chilled-out understanding on others. I'm fine with that. But I submit that the attitude presented in the post does not show adequate respect for kids' burgeoning abilities to steward their resources wisely.
Of course kids will need some extra crayons. The black always gets used up; maybe the lilac gets broken when you are drawing your awesome Angry Lilac Monster. I dispute the author's assertion that kids need lots of extra crayons because they can't help but throw them in the trash.
I think we should send a better message to schools. When it comes to technology in schools, we are making it up as we go along. Many school districts are spending many many dollars in hopes of educating tech-savvy kids and streamlining teachers' workloads. The thing is, any tool -- tech tools included -- must be purchased and deployed prudently. I do not know how much money my district is spending on math software that cuts down on teachers' grading loads. (I am ALL IN FAVOR of reduced grading loads, let me say that loud and clear.) But it's even easier to assign soul-crushing amounts of automated math homework. At least in 1985 if a vengeance-minded sub told us to do every single problem at the end of the chapter, she was going to have to do something with the submissions. I'm not a fan of the "more is better" approach that I'm seeing among some district math teachers -- "drill & kill" is a bad idea in both analog and digital iterations.
How much does the license for that piece of software cost? How much did it cost to buy an iPad for every kindergartner in my children's school? What if there were iPads for half of the kindergartners, and the classes took turns using them? Then perhaps, just perhaps, there would be some money in the budget for duct tape and file folders.
I think we should send a better message to teachers. The author concludes by saying that teachers do an important job for which they are "incredibly underpaid." I am not in any way suggesting that teachers should be buying their own office supplies. I am saying it is really important for us to muster the political will to get them what they need. If administrators and legislators are declining to provide teachers with the resources they require to do their jobs, then collusion with them is not the remedy. Exhorting fellow parents to suck-it-up-Buttercup in the face of lengthy school supply lists is an exercise in mutual hopelessness, in refusal to believe that we can come up with a better strategy than offloading an ever-increasing proportion of educational costs to families. Which brings me to my last point:
I think we should send a better message to families. One of the privileges of childhood in the United States of America is a guarantee of a free and appropriate public education. This is a gift worth preserving. Do we really want to continue the march toward free...ish? Of course families should absorb some of the costs of equipping their children for school, but the school supply run gets more complicated and more expensive every year. I propose that this is not the direction in which we want to travel. I am writing this while feeling a little stressed about the August financial pileup. I admit that I am experiencing a degree of resistance to the idea that I must buy yet another graphing calculator* because none of our previously purchased graphing calculators are exactly the right model. (They graph. They calculate. Who could ask for anything more?) But I think there is a bigger-picture truth underlying my personal frustration: educating our children is a burden we have agreed as a society to bear. So let's bear it already.
*You know I don't expect anybody to buy me a calculator, do you not? I would just prefer to skip some of the other stuff.